Everything You Need To Know About Glaucoma Awareness Week
Glaucoma Week just passed and it’s important to take care of your eye health. Whether you visit an eye doctor yearly or not, it’s vital to know the signs of Glaucoma and how you can best prepare yourself for your aging eyes. My Eyes has the tools and the training you need for proper eye health.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a progressive disease of the optic nerve, which often leads to vision loss or blindness. The optic nerve is a bundle of over one million nerve fibers that carries our visual information from the eye back to the brain for processing. Sometimes called the “Silent thief of sight”, any symptoms are often nonexistent in the early stages, thus it’s critical to get yearly dilated eye exams once you are over 50 years old. Studies have determined that at least half of the nerve tissue needs to be damaged before you notice the changes, which by then are more often too little, too late. Unfortunately, there is no procedure or “cure” of glaucoma, the damage is permanent.
As many as 50% of those with glaucoma weren’t even aware they have it, according to several studies conducted. The risks of developing it increase as you age, but some family history can increase the likelihood of you developing it later in life. If one of your loved ones had a history of it, especially a closer relative like a parent, child or sibling, your chances of developing glaucoma significantly increases. Even some injuries to the eyes can increase your chances, and if you take any steroids for long-term treatment that can also increase your risks. Ethnicity also plays a part in your chances of developing glaucoma, as people of African American, Hispanic and Asian heritage all have an increased risk. Having certain conditions which affect the blood flow to the optic nerve can also increase your chances of developing glaucoma. If you suffer from high eye pressure, hypotension, diabetes, migraines, and vasospasm all can potentially lift your risks of glaucoma down the road.
Most treatment options for glaucoma revolve around lowering the pressure within the eye, either by increasing the outflow of fluid from within the eye, decreasing the production of within the eye, or potentially both. The earlier you detect glaucoma, the better the chances of successful treatments. The treatments can range from medications, to laser and surgery options, depending on your individual symptoms and what your doctor feels will treat it best. The most common medication given is an eye drop within the prostaglandin class of medications. These eye drops are given once a day, in the evening, to increase the outflow of fluid from within the eye. Another medication, a beta-blocker, is usually dosed in the morning and helps decrease the production of fluid in the eye. Alpha agonists are another type of medication that’s dosed two to three times a day, working to decrease the production of fluid within the eye and also increasing the drainage of the fluid. A newer class of medication, a rho kinase, are inhibitors that increase the outflow of fluid from within the eye and require only one dosing a day, typically the evenings.
Laser & Surgery Options
Laser trabeculoplasty is a laser treatment that increases the outflow of fluid from within the eye. Effective in about 80% of patients, it’s a good first-line treatment option. It’s also a good alternative to eye drop medications or a treatment in addition to eye drops to help combat any eye pressure issues. Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, or MIGS, is a fairly new group of surgical procedures that lower a patient’s eye pressure while still maintaining a good safety profile. These surgeries can reduce the number of eye medications needed or eliminate them, depending on the severity of the patient’s glaucoma, and can potentially hold off on other, more invasive surgery options. Trabeculectomy and tube shunt surgery are more aggressive procedures, but can greatly reduce the pressure within a patient’s eye and potentially eliminate the need for medications. These procedures do come with added risks and aren’t for everyone, though.
Ready to schedule an eye exam and make sure you’re protected against glaucoma? My Eye Care can assist you with our expertise and knowledge. Call us today!