What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is sometimes called the silent thief because it slowly steals your sight before you realize anything is wrong, beginning with your peripheral vision. It's a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the U.S.

Glaucoma causes to progressive damage to the optic nerve, usually accompanied by an abnormally high pressure inside your eye. Blind spots develop in your visual field when the optic nerve is damaged, usually starting with your peripheral (side) vision. If left untreated, glaucoma may lead to blindness in both eyes.

Medical advances have made it easier to diagnose and treat glaucoma.

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

There are two forms of this disease: open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma. If either are detected, diagnosed, and treated early, many people maintain good central vision. Early detection is achieved with a dilated fundus examination and other instruments such as a Humphrey Visual Field (HVF) test, Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), and tonometry.

Humphrey Visual Field (HVF) Test: There are different types of visual field tests. HVF is the one most commonly used in the U.S. It consists of a center fixation light and blinking test lights in your side vision. Areas that appear gray or black on the test results reflect areas in your vision that are blurred or missing. Uncontrolled glaucoma leads to these areas becoming darker and larger.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): OCT is a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of your retina.

Tonometry: Tonometry is the procedure eye care professionals perform to determine the intraocular pressure (IOP) within the eye. We perform “applanation” tonometry, a more patient-friendly technique that requires no puff of air. Normal IOP is less than or equal to 21 mmHG. When pressures rise above this mark, further testing for glaucoma or ocular hypertension is often necessary.

How is glaucoma treated?

Currently there is no cure for glaucoma. However, several effective treatment options to manage the condition include topical medication (drops), laser surgery for open-angle glaucoma, trabeculectomy, laser iridotomy, and Seton surgery.

Topical Medication: Eye drops are used to help regulate the flow of fluid in or out of the eye. Eye drops are an important part of managing glaucoma, so it is important that eye drops are administered properly. Learn how to correctly apply the eye drops to minimize the amount of wasted medication.

Laser Surgery for Open-Angle Glaucoma: There are two types of laser procedures—Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT) and Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)—that are used for patients with open-angle glaucoma. These laser surgeries are used to treat the drainage system of the eye known as the trabecular meshwork. Treating this area of the eye's natural drainage system is designed to improve the flow of fluid out of the eye helping to lower the pressure.

Trabeculectomy: The most common drainage operation is called a trabeculectomy. The surgery is performed on an outpatient basis and involves creating a new drainage channel for the eye. This procedure allows fluid from the eye to flow into a filtering area called a "Bleb". The "Bleb" is mostly hidden under the eyelid. When successful, this procedure will lower the pressure in your eye minimizing the risk of vision loss from glaucoma.

Laser Iridotomy: Laser iridotomy is a type of laser surgery for people who have or who may develop narrow angle glaucoma. A laser is used to make a small hole in the iris. This hole should restore normal flow of fluid within the eye and reduce the eye pressure.

Seton Surgery: If your eye is at high risk for scarring and your eye pressure needs to be lowered to preserve your vision, your ophthalmologist may recommend placing a tiny drainage tube called a Seton in your eye. Like in the trabeculectomy procedure, the drainage tube creates a new channel for fluid to flow from the eye to a filtering area called a "Bleb". A tiny plate placed on the eye helps the Bleb form and remain open. The tube is covered with a patch and is typically not seen or felt. This outpatient procedure is designed to decrease the pressure in the eye, minimizing the risk of vision loss from glaucoma.

What should I do if I’m concerned about glaucoma?

Call or request an appointment online at Eye Associates of Colorado Springs for a complete glaucoma evaluation.

How can I learn more about glaucoma?

Visit glaucoma.org.

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