What is glaucoma? What can I do to avoid it? What treatments are available if I get it? These are all questions we should be asking ourselves when considering our eyes and vision.
Glaucoma is a common eye disease that, if left untreated, can permanently damage vision or even lead to blindness. While it’s somewhat unclear as to what cause glaucoma, some say it can be the result of a poor diet, ethnicity or gender, or even genetics. Luckily, for those who have it and identify it early, there are effective ways to manage and treat glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
As one doctor put it, glaucoma can be explained like plumbing. If the drain in a sink gets plugged, the water backs up and pressure builds in the pipes. The eye is full of fluid that is constantly being produced and drained. If the drain for the eye has a problem or gets clogged somehow, pressure builds up. That pressure can damage the optic nerve, leading to reduced vision or even blindness. Glaucoma is usually a slow process and can go unnoticed and even undiagnosed for years.
There are two main categories of Glaucoma: open angle and closed angle glaucoma. Open angle, or chronic glaucoma, tends to progress slowly with little to no symptoms until it has progressed to a significant level. Closed angle glaucoma can appear suddenly and is often painful. Both are treatable once diagnosed.
How Can One Prevent Glaucoma?
Unfortunately, there are no concrete methods for preventing glaucoma. A steady healthy diet coupled with proper vision care will help maintain healthy eyes. If you are under age 40, it is recommended to have an eye exam every 5 to 10 years. It also helps to know your family history. If someone in your family has had glaucoma, your chances of also getting it are increased.
What Treatments are there for Glaucoma?
Luckily, there are treatments available to help manage and improve life with glaucoma. Medication is available to help reduce the ocular pressure caused by glaucoma — most often this medication is administered in the form of eye drops.
Surgery is another treatment option that offers relief for those diagnosed with glaucoma. One can elect for a non-penetrating procedure known as canaloplasty. This method requires a small incision in the eye to insert a microcatheter that will help enlarge the main drainage channel of the eye. Once the channel has been enlarged and cleared, the microcatheter is then removed and the newly tightened and cleared canal is supported with a suture. While this isn’t a cure, it does provide relief and maintained level of vision.
Another more popular treatment for Glaucoma today is laser surgery, which uses some of the same technology as LASIK eye surgery. This less invasive procedure offers temporary relief from the pressure on the eye by allowing for more outward flow of the eye’s fluid. With the help of a skilled practitioner, laser surgery is able to relieve a lot of the pressure which in turns maintains a higher level of vision. Laser procedures like this can be repeated 2 to 4 times throughout the treatment period as needed or recommended by the doctor.