Glaucoma is a disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve. It usually happens when fluid builds up in the front part of your eye. That extra fluid increases the pressure in your eye, damaging the optic nerve. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old. But blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.
What causes glaucoma?
Your eye constantly makes aqueous humor. As new aqueous flows into your eye, the same amount should drain out. The fluid drains out through an area called the drainage angle. This process keeps pressure in the eye (called intraocular pressure or IOP) stable. But if the drainage angle is not working properly, fluid builds up. Pressure inside the eye rises, damaging the optic nerve. The optic nerve is made of more than a million tiny nerve fibers. It is like an electric cable made up of many small wires. As these nerve fibers die, you will develop blind spots in your vision. You may not notice these blind spots until most of your optic nerve fibers have died. If all of the fibers die, you will become blind.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
The only sure way to diagnose glaucoma is with a complete eye exam. A glaucoma screening that only checks eye pressure is not enough to find glaucoma. During a glaucoma evaluation, your ophthalmologist will:
- Measure your eye pressure
- Inspect your eye’s drainage angle
- Examine your optic nerve for damage
- Test your peripheral (side) vision
- Take a picture or computer measurement of your optic nerve
The treatment for all forms of glaucoma is centered on lowering the eye pressure. For open-angle glaucoma, this can be done with eye drops or simple procedures. Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is an advanced type of laser treatment to manage patient with open angle glaucoma. For patients with mild to moderate glaucoma, the SLT laser is a safe and effective way to lower the pressure of the eye.
Another option for patients with mild to moderate glaucoma is called the IStent. The IStent is the smallest approved FDA implantable device and is used in conjunction with cataract surgery.
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