What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a medical disease that affects the eye. It can occur after fluid builds up in the front part of the cornea. The pressure in the eye caused by this fluid buildup is what leads to damage in the optic nerve. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over 60 years old. Negative side effects, including blindness caused by glaucoma, can often be prevented using a course of early treatment – ask your ophthalmologist for more information.
Primary open-angle glaucoma
This is the most common form of glaucoma seen in patients. This type of glaucoma develops gradually as the eye slowly loses its ability to drain fluids and a buildup occurs, causing pressure in the eye and damage to the optic nerve. This type of glaucoma is painless; and because it doesn’t cause vision changes at first, it may go untreated until more serious side effects develop.
Some people can have optic nerves that are sensitive to normal eye pressure, meaning the risk of developing glaucoma is higher than average. Regular eye exams are important to find early signs of damage to their optic nerve.
This type of glaucoma happens when the iris blocks the drainage angle in the eye. When the drainage angle gets completely blocked, eye pressure rises very quickly in what is known as an acute attack. Contact an ophthalmologist immediately if you notice this type of eye pressure as it can quickly cause blindness.
Here are some signs of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack:
- Vision becomes suddenly blurry
- Severe eye pain develops
- Seeing halos around lights
Statistics About Glaucoma
More than three million Americans are living with glaucoma, 2.7 million of whom-aged 40 and older-are affected by its most common form, open-angle glaucoma.
Glaucoma is fifteen times more likely to cause blindness in African Americans than in Caucasians.
Prescription eye drops could cut African Americans’ risk of getting glaucoma in half.
Types of Glaucoma Procedures:
Laser surgery has become increasingly popular, with the most common type performed for primary open-angle glaucoma called a trabeculoplasty. This medical procedure is painless and takes between 10 and 15 minutes, and able to be performed in either a doctor’s office or an outpatient facility. The laser beam (a high energy light beam) is focused upon the eye’s drain. The eye’s drainage system is altered in subtle ways so that aqueous fluid is able to pass more easily out of the drain.
After this procedure is completed, many patients respond well enough to be able to avoid or delay additional surgery. While it may take a few weeks to see the full pressure-lowering effect of this procedure, most (but not all) patients are able to gradually discontinue some post-surgery medications. Your doctor is the best judge of determining whether or not you will still need medication. Complications from laser eye surgery are minimal, which is why this procedure has become increasingly popular and some centers are recommending the use of laser procedures before trying other traditional methods.
Two laser procedures for open-angle glaucoma involve reducing the amount of aqueous humor in the eye by destroying part of the ciliary body, which produces the fluid. These treatments are usually reserved for use in eyes that either has elevated inner ocular pressure after having failed other more traditional treatments, including filtering surgery, or those in which filtering surgery is not possible or advisable due to the shape or other features of the eye.
When medications and laser surgery does not adequately lower eye pressure, doctors may recommend a more conventional surgical procedure. The most common of these operations is called a trabeculectomy, which is used in both open-angle and closed-angle types of glaucoma. The surgeon will create a passage in the sclera (the white part of the eye) in order to drain excess eye fluid. A flap is then created to allow fluid to drain, which does not deflate the eyeball. A small bubble of fluid called a “bleb” often forms over the surface of the eye, which signals that fluid is draining out properly.
Drainage Implant Surgery
Several devices have been developed to aid the drainage of aqueous fluids out of the eye. All of these drainage devices share a similar design which consists of a small silicone tube that extends into the anterior chamber of the eye. The tube is then connected to one or more plates, which are sutured to the surface of the eye, though usually not visible. Fluid is then collected on the plate and absorbed by the tissues in the eye.
Newer nonpenetrating glaucoma surgery, which does not enter the anterior chamber of the eye, shows great promise in minimizing postoperative complications and lowering the risk for infection. However, such surgery often requires a greater surgical acumen and generally does not lower inner ocular pressure as much as a trabeculectomy procedure would. Long-term case studies are still needed in order to assess the procedures and determine their role in the treatment of glaucoma patients.
After Effects & Results
Glaucoma laser surgery treatment is highly successful at slowing the progression of glaucoma and regulating eye pressure. Although glaucoma surgery can prevent further vision loss and can also improve vision, damage that has already occurred as a result of untreated glaucoma is considered permanent and not yet reversible.
Complications can sometimes occur even when using the best surgical techniques. Uncommon or rare complications from glaucoma surgery include bleeding inside the eye, infection, or fluid pockets behind the retina due to lowered eye pressure. Bleeding inside the eye is a serious complication, so you should inform your ophthalmologist if you are on blood thinners and follow their instructions concerning the medication prior to surgery.
Eye doctors give antibiotics before, during, and after the surgery, as well as maintain meticulous sterile techniques to try and avoid any infection. An eye infection can occur weeks, months, or even years after the surgery. If you have signs of infection such as redness, pain, or excessive tearing, you should see your ophthalmologist immediately in order to treat infection before it becomes more serious.
Low Eye Pressure
Eye surgery can sometimes cause eye pressure that is too low, also known as hypotony, happening more commonly after the surgical procedure. Usually this is temporary as the pressure returns to the levels that were intended.
Scarring is experienced more commonly by patients than low eye pressure. If the scarring is so bad that the operation fails to regulate the desired amount of eye pressure, you may need to resume medications or undergo another surgical procedure to correct it.
After glaucoma surgery, the eye may be more prone to developing cataracts. They can be fixed easily by another surgical procedure, and sometimes the surgeries may be combined if the cataracts are having a moderate to severe impact on the patient’s vision.
Although these after effects may be rare in some surgical procedures, speak with an ophthalmologist to learn more about the different types of procedures that would be suitable for your condition as well as the risks associated with that type of procedure. Some physicians may have better experience in treating glaucoma and it’s after effects that will ensure your eye surgery is performed well and in a safe manner to correct your vision with minimal downside. Our eye surgeons in Shreveport have the knowledge and experience to correct your vision with laser eye surgery, please contact our offices today to learn more about what we offer.