Glaucoma is an eye disease that most often affects men and women 50 years of age and older, and is a leading cause of blindness in this age group. While glaucoma cannot be completely cured, its progression can be effectively slowed and even halted with early enough treatment. This is why it is vital to see your eye doctor at least once a year, especially if you are older.
At Kirk Eye Center, our doctors have years of experience diagnosing and treating all forms of glaucoma. Give us a call at 708-397-8114 today to schedule your appointment. We serve patients in the Chicago area, including River Forest, Oak Park, Cicero, Naperville, and other nearby areas of Illinois.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma most often occurs when there is too much pressure buildup in the eye, caused by fluid not draining well enough. This pressure eventually gets to the point where it damages the optic nerve, leading to vision problems and blindness.
Different individuals can withstand different amounts of pressure in the eye before it starts causing problems, so it's important to allow your ophthalmologist to perform a comprehensive dilated eye exam in order to determine your normal pressure levels and keep an eye on them.
Glaucoma is an age related disease, and people who develop glaucoma often develop cataracts as well. In some cases, cataract surgery can be combined with glaucoma surgery to help treat both problems at the same time. If you are suffering from both eye diseases, ask us if this is an option for you.
Types of Glaucoma
There are many types of glaucoma, some more common than others. Here is a brief overview of the different types:
- Open Angle Glaucoma: This is the most common type of glaucoma. It occurs when fluid drains too slowly through the eye, causing a pressure buildup over time.
- Closed Angle Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma, also called "angle-closure" or "narrow-angle", is a medical emergency and can cause blindness rapidly if not treated in time. It occurs when the drainage angle in the eye is completely blocked, leading to a rapid rise in pressure.
- Normal Tension Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs despite pressure levels being within a normal range. It can typically be treated effectively through medications which lower eye pressure further.
- Congenital Glaucoma: Congenital glaucoma is rare, and occurs in infants whose drainage channels fail to form completely. Surgical treatment is usually required, and if performed quickly enough, most children are able to retain their eyesight.
- Secondary Glaucoma: Secondary glaucoma can occur as a side effect of other injury or disease, such as eye trauma, diabetes, inflammation, eye tumors, cataracts, or vascular disease. In these cases, typical glaucoma treatment may be performed along with treatment for the underlying cause.
Glaucoma Treatment Options
The first treatment option for glaucoma is usually medication, generally in the form of eye drops that help to reduce pressure in the eye. If medication alone can't help, laser surgery or traditional surgery may be an option.
Laser surgery for glaucoma has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it is less invasive than traditional surgery while still being very effective. There are different types of laser glaucoma surgery available, and which one is appropriate for you is best determined by your ophthalmologist.
Here is a brief overview of the different types of glaucoma treatments:
Eye drops can be highly effective in managing eye pressure due to glaucoma. Often, patients will need to take a variety of different types of drops that work in conjunction with each other for best results. These drops may need to be taken multiple times per day, and it is imperative to continue taking them even if you don't have symptoms.
Some patients may not be candidates for eye drops due to preexisting medical conditions, because they may cause undesirable side effects or interact poorly with other medications.
If you are not a candidate for eye drops, if you experience significant side effects from eye drops, or if eye drops alone are not managing your glaucoma sufficiently, laser surgery may be recommended. There are multiple types of laser surgery for glaucoma, including:
- Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT): This type of laser surgery targets the trabecular meshwork of the eye in order to increase drainage flow.
- Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT): SLT is a newer and more advanced laser than ALT. It uses lower levels of energy, and is able to leave portions of the trabecular meshwork intact. This laser can still be used if you have had prior ALT surgery.
- Laser Iridotomy: This procedure is used in cases of narrow angle glaucoma. It creates a small hole in the iris for fluid to drain through, thus preventing pressure from building too rapidly. The hole is usually created under the upper lid so that it can't be seen in everyday life.
Following laser surgery, patients may still need to use medications to keep their intraocular pressure under control.
If a patient does not respond well to medications or laser surgery, then a type of surgery called trabeculectomy may be performed. This surgery creates a channel in the sclera of the eye so that fluid can drain more efficiently. Trabeculectomy can dramatically lower intraocular pressure, and often patients no longer need to use glaucoma medications following the surgery (although it is possible that they will need medications again at a later point).
Endoscopic Cyclophotocoagulation (ECP)
This type of surgery is a relatively new advancement in glaucoma treatment, and is used to help treat patients with advanced glaucoma that has not responded well to other types of treatment. ECP targets the ciliary body of the eye, which is the gland responsible for fluid production.
In this surgery, an endoscope is used to allow the surgeon to view the area being treated. This in turn allows for very precise placement of the laser. Following surgery, the ciliary body produces less fluid, thus reducing pressure.
ECP can be performed at the same time as cataract surgery, for patients suffering from both cataracts and glaucoma.
Risk Factors for Glaucoma
Certain people have a higher risk of developing glaucoma than others. If you have any of the following risk factors and are over 40, you should see your eye doctor annually for a comprehensive eye exam.
- Age: Most people start to develop glaucoma after the age of 40, although it can happen in younger men and women as well.
- Family history: Glaucoma tends to run in families, so if you have relatives with glaucoma, take extra care to get your eyes checked regularly.
- High introcular pressure: If you have high pressure in your eyes, you are likely to develop glaucoma.
- Ethnicity: People of African, Latino, and Asian descent are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes are at a higher risk of glaucoma.
- Use of steroids/cortisones: Long term use of steroids or cortisones has been shown to be a risk factor for glaucoma.
Schedule a Glaucoma Consultation Today
If you are at risk for glaucoma, or if you are searching for new ways to manage your glaucoma, call Kirk Eye Center at 708-397-8114 today to schedule your eye appointment. We serve patients in Chicago, River Forest, Oak Park, Cicero, Naperville, and other nearby areas of Illinois.