Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, reports the Glaucoma Research Foundation. This common eye condition typically affects older adults, although infants and young adults are also at risk. Fortunately, however, cutting-edge research is improving diagnosis and treatment of this common eye disease. Talk to your optometrist about glaucoma care for the latest information about treatment options.
Causes and Symptoms of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a condition characterized by increased pressure within the eye, which damages the optic nerve that sends visual information to the brain. Most cases of glaucoma are called open-angle glaucoma, which occurs when drainage channels are partially blocked and cause gradual increases in intraocular pressure. The primary symptom of open-angle glaucoma is gradual loss of peripheral vision. Acute angle closure glaucoma, on the other hand, occurs when the iris bulges and suddenly blocks drainage channels. This form of glaucoma causes rapid pressure increases, associated with eye pain, nausea, and vision problems.
Traditional Glaucoma Care
For many years, the approach to glaucoma care included medications in the form of eye drops. The traditional approach most commonly featured beta blocker eye drops, which were used to alleviate intraocular pressure. Many patients disliked beta blockers because of their adverse side effects. Surgery was another alternative for severe cases of glaucoma, but surgical techniques often came with unpleasant side effects as well.
Advances in Glaucoma Care
Today, improved medication options and surgical procedures offer hope for patients with glaucoma. Many individuals now use prostaglandin eye drops, which are more effective at reducing intraocular pressure and come with fewer side effects than beta blockers. Recent studies have found a single injection of anecortave acetate, a steroid medication, to effectively lower intraocular pressure to normal limits. Other pharmaceutical treatments, including alpha-adrenergic agonists or miotic agents, are also used in glaucoma treatment. New classes of medications continue to be investigated.
New surgical techniques are also being employed. Glaucoma experts are excited about micropulse laser trabeculoplasty (MLT), a surgery that uses a laser pulse to reduce intraocular pressure. MLT has a lower risk of side effects than more traditional surgical options. Canaloplasty, in which is tiny catheter is placed into the eye’s drainage canal, is another new surgical technique to lower intraocular pressure. One of the most exciting advances in glaucoma care is the Trabectome procedure, which improves fluid drainage in the eye. This surgery is performed in out-patient clinics, allowing patients to undergo surgery and return home the same day.
Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation.