Glaucoma is a progressive eye condition that can lead to vision loss if not treated appropriately. The main way glaucoma is treated is by lowering the pressure in the eye, or intraocular pressure (IOP), either by using eye drops, laser procedures, or surgery. Determining what treatment is needed should be done with your eye doctor following an exam to evaluate the state of the vision and progression of glaucoma.
Stages of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is categorized into four main stages: glaucoma suspect, mild glaucoma, moderate glaucoma, and severe glaucoma.
The categories are differentiated by the amount of damage that has been done by the disease and its progression.
A glaucoma suspect is one who has certain risk factors of glaucoma — such as high eye pressure, suspicious optic nerve, or strong family history — without any changes to the nerve or visual field.
Mild glaucoma is when there is not yet visual field loss, but there are significant and noticeable changes to the nerve fiber of the retina.
Moderate glaucoma is when there are both visual field loss and nerve fiber changes, but the visual field loss is minor and the patient is asymptomatic.
Severe glaucoma occurs when the changes to the nerve fiber and visual field create noticeable visual field loss or constriction.
To treat glaucoma, the goal is to prevent progression to a worse stage that would include vision loss or worsening vision loss.
The mechanism of the damage from glaucoma relates to the pressure inside of the eye pressing on the nerve fiber layer in the retina. When the pressure is elevated, this pressure is greater and can lead to damage from the shearing type of force.
When the nerve fiber layer is damaged, the nerve loss is irreversible, so preventing damage is the best method of treatment.
To help prevent any nerve fiber damage, the eye pressure is lowered as a preventative measure.
Eye Drops for Glaucoma
The most common treatment for all types of glaucoma is eye drops to lower eye pressure.
There are several different types of medications that can be used to lower eye pressure including prostaglandin analogs, beta blockers, alpha agonists, and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors.
These eye drops either increase the rate at which fluid is drained from the eye or decrease the rate at which fluid is produced and secreted into the eye.
Laser Procedure for Glaucoma
Another treatment option for the early stages of glaucoma is a laser procedure called selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT).
This procedure uses laser light to open the drainage path of fluid in the front of the eye.
This procedure is a quick and efficient option for lowering eye pressure without relying on eye drops daily.
In many cases, one SLT procedure can reduce the need for an eye drop by lowering the pressure by the equivalent amount.
Surgery for Glaucoma
In advanced stages of glaucoma, incisional surgeries may be used to lower eye pressure.
These procedures can install a shunt to allow fluid to move from the front of the eye out of the eye and drain.
While these surgeries are very effective at lowering eye pressure, they are generally reserved for severe cases since there are risks that accompany any surgery.
Our eye doctor at Brooklyn Eye Care excels in the prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases and glaucoma treatments. Call our optometrist at (763) 999-6116 to schedule your appointment today. Our eye doctor, Dr. Vivian Ekemezie provides the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in the Brooklyn Park, MN area.