Glaucoma Treatment in Alabama and Tennessee
Glaucoma is a disease that causes damage to the optic nerve in the eye. The optic nerve carries information from the eye to the brain, and significant damage to the optic nerve by glaucoma can cause severe vision loss or blindness. In fact, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, and more than 2.5 million Americans are estimated to have this disease.
The most common indication of glaucoma is elevated pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure or IOP. Doctors use a tonometer to measure IOP. (Pressure is measured in terms of millimeters of mercury or mm Hg.) Patients who have pressure above 21 mm Hg are considered to have abnormally high IOP. The pressure test is conducted with a device that touches the front of the eye. The cornea, or the clear outer covering of the eye, is numbed so that there is no discomfort when this device touches the eye. Pressure can also be measured using the “puff test,” where a puff of air is blown in the eye. IOP does vary during the day, being highest in the morning and lowest right before bedtime. High IOP does not necessarily mean that glaucoma is present. For those normal patients with abnormally high pressure, eye doctors prefer to monitor them more closely.
Normal Tension Glaucoma
Just because a patient has normal eye pressure, does not mean that he or she does not have glaucoma. A significant number of glaucoma patients have normal IOP. This type of glaucoma is called normal tension glaucoma or NTG.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because there are no outward symptoms of the disease. The elevated eye pressure does not cause pain, except in rare cases when the eye pressure reaches above 50 mm Hg. The vision loss that occurs early in the disease is in the peripheral vision or side vision, so it often goes unnoticed by the patient. The chances of getting glaucoma increase greatly with age, with 65 percent of the patients being older than 65 years of age. The best method for detection is a full examination by an eye doctor, and older patients should be examined once a year. As in other eye diseases, early detection is the key to stopping the progression of glaucoma.
Tests for Glaucoma
In addition to the IOP test, patients are normally tested for peripheral (side) vision using a visual field test. During the visual field test, the patient peers into a white dome-shaped diagnostic testing system while sitting. Dots of light are flashed in different areas of peripheral vision and the patient pushes a button when he or she can detect the flash of light. Pictures of the back of the eye are also used to detect and evaluate the progression of glaucoma. Accurate pictures of the retina can be viewed by one of our skilled eye doctors to determine if the optic nerve shows signs of damage. Other newer technology tests are also now available for glaucoma evaluation, including imaging devices that can precisely inspect the optic nerve for damage using laser light.
Treatment for Glaucoma
The primary treatment for glaucoma is the lowering of IOP. Medications can be prescribed which lower the pressure in the eye. These medications are typically in the form of an eye drop, but in some cases a pill may be prescribed. If the elevated pressure persists, the eye doctor may prescribe a combination of drugs to control IOP. For advanced cases or if the medications are not effectively managing IOP, glaucoma surgery may be recommended. During this procedure, canals are made in the outer layer of the eye to allow fluid in the eye to escape, thus lowering the eye pressure. These canals can be created by a laser, called SLT Laser, or through direct surgery on the eye like the viscocanalostomy procedure. Viscocanalostomy in an innovative treatment option that can be performed in conjunction with a cataract procedure, and has been effective in controlling IOP. To learn more about glaucoma treatment and to schedule a thorough examination with one of our specialists, please visit out contact page.
The specialists at Eye Health Partners, including Dr. Karen Shelton, M.D. are dedicated to providing vision care for a variety of patients. In addition to glaucoma treatment, they also offer cataract surgery and refractive surgeries such as LASIK and PRK.