What is Glaucoma

April 12th, 2016 by Carolina Eye Associates

Glaucoma is an eye condition where permanent vision loss results from optic nerve damage. There are several types of glaucoma. Glaucoma can be divided roughly into two main categories, “angle closure” and “open angle” glaucoma. Angle closure glaucoma can appear acutely and is often painful. Patients with this condition experience severe eye pain, redness, blurred vision, halos around lights and sometimes nausea and vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, you should immediately be evaluated by your ophthalmologist or at an emergency room.

Open angle glaucoma causes gradual loss of peripheral vision until, in advanced stages, complete blindness occurs.  Because open angle glaucoma has no symptoms, patients may not notice they have lost vision until the disease is very advanced.

The vision loss that occurs in glaucoma is permanent. Early detection and treatment of glaucoma is essential to prevent blindness. Patients with glaucoma risk factors should be screened at an early age. These risk factors include elevated intraocular pressure, age 60 and above, ethnicity (African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians have increased risk), family history of glaucoma, diabetes, nearsightedness and corticosteroid use.

Screening for glaucoma involves a set of specific tests which include the measurement of intraocular pressure, visual field testing, evaluation of the internal drainage pathway inside the eye (gonioscopy), corneal thickness measurement (pachymetry), and dilation of the eye for optic nerve evaluation and may also include optical scans and photos of the optic nerve. In addition to these clinical tests, it is essential for patients to be familiar with their past family and medical histories.

Once the diagnosis of glaucoma is made, the goal of treatment is to stop the disease from progressing, and thus prevent additional vision loss. Glaucoma cannot be cured, but treatment and regular checkups can slow vision loss. Glaucoma treatment involves reducing the intraocular pressure, and is achieved by eye medications, laser treatments, glaucoma surgery, or a combination of all three treatment options.

In addition, Carolina Eye offers the iStent, a newer minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. It is the smallest medical device ever approved by the FDA and is placed in a patient’s eye during cataract surgery. It is so small you are unable to see or feel it after the procedure is done. Although you won’t know iStent is there, it will be working to help reduce your eye pressure.

iStent works like the stents used to prevent heart attacks and strokes. When blood vessels get clogged, a stent creates access to the vessel flow. While a highly innovative technology, how iStent works is simple:

  • If you have glaucoma, over time the eyes natural drainage system becomes clogged;
  • iStent creates a permanent opening through the blockage to improve the eye’s natural outflow;
  • Restoring this mechanism lowers and controls pressure within the eye.

The iStent is implanted during cataract surgery. Once implanted, iStent will begin working to safely and effectively manage pressure.

For more information on glaucoma and the iStent, call Carolina Eye at (910) 295-2100 or toll-free at (800) 733-5357.

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