Glaucoma is often referred to as the “sneak thief of sight” because in the vast majority of cases vision is lost to glaucoma with no pain, discomfort or noticeable change in vision. With more than 2 dozen distinct types of glaucoma, each with its own subtle presentation, a comprehensive eye exam is needed to detect this condition in its early, very treatable stages.
In order to see properly, the eyeball requires a certain internal pressure to maintain its round shape and to nourish the eye's internal structures. This pressure is maintained by a delicately balanced system of fluid pumps and drains which normally maintains the eye pressure within a very narrow range for a lifetime. However, if this pump and drain system is disturbed by any number of factors, the eye pressure can begin to build up and very gradually damage the optic nerve and slowly constrict vision until eventually all vision is permanently lost. This usually happens so gradually and painlessly that we notice no change in vision from month to month until substantial vision is permanently lost.
It is estimated that there are at least 3 million people in the US with established vision loss from glaucoma, but only 2 million have been diagnosed and are receiving treatment. Most cases of glaucoma could be discovered and treated if those at risk could be examined annually.
There are many risk factors for the development of glaucoma. Age (those over 40 have a significantly higher risk of glaucoma), family history, prior eye injuries, and certain medications (primarily steroids).
Current glaucoma therapy is much more effective and comfortable than in years past. Previously, there were only a few medications effective against glaucoma and they caused many side effects, such as pain and blurring of vision. Recently developed eye drops are much more effective at lowering pressure with fewer side effects.
Laser therapy is also another effective way to treat glaucoma. Many recent strides have been made in this area to lower eye pressure. Different lasers are used for many eye conditions, but the use of Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty or SLT, can be effective at reducing eye pressure and often reduces or eliminates the dependency on eye drops.
SLT is a convenient, comfortable office procedure which takes only a few minutes and has minimal risks. For the most severe cases of glaucoma, an array of microsurgical techniques are available to save vision. At Associated Eyecare we are excited to offer the most advanced options in diagnosing and treating glaucoma.
Please click here for more information on SLT laser therapy.