By: Christine Worrell, COA, Head Technician
Just over three million Americans are currently living with glaucoma, and that number will continue to climb in the coming years. When left untreated, this condition can permanently damage the optic nerves near the back of your eyes, which are responsible for sending nerve signals to the brain to create images.
In the initial stages of glaucoma, patients usually notice a decline in their peripheral vision, which could eventually result in total blindness. Here are a few of the most effective treatment options for this degenerative disease.
Prescription eye drops can’t reverse glaucoma, but they can minimize the side effects and prevent further damage to the optic nerves. Most glaucoma drops decrease the amount of fluid that the eyes produce or improve drainage around the eyes.
When developing a treatment plan, patients often have to try at least a few different eye drops before they find the right product. Your eye doctor will also need to test you for specific allergies before prescribing eye drops.
Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) is a good option for patients who have open-angle glaucoma. The goal of this procedure is to widen the drainage tubes within the eyes to reduce inflammation.
These procedures only take five to ten minutes to complete, and the side effects are usually extremely mild. The biggest drawback of these treatments is the fact that they aren’t permanent. You will most likely need to schedule follow-up procedures once every few years.
Combination Non-Invasive Treatments
As glaucoma progresses, patients generally need to mix and match their treatments to address the worsening side effects. These treatment plans almost always include scheduled laser procedures, oral medications, and prescription eye drops. The side effects can usually be delayed for years as long as patients closely follow the instructions given to them by the eye doctor.
Before any major surgeries are carried out on the eyes, patients should first consider minimally invasive procedures. For example, implanting tiny, stainless steel shunts or stents in the anterior of the eyes drastically slows the progression of glaucoma, and the results often last for years. A relatively high percentage of patients who have glaucoma also have cataracts, and these shunts can be installed during cataract surgery.
A major surgical procedure typically won’t be considered until all other treatment options have been exhausted. The most common surgical procedure for glaucoma is a trabeculectomy. During a trabeculectomy, the surgical team will manually bypass the blocked channels in the eyes so that the fluids can properly drain. Unlike many of these other treatments, a trabeculectomy must be carried out at an inpatient surgical center.
Those who catch glaucoma in its earliest stages can delay some of the worst side effects for years, and that is one of the reasons why you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam every 12 months. We invite you to contact Matossian Eye Associates today to schedule your next eye appointment.