Introduction to Glaucoma
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of permanent vision loss worldwide. As many as three million Americans are affected by the disease, with senior citizens accounting for most sufferers. The two most common forms of the disease include primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG). In both forms, increased intraocular pressure causes optic nerve damage, which can lead to vision loss.
The primary-open angle form of the disease (POAG) can be especially harmful because the onset is very gradual, and sufferers typically experience few to no symptoms until profound vision loss has already occurred. By then it’s too late for treatment to mitigate further loss of sight. For that reason, regular screenings and early intervention are critical for preventing permanent blindness.
Below are some of the symptoms associated with the disease.
• Sudden loss of vision
• Hazy or blurry vision
• Severe eye/head pain
• Nausea and vomiting accompanying eye/head pain
• Visual auras resembling rainbow-colored circles surrounding bright lights
If you find yourself experiencing any of these vision problems, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist immediately. Keep in mind that while anyone can be afflicted, you’re at more risk if you have a family history, if you’re a senior citizen, or if you’re African-American or Latino.
What Are My Glaucoma Treatment Options?
If the disease is caught early enough, patients can sometimes be successfully treated with medicated drops that help to lower eye pressure. Laser surgery is also used to create more efficient drainage within the eye. This cannot restore vision loss, but it can help slow the disease’s progression. Taking extra measures, such as dietary changes or the addition of regular cardio workouts, can also help combat the effects of the disease.
But what happens if the disease isn’t caught before advanced and significant vision loss has occurred? In that case, what can be done to preserve eye health?
For patients already experiencing symptoms associated with more profound vision loss, there is, unfortunately, no cure. Lowering intraocular pressure can help protect the optic nerve from further damage, but it cannot heal any damage that has already occurred. But there are some experimental treatments with the aim of restoring lost vision, and they will soon be tested on human subjects for the first time. Some of these treatments work by preventing optic nerve degeneration while others regenerate retinal ganglion cell axons. The treatment delivery methods include eyedrops, intravitreal injections, and surgical implants.
One promising treatment involves the placement of a small silicone ring in the eye. This ring is designed to release medication into the eye gradually over a period of six months, ensuring that the patient receives treatment without having to worry about self-administering eyedrops. One recent study has shown that patients outfitted with the ring experienced a 20% reduction in symptoms over a six-month time frame.
In short, there is hope on the horizon of glaucoma treatment. However, since human clinical trials are only beginning, it should not be assumed that a cure for vision loss stemming from glaucoma will be available in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, everyone should be sure to receive regular eye exams to help increase the odds of early detection and help preserve their eye health.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as an adequate substitute for medical attention. If you think you may be experiencing vision loss associated with glaucoma, have further questions, or need to schedule an annual eye exam, contact us at Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute.