Glaucoma: The Second-Leading Cause of Blindness in Plano, Frisco, McKinney and Across The United States
Many of us don’t realize that our eyes have ‘pressure’ just like our blood. And when this pressure inside our eyes – known as intraocular pressure (IOP) – increases to dangerous levels, it can damage our optic nerve. This can result in decreased peripheral vision and eventually, blindness.
At Brooks Eye Associates, we want patients in Plano, Frisco, McKinney, and North Dallas to realize that Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for patients between the ages of 18-65 years of age. On a national basis, it is estimated that approximately 3 million people have Glaucoma. But here is the most shocking part: Only half of those people with glaucoma actually know that they have it. You can learn more at www.glaucoma.org.
One of the most recent breakthroughs in glaucoma management has been the ability to combine glaucoma surgical treatment at the same time as cataract surgery. The procedure involves the world’s tiniest medical device called iStent, which is designed to help reduce the pressure build-up inside your eye. Not everyone is an ideal iStent candidate and it is not always the ideal treatment during cataract surgery. But if you have a family history of glaucoma or have been diagnosed with glaucoma and are considering cataract surgeons, our surgeons will most likely determine if implanting the iStent will relieve your eye pressure.
Even in the United States – where patients have access to the latest breakthroughs in diagnostics and surgical treatment for glaucoma – there are approximately 100,000 patients who are believed to be legally blind from glaucoma.
Glaucoma is similar to ocular hypertension, but with accompanying optic nerve damage and vision loss when your IOP becomes elevated. While most people are familiar with the eye disease Glaucoma, few are aware of why Glaucoma is such a significant threat to sight.
Recent estimates indicate that another 3-6 million people in the United States have higher than normal Intraocular Pressure (IOP), without obvious clinical signs of damage to the Optic Nerve. From this data, it is probable that there are another 1 million people who may have Glaucoma, but have not yet been diagnosed because they do not have access to eye care or even Glaucoma screenings.
The reason glaucoma is such a dangerous eye condition is that there are no symptoms to warn us that potential damage and vision loss from glaucoma could be happening. That’s why glaucoma is often referred to as ‘The Sneak Thief of Sight. And here is the worst part: Once vision loss from glaucoma has occurred, it is VERY difficult to restore.
Glaucoma begins without any symptoms or obvious loss of vision. Glaucoma is quite insidious in onset and, if not diagnosed and treated early in its course, will lead to progressive, permanent, and unnoticed vision loss. This is what makes it essential to diagnose and treat Glaucoma as early in its course as possible.
Because of the potential for vision loss without a warning sign, the physicians of Brooks Eye Associates are passionate about preventing blindness from glaucoma in Plano, Frisco, McKinney, and North Dallas through early diagnosis and treatment.
Glaucoma is actually not a single disease but is a term that is used to describe a broad range of eye problems that damage the Optic Nerve and potentially cause loss of vision. The pressure inside the eye is called Intraocular Pressure (IOP) and generally falls within some range that is considered “normal”. Many patients are under the impression that Glaucoma is simply due to high pressure within the eye. While an elevated Intraocular Pressure can be one cause of Glaucoma, and in fact is the most common cause of Glaucoma, a high IOP may not be the only cause of Glaucoma. There are many possible causes of Glaucoma. Regardless of the cause, the various types of Glaucoma share a common factor-if not diagnosed early, treated properly and controlled, it will result in permanent vision loss and potentially blindness.
The eye doctors at Brooks Eye Associates find that the most disturbing attributes of Glaucoma are that it begins with a slow onset and there is a lack of visual symptoms. This makes Glaucoma easy to overlook unless patients are consistent about having routine eye examinations with Glaucoma testing. For that reason, we strongly recommend regular eye examinations and thorough Glaucoma testing.
How Often Should Your Glaucoma Be Checked at Brooks Eye Associates?
At Brooks Eye Associates, our doctors recommend that all patients over 50 years of age who have no previous family history of Glaucoma or other general health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, be evaluated for Glaucoma
every two years.
For patients who are African American or have a family history of Glaucoma, we recommend patients be evaluated for Glaucoma every year beginning at age 40. In addition, we now also know that there is a considerable risk for siblings of those who have Glaucoma. In a recent Glaucoma Study, it was reported that siblings of Glaucoma patients are 5 times the risk for developing Glaucoma by the age of 70 and therefore should be examined every year.
Fortunately, when detected early, glaucoma can be successfully treated. At Brooks Eye Associates in Plano & Frisco, our eye physicians and staff provide the full scope of advanced technology diagnostic testing and treatment, as well as taking the time necessary to give you the personal education needed to fully understand your condition and to deliver the best possible outcomes for our patients.
Three Glaucoma Treatment Options at Brooks Eye Associates
Each year, treatment for glaucoma advances with improvements in diagnostics and surgical treatment. In general, there are three main methods of treating Glaucoma: Medical Treatment of Glaucoma, Laser Treatment of Glaucoma and Surgical Treatment of Glaucoma.
These treatment options for controlling Glaucoma are quite important, as Glaucoma has no cure. The good news is that in almost all cases, Glaucoma is treatable, but must be diagnosed as early as possible. Thanks to advances in Medical Treatment for Glaucoma, Laser Eye Surgery for Glaucoma and Surgery for Glaucoma, the eye doctors at Brooks Eye Associates will be able to recommend an individual treatment plan that is best for you.
The following information is limited to treatment of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, as it is the most common type of Glaucoma. Primary Open Angle Glaucoma is treated by the three different approaches above depending on the severity of the disease and the ability of each treatment option to slow or halt the disease progression and preserve your vision.
How Our Physicians Medically Treat Glaucoma
One of the most common treatments for Primary Open Angle Glaucoma are simple eye drops. There are many types of eye drops that can be prescribed to lower your Intraocular Pressure (IOP). By using a single type of medication or sometimes 2 eye drops in combination, more than 80% of the patients with Open Angle Glaucoma can be successfully treated. These drops are able to help lower your IOP by either decreasing the amount of fluid being produced inside your eye or by increasing the rate of drainage of fluid from your eye. When your eye fluid does not drain properly, the fluid build-up can cause the IOP to increase. For most patients, using the eye drops as prescribed-1-2 times per day it is possible to control your IOP and slow or even halt the loss of vision.
For a certain percentage of patients, unfortunate side effects from eye drop medication make the use of eye drops a poor treatment option. Also, some patients are unable to achieve adequate control with eye drops alone and require Laser Eye Surgery for Glaucoma in addition to the eye drops in order to maintain control. We offer all three glaucoma treatment options at our new office in Plano & Frisco.
Treating Your Glaucoma With Laser Eye Surgery
Just like advanced cataract surgery and the popular LASIK procedure, Laser treatment for Glaucoma has become an important treatment option for many patients. In the past, Laser Eye Surgery for Glaucoma was considered a “last resort” before Glaucoma Surgery. Today, thanks to recent advances in laser surgery and surgical techniques, using a laser treatment for Glaucoma in conjunction with the eye drop treatment or sometimes even using the laser treatment as the primary treatment are excellent glaucoma treatment options. Laser Treatment for Glaucoma is widely used to help prevent vision loss and is becoming a Glaucoma treatment of choice for many patients who have problems with eye drops or are unable to use eye drops properly.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is a type of glaucoma laser treatment that helps to reduce the Intraocular Pressure (IOP) by creating more effective drainage of fluid through the Trabecular Meshwork. SLT is effective in reducing IOP by 20-25% in as many as 70-80% of patients undergoing this procedure. The effect of SLT may decrease over time, however, the benefit of SLT over an older treatment called Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT) is that SLT may be repeated with no damage to ocular structures.
Another type of Laser Eye Surgery, called Laser Peripheral Iridotomy, is a procedure used for the treatment of Anatomically Narrow Angles, Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma and Chronic Angle Closure Glaucoma.
The eye physicians and surgeons at Brooks Eye Associate are specially trained to perform Laser Eye Surgery for all types of Glaucoma. If Laser Treatment is the best option to help you control your Glaucoma, our physicians will explain the risks and benefits so that you fully understand your treatment options.
Advanced Surgical Treatment of Glaucoma
Even with eye drop therapy and Laser Eye Surgery techniques cannot properly treat your glaucoma, there are surgical procedures available to help achieve control of the Intraocular Pressure (IOP) and slow or stop the progression of the disease. These include removing a tiny piece of the Trabecular Meshwork, a surgical procedure called “Trabeculectomy”, “Sclerostomy” or “Filtering Procedure”, or even implanting a microscopic Glaucoma Valve to help reduce and stabilize the Intraocular Pressure (IOP) and prevent vision loss.