New Research and Treatment for These Types of Glaucoma
As the leading cause of preventable vision loss and blindness among adults in the U.S. and Canada, it’s wise to be aware of glaucoma and how you can prevent the damaging effects of the most common forms of this ocular disease, open-angle glaucoma and narrow-angle glaucoma. According to statistics, an estimated 3 million Americans have glaucoma, yet only half of these people know about it! At Lowy & Sewell Eye Care, we will perform an expert glaucoma test as an important part of our routine, comprehensive eye exams in our Concord, ON office. With advanced optometric technology, we’ll inspect your eyes for any increased eye pressure symptoms that may occur as a result of glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
It’s helpful to have a basic understanding of what glaucoma is and how it can affect your eyes. In a nutshell, this disease is characterized by high pressure of the intraocular fluid in your eyes. Pressure that is higher than normal will eventually cause damage to the optic nerve, thereby damaging your eyesight. When detected early by a glaucoma test, the disease can be managed to prevent vision loss. However, once vision is impacted – it cannot usually be restored.
There are two primary forms of the disease: open-angle glaucoma and narrow-angle glaucoma. Of these, open-angle is the most prevalent.
Clear fluid in your eye flows continuously between your cornea and iris to bring nourishment to your eye tissues. This area of your eye is called the anterior chamber, and the fluid escapes from the chamber through an open angle where the iris and cornea meet. The fluid drains out of your eye through a meshwork of spongy tissue located at this angle.
Although the angle is open, when the fluid flows too slowly through the meshwork drain, a backup is caused. This is the source of increased fluid pressure inside your eye. When the pressure rises to an extreme level, damage to the optic nerve can result. Proper eye pressure is critical for healthy eyes!
There is a type of open-angle glaucoma, called normal-tension or low-tension glaucoma, that can develop without an increase in eye pressure. Only a thorough, dilated eye exam, which assesses your inner eye tissues for any abnormalities, will be able to identify the onset of this disease.
With open-angle glaucoma, the onset generally goes unnoticed. The disease progresses without any discomfort, central vision loss or symptoms. The first sign you may notice is a loss of peripheral vision, and if your glaucoma is left untreated, this will spread to a total loss of side vision and then complete blindness. Only regular eye exams and a glaucoma test will detect the early start of this condition.
Also referred to as acute angle-closure glaucoma, this type of the disease can occur very suddenly. Symptoms of severe pain and loss of vision are typical. Your eyesight may become blurry, and you may experience headaches and nausea. These symptoms are due to a blockage of the fluid in your eye, which is regarded as a medical emergency. The upside of these extreme signs is that you will seek medical attention immediately, which results in early treatment. The sooner glaucoma treatment is started, the better your long-term prognosis; permanent eye damage can generally be prevented.
Is It Possible to Cure Glaucoma?
At present, there is unfortunately no cure for glaucoma. Glaucoma medications may enable the progression of the disease to be slowed down, which helps to avoid further vision loss - but the disease remains. Open-angle glaucoma is a chronic disease that must be managed for life.
Promising Research For A Glaucoma Cure
Recent research is focusing on better ways to diagnose and treat glaucoma. Specific genes have been discovered that may help scientists to understand how glaucoma damages the eye.
Glaucoma has always been considered to be a ganglion cell disease, yet recent studies have also demonstrated that other retinal cells contribute equally to the rate and decline of eye cells affected by glaucoma. This is a significant development, as it provides scientists with other ways to intervene in the progression of glaucoma. Breakthroughs such as this are encouraging, and they show that large steps are being taken to find a way to cure glaucoma.
How Is Glaucoma Detected?
Our professional glaucoma test, performed by Dr. Deborah Lowy and Dr. Jeremy Sewell in our Concord, ON, office, consists of a few necessary procedures:
- Visual field/Perimetry test: evaluates your peripheral vision for any loss of eyesight
- Dilated eye exam: we’ll apply eye drops to dilate your pupils and then use a high-powered magnifying lens to inspect your retinal tissue and optic nerve.
- Tonometry: specialized instruments, called tonometers, will be used to measure the inner pressure of your eyes. We may insert numbing eye drops first, so the quick procedure is entirely painless.
- Pachymetry: we’ll assess the thickness of your cornea, using a numbing eye drop and an ultrasonic wave instrument. These results affect how we interpret the pressure in your eyes.
- Gonioscopy: this glaucoma test examines the drainage area of your eye to determine whether the angle is open or closed.
Glaucoma Medications and Treatment
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, our knowledgeable eye doctors will begin treatment immediately in our Concord office.Eye drops are typically used as the first line of treatment. Some of these glaucoma medications work to reduce your eye pressure, while others cause the eye to produce less fluid, such as beta-blockers and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors.
Glaucoma Eye Drops
Prostaglandin analogues (easily identified by their turquoise bottle caps) are a common type of glaucoma eye drops that help with draining the fluid out of your eyes more efficiently. The majority of these drugs do not cause severe side effects, yet some of the glaucoma eye drops may be accompanied by burning, redness or stinging in your eyes.