Glaucoma is an eye disease that slowly and painlessly steals away your sight. Glaucoma is called the silent thief of sight because it has no symptoms—it does not make your eyes red or cause pain. However, it is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, and half of the people who have glaucoma don’t know that they have the disease and are not aware that they are going blind.
The cause of glaucoma is unknown, but there are several risk factors that increase your risk of developing glaucoma. These include high eye pressure (called intraocular pressure, or IOP), older age, being African-American or Hispanic, and having a family history of glaucoma. Anyone with any of these risk factors should get regular eye examinations to look for glaucoma.
At first, people suffering from glaucoma will suffer no symptoms. There is no pain associated with this condition, and in the beginning stages the vision is not affected. However, as the disease progresses, he or she may notice the peripheral vision failing. This means that while the vision to the front will still be clear, objects that are on the side may be missed.
As the disease progresses, the field of vision slowly narrows and eventually blindness results. Although glaucoma cannot be cured, it can be controlled with proper treatment.
Glaucoma damages vision by destroying the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, and carries visual information to your brain for processing. When the optic nerve is damaged from glaucoma, you lose your vision. Your peripheral vision—or side vision—is lost first. If the glaucoma remains untreated, the vision loss creeps in toward the center, first causing tunnel vision, and then, eventually, blindness.
Surgery for Glaucoma
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)
SLTis a laser that treats the drain directly to help increase the outflow of fluid. It treats specific cells "selectively,” the trabecular meshwork intact. For this reason, SLT may be safely repeated. It is not painful, and often can be an alternative to eye drops in early open angle glaucoma.
Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI)
Angle-closure glaucoma, also called closed-angle glaucoma, occurs when the iris bulges forward to narrow or block the drainage angle formed by the cornea and the iris. As a result, aqueous fluid can no longer reach the trabecular meshwork at the angle.
LPI creates a small hole in the iris, allowing it to fall away from the drainage angle and unblock the drain.
Endoscopic Cyclophotocoagulation (ECP)
Endoscopic cyclohotocoagulation is a recent development in the treatment of various types of glaucoma. In this procedure, the ciliary body, that portion of the eye responsible for producing fluid, is targeted with a precision laser. The energy generated by the laser effectively reduces fluid production. As the volume of fluid decreases, so does the IntraOcular pressure and the complications it can create.
Tube-shunt surgery involves placing a flexible plastic tube with an attached silicone drainage pouch in the eye to help drain fluid (aqueous humor) from the eye. This type of surgery is usually done after a failed trabeculectomy. If a person already has or is likely to form scar tissue in the eye, this type of surgery may be done initially.