Glaucoma From Diagnosis to Treatment
Have you or has someone you love been diagnosed with glaucoma? Are you seeking to understand the basics of this eye disease, including what treatment options are available? Are you looking for an eye doctor who will help you protect one of your most precious commodities — your vision?
The network of premier eye doctors included in our list at Leading Medical Clinics of the World® is made up of only the most skilled, experienced and trustworthy practitioners in a variety of medical specialties. Our members — all of whom are board-certified and have been vetted by their peers and recommended by their patients — include eye doctors who are trained to detect glaucoma and other serious eye diseases in their early stages and provide treatment that will slow and prevent permanent vision loss.
To get you started, we have put together an overview of glaucoma, including everything you may need before you take the next step — whether that’s finding out if you’re at a higher risk for the disease, researching your treatment options, knowing which questions to ask during a consultation or searching for a top eye doctor from our vast network of experts.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve in one or both eyes. This damage can occur for various reasons, and leads to progressive and permanent vision loss. If this serious eye condition is left untreated, it can cause blindness. Early detection and treatment for glaucoma has been proven to both slow the progression of and prevent a significant degree of vision loss.
The Two Main Types of Glaucoma
Primary open-angle glaucoma
This type of glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. In the case of primary open-angle glaucoma, or POAG, fluids build up in the eye as a result of the gradual clogging of drainage canals. This causes high intraocular (eye) pressure, which damages the optic nerve. POAG usually develops slowly and often has no discernable symptoms until well into its later stages, when vision loss (often peripheral vision loss) is noticed.
Also called acute glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma, this type of glaucoma is present when the drainage canal in the eye has been blocked, resulting in a sudden rise in intraocular pressure and optic nerve damage. This type of glaucoma develops very quickly and should be treated as a medical emergency as soon as symptoms, which often occur suddenly, are noticed. Delayed treatment could cause permanent vision impairment or loss, among other complications.
Other Types of Glaucoma
This type of glaucoma is similar to POAG, except that with normal-tension glaucoma, the intraocular pressure is at a normal level. Though doctors don’t know what causes this disease, which is also called low-tension or low-pressure glaucoma, it has been suggested that a lack of blood flow (due to genetics or having a vascular disease) to the optic nerve is the cause. Regardless of the differing characteristics of the conditions, the resulting optic nerve damage caused by this form of glaucoma is the same as that caused by POAG.
Secondary glaucoma is named as such since it occurs as a result of another, primary, factor like an eye injury, eye infection, tumor or certain medications (like steroids). It can also be caused by an enlarged lens from an advanced cataract or occur as a complication of diabetes. These or other factors may contribute to the high intraocular pressure and optic nerve damage that causes either open- or close-angle glaucoma as a secondary condition.
Forms of secondary glaucoma
- Pigmentary glaucoma — Occurs when pigment granules break loose from the iris (the colored portion of the eye) and clog the eye’s drainage channel. This type of glaucoma, though rare, is a result of the rising eye pressure that forms when the eye’s drainage system is blocked.
- Congenital (childhood) glaucoma — Occurs in babies and young children as a result of inadequate development of the eye’s drainage system, causing excess fluid buildup and elevated eye pressure.
- Neovascular glaucoma — Occurs when blood vessels form abnormally on the iris, blocking the eye’s drainage channels and causing high eye pressure. This type of secondary glaucoma is caused by the presence of another medical condition, usually diabetes.
- Exfoliative glaucoma — Occurs when flaky deposits from the eye’s lens collect in the area between the cornea and the iris, clogging the eye’s drainage canals and causing high intraocular pressure and damage to the optic nerve.
Irido corneal endothelial syndrome (ICE)
This form of glaucoma is rare and is caused by corneal cells blocking the eye’s drainage channels, which leads to high eye pressure, optic nerve damage and also swelling of the cornea. ICE typically occurs in only one eye, and is more commonly seen in women (particularly in midlife).
Symptoms of Glaucoma
There are many types of glaucoma, including some forms that don’t have any symptoms or that don’t manifest until the disease’s later stages. Since early detection and treatment is key in protecting your vision, visit your eye doctor at least once a year for a comprehensive eye exam, which includes testing for glaucoma. See your doctor immediately if you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms of glaucoma:
- Eye pain and/or redness
- Tunnel vision
- Blurred or otherwise distorted vision
- Loss of vision
- An eye or eyes that appear cloudy or hazy
- Eyes that look unusually large or protruding
- Excessive tearing
- Sensitivity to light
- Seeing halos around lights
- Nausea or vomiting
People at a Higher Risk for Developing Glaucoma
Though it is true that anyone can develop glaucoma, certain people are at a higher risk for contracting this disease, such as those who:
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Are over 60 years of age
- Are of African American, Hispanic or Asian descent
- Use steroid medications
- Have experienced an eye injury or eye trauma
Detecting and Diagnosing Glaucoma
A comprehensive eye exam, whether performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, includes testing for glaucoma. Since early detection and treatment is crucial to protecting your vision, it is important that you visit your eye doctor every two to four years to have your eyes checked for glaucoma. If you are in the higher risk category, an eye exam every one to two years is recommended.
Testing for glaucoma typically includes measuring the eye’s inner pressure. Other tests that check for damage to the optic nerve, test visual acuity, or measure the angle between the cornea and the iris of the eye may also be used as diagnostic tools.
There is no cure for glaucoma, though treatment is vital in order to slow and prevent the vision loss that occurs with the condition. Depending on the type and severity of the condition, glaucoma may be treated in a variety of ways.
Medicated eye drops and oral medication prescribed by a doctor can be used to lower a patient’s eye pressure, particularly in less severe cases or in the early stages of the disease. When treating more aggressive types of glaucoma, or if the glaucoma is advanced, surgery may be needed.
Laser surgery is the most common surgery used for treating glaucoma. The main types of glaucoma laser surgeries are selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), argon laser trabeculoplasty (ALT), micropulse laser trabeculoplasty (MLT) and laser peripheral iridotomy (LPI). Though the types of glaucoma they treat and the characteristics of these surgical methods vary, these procedures all use a focused laser beam to relieve the eye’s blocked drainage canal so that it can drain fluids properly and maintain a healthy eye pressure level.
Filtering microsurgery is a surgical method most often used when the patient’s eye pressure remains high despite medication and/or laser surgery. This procedure, which is performed during a trabeculectomy or sclerostomy procedure, involves creating a small drainage hole in the sclera (or white part of the eye) to assist in fluid drainage, lowering the high intraocular pressure and preventing optic nerve damage as a result.
Minimally Invasive and Non-Surgical Treatments
Tube shunts are also used to treat glaucoma through the use of a silicone drainage device, called a tube shunt, which is inserted in the anterior chamber of the eye. This shunt collects excess fluid in the eye, which is then absorbed and transported out of the eye through the eye’s veins. This non-surgical procedure helps to prevent the fluid buildup in the eye that causes high intraocular pressure.
A Trabectome device is a tiny, probe-like device that is inserted through a small incision in the cornea, into the anterior chamber of the eye. This probe lowers eye pressure by removing the trabecular meshwork (the tissue around the base of the cornea), opening the eye’s drainage system.
Canaloplasty is a minimally invasive surgical option that uses a microcatheter (or tube) to enlarge the main drainage canal of the eye (called the Schlemm’s canal) so that it drains excess fluid, relieving buildup and reducing eye pressure as a result.
Finding the Right Eye Doctor for You
Couple Finding a Glaucoma DoctorFinding a trained, experienced and trustworthy eye doctor doesn’t have to be an arduous task. Our review process at Leading Medical Clinics of the World® has already helped us narrow it down to the top 10 percent of eye doctors in each subspeciality of ophthalmology.
The eye doctors in our network:
- Are board-certified
- Are well-respected by peers
- Are positively reviewed by patients
- Are ranked as a top medical practitioner in their respective fields
- Are in good standing with their medical board(s)
- Operate from a clinic upholding the highest level of healthcare standards
Not sure which type of eye doctor you need? It is important to first know your needs as a patient so that you know what to look for when searching our directory. Both optometrists and ophthalmologists are trained to diagnose glaucoma and prescribe medications in order to treat the disease. However, if surgery is necessary, only an ophthalmologist is trained to administer this type of glaucoma treatment.
- Which treatment options are available to me?
- How long will the treatment last?
- What results can I expect from treatment?
- If my treatment involves medication, what types of foods, drugs and activities (driving, etc.) should I avoid while taking it?
- How many glaucoma surgeries have you performed?
- What are the risks and/or side effects associated with the treatment?
- If I need to have glaucoma surgery, how long is the recovery period?
- How much time will I have to take off of work for recovery?
- What types of limitations (driving, exercising, etc.) will I have during the recovery period?
- Can you provide me with any patient information (whether print or digital) to help me better understand my diagnosis and/or treatment?
- Do you offer evening or weekend appointments?
- What financing options are available to me as your patient?
- Will my insurance cover my surgery?
Click the icon to print out this list and bring it with you to your consultation.
Ready to Research the Eye Doctors in Our Network?
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s likely that you have many questions. At Leading Medical Clinics of the World®, we can help by answering one of them: where can you find an experienced, qualified eye doctor for treatment? We have done the legwork, placing the best at your fingertips in our network of eye care clinics. Search our directory today and find one that’s right for you.