Ask the Eye Docs: Questions about Glaucoma
For more than a decade, the dedicated team of specialists at Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, P.C. has provided patients from all across Georgia with an array of eye care services, ranging from routine vision examinations and prescription eyewear to advanced eye disease treatment and refractive eye surgery. In this ongoing blog feature, you will have the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of board certified ophthalmologist Dr. William Segal and licensed consultative optometrist Dr. Marc Lay as they answer some of the eye care questions most frequently asked by patients.
QUESTION: I am a woman in my early fifties and a small business owner here in the Atlanta area. For many years, I have been using prescription contacts and eye glasses to treat mild astigmatism with farsightedness, and even though I have been a mild smoker I have had no other serious health problems. During a recent physical, however, my doctor noted that my blood pressure was elevated and suggested that I may be at risk for glaucoma. How concerned should I be and what exactly is entailed in getting tested?
ANSWER: Glaucoma is among the most serious of vision problems, and affects more than 60 million people worldwide. It most commonly results when the flow of fluid in the eye, or the aqueous humor, which is supposed to cycle constantly through the eye’s anterior chamber, is obstructed, typically by a defect in the shape of the eye itself or by inflammation caused by a health condition like high blood pressure. When this fluid is unable to drain properly, the eyes’ internal pressure can increase to the point that it begins to damage the optic nerve, which can ultimately result in permanent vision loss. In the earliest stages, glaucoma affects the peripheral, or side, vision first and so many may fail to notice that there is a problem until significant damage has already occurred. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, and damage that has already been caused to the ocular nerve cannot be fixed, its progression can usually be slowed or even halted if the condition is detected and treated early.
During a comprehensive medical eye exam, we perform a number of painless, non-invasive tests that can detect glaucoma before any vision loss has started to occur. A simple visual field test checks for blank spots in your vision, an instrument called a tonometer measures the internal eye pressure, and careful examination of your eyes’ internal structures allows us to evaluate the drainage angle and optic nerve itself. Although a comprehensive medical exam does take longer than a routine vision exam, and requires that your eyes be dilated, it can still be completed in about an hour to an hour and a half.
If signs of glaucoma are detected, patients have a number of different treatment options available. Various prescription medications, in pill or eye drop form, can either reduce the production of fluid in the eye or increase the rate at which that fluid drains. In fact, our practice was recently chosen to participate in a year-long research study testing the effectiveness of a new form of glaucoma treatment. More advanced cases of glaucoma may require treatment with advanced laser therapy or with the implantation of an iStent® Trabecular Micro-Bypass, a tiny device that creates a direct path for fluid to flow between the fluid-filled chamber of the front of the eye and the major collector channel that directs the fluid out of the eye. A thorough examination of your eyes will determine which approach will best suit your individual needs.
At Georgia Eye, we are constantly exploring treatments for the many conditions that can negatively affect eyesight and strive to provide our patients with the safest, most effective options available. If you would like to learn more about treatments for glaucoma, or if you have any other questions or concerns about your vision, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons to schedule an eye exam with Dr. Segal or Dr. Lay today. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision clear and healthy.