Glaucoma FAQ

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that leads to damage of the optic nerve. Simply speaking, the optic nerve is the extension cord connecting the eye to the brain. It is responsible for transmitting vital visual information from the eye to the brain. Unfortunately, the optic nerve can be damaged by high eye pressure, as if being squeezed. The increased pressure destroys the sensitive nerve fibers responsible for vision. There are two very important points:

  1. Once damage to the vision is done, it is permanent and irreversible.
  2. Glaucoma, the open-angle type, is silent and does not cause any symptoms which means you may never know you have it until you've already lost vision.

Do I have glaucoma?

Glaucoma affects approximately 2% of the population over the age of 35 and generally has no noticeable symptoms. It is most common in people with a family history of the disease, so anyone with a blood relative who has glaucoma should schedule an annual eye exam. People with systemic diseases such as diabetes, anemia or hardening of the arteries, as well as African Americans and Hispanics, are also at higher risk for glaucoma.

How is glaucoma treated?

There are three glaucoma treatments and procedures available, all aimed at reducing eye pressure:

  • Eye Drops - Reduce eye pressure by either increasing the eye's ability to drain or by decreasing the amount of fluid it produces.
  • Oral Medication - Reduce eye pressure by decreasing fluid production. Oral medications can be very effective in lowering eye pressure, but they also cause side effects in about half of the people who take them.
  • Surgery - Many traditional and laser surgical options are available for glaucoma sufferers, including:
    • Laser trabeculoplasty: A safe, painless and fast laser surgery procedure.
    • Trabeculectomy: A traditional surgical procedure where a tiny hole is made in the white part of the eye for fluid to drain from.
    • Drain implantation: A microscopic plastic tube is placed within the eye to improve drainage and lower eye pressure.
    • Ciliodestructive surgery: A laser procedure used on the surface of the eye to disrupt the process within the eye responsible for excess fluid production.

Is glaucoma treatment painful?

Since there are many kinds of glaucoma treatment, the sensations you experience will vary - you can expect no discomfort to mild discomfort (such as after surgery).

How much time will I need to recover from glaucoma treatment?

Glaucoma drops are the first-line treatment for glaucoma. And just like diabetes or hypertension, glaucoma is a chronic condition. Chronic conditions require chronic treaments, which means eyedrops indefinitely. There are oral medications as well but due to the higher risk for systemic side effects, they are usually reserved as a temporary measure before proceeding with a more permanent treatment such as surgery. If your doctor decides that your eye pressure is not controlled on eyedrops or pills, you may have to undergo a glaucoma surgery. Glaucoma laser treatment does not require significant recovery time, but glaucoma surgery, on the other hand, requires at least one month of intensive followup visits to ensure the surgery is successful.

Are there side effects from glaucoma treatment?

Different treatment options will produce different side effects.

Side effects associated with eye drops:

  • Possible allergic reactions in and around the eyes
  • Headaches at the start of treatment
  • Blurred vision from pupil constriction
  • Temporary redness of the eye

Side effects associated with oral medications:

  • Tingling in the fingers and toes
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood changes

Side effects associated with surgery:

  • Temporary blurred vision
  • Temporary redness in the eyes
  • Temporary sensitivity to light
  • Glare and/or halo vision

What's the first step in correcting my vision problem?

Because glaucoma is such an elusive disease, early detection and treatment is imperative. Contact our office to schedule a consultation. During your examination, your eye pressure will be measured and the condition of the optic nerve assessed. If signs of glaucoma exist, more tests will be conducted and your doctor will create a treatment plan to maintain the best possible vision. You will be able to spend as much time as you would like having your questions answered.

At Professional Eye Associates, we offer the full range of vision correction procedures, as well treatments for eye conditions such as glaucoma. If you're in the Dalton, Calhoun or Ellijay areas, please call or e-mail us any time to schedule your initial consultation. We look forward to talking with you!

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