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Glaucoma is a series of diseases that if left untreated can cause damage to the optic nerve resulting in gradual vision loss and eventual blindness. Damage to the optic nerve, due to glaucoma, is usually caused by an elevated intraocular pressure (IOP).
A clear fluid, called aqueous humor, fills the front of the eye (anterior chamber) and provides nourishment to the tissues. Like the air in a balloon, the aqueous also provides pressure to help maintain the shape of the eye.
Open Angle Glaucoma
Open Angle Glaucoma (OAG), the most common type of glaucoma, occurs when there is either a sustained increase in fluid production or a decrease in fluid drainage. With this imbalance in fluid flow, there is an increase in the intraocular pressure, which in turn reduces blood flow to the sensitive tissues of the optic nerve. Over time, as the optic nerve fibers are destroyed, peripheral (side) vision is lost.
Treatment of Open Angle Glaucoma
OAG treatment concentrates on lowering the pressure inside the eye to prevent damage to the optic nerve, the most common treatments for glaucoma have been the use of medications in the form of eye drops or pills, and laser treatments.
Laser treatments and some medications allow for faster drainage, while other medications reduce the production of aqueous humor. If these methods fail to decrease fluid pressure, surgery may be required to create a new drainage channel.
*A recent study1 published in the Journal of Glaucoma found that there was no difference in the reduction of eye pressure after SLT compared to that of medicated eye drops when used as a first-line treatment for glaucoma.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Vision loss from glaucoma is permanent but can usually be prevented with early detection and treatment. Glaucoma management is usually a lifelong process that requires frequent monitoring and constant treatment. Since there is no way to determine if glaucoma is under control based on how a person feels, a person with glaucoma generally should be examined every 3 to 4 months. If you have experienced a loss of peripheral vision or are having other difficulties with your vision, you should have a complete eye examination.
1 Reference: Katz LJ, et al. J Glaucoma. 2012:doi:10.197/ITG.0b013e318218287f