Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It occurs when the pressure inside the eye rises, damaging the optic nerve and causing vision loss. Some cases have normal or near normal eye pressures. The condition often develops over many years without causing pain or other noticeable symptoms – so you may not experience vision loss until the disease has progressed.
Sometimes symptoms do occur. They may include:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Halo effects around lights
- Painful or reddened eyes
People at high risk include those who are over the age of 40, diabetic, near-sighted, African-American, or who have a family history of glaucoma.
To detect glaucoma, your physician will test your visual acuity and visual field as well as the pressure in your eye. Regular eye exams help to monitor the changes in your eyesight and to determine whether you may develop glaucoma.
Once diagnosed, glaucoma can be controlled and further vision loss can be prevented. Treatments to lower pressure in the eye include non-surgical methods such as prescription eye drops and medications, laser therapy, and surgery.
Did You Know?
- Glaucoma is one of the most common major eye disorders in people over age 60.
- It is responsible for 15 percent of blindness in adults in the United States.
- Chronic glaucoma often causes no symptoms until late in the disease when it has already caused severe and irreversible damage to vision.
- It is usually detected only by regular, routine eye examinations.
- Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent visual impairment caused by glaucoma.
- That some asthma inhalers and cortisone-containing medications can dangerously increase eye pressures.
It is worth repeating that early diagnosis and treatment are the most important factors in preventing visual impairment from glaucoma. So, don't put off your regular, routine eye exams just because you have no symptoms especially if there is a family history of the disorder or you are taking any cortisone-containing medications.
Some cases of glaucoma can be treated with medications. For others, laser or traditional surgery is required to lower eye pressure. Common surgeries include:
- Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI) - For patients with narrow-angle glaucoma. A small hole is made in the iris to increase the angle between the iris and cornea and encourage fluid drainage.
- Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) - an advanced laser system that improves the flow of fluid in the eye, lowering eye pressure for patients with glaucoma.
- Filtering Microsurgery (Trabeculectomy) - For patients who have not been helped with laser surgery or medications. A new drainage passage is created by cutting a small hole in the sclera (the white part of the eye) and creating a collection pouch between the sclera and conjunctiva (the outer covering of the eye).
- Tube Shunt Surgery - May be recommended for patients with neovascular glaucoma, failed trabeculectomy, or susceptibility to developing scar tissue. A thin, flexible tube (a shunt) with a silicone pouch is inserted in the eye to facilitate drainage.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is an advanced laser system that improves the flow of fluid in the eye, lowering eye pressure for patients with glaucoma.
Using a focused, narrow wavelength, SLT targets specific cells of the eye -- those containing melanin, a natural pigment -- leaving surrounding cells intact. The procedure is painless and has no side effects, although patients are given anti-inflammatory eye drops before and after treatment. Eye pressure may drop as quickly as a day after the procedure.
Benefits of SLT
- Safe: SLT is not associated with systemic side effects or the compliance and cost issue of medications.
- Selective: SLT utilizes selective photothermolysis to target only specific cells, leaving the surrounding tissue intact.
- Smart: SLT stimulates the body's natural mechanisms to enhance outflow of the fluid in your eye.
- Sensible: SLT therapy is reimbursed by Medicare and many other insurance providers, which minimizes your out-of-pocket expenses.
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, doctors visits should be on a regular basis.
How SLT Works
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is an advancement over other lasers that have been used safely and effectively in the treatment of open-angle glaucoma for more than two decades.
SLT works by using laser light to stimulate the body's own healing response to lower your eye pressure. Using a special wave length and energy, the laser affects only pigmented (melanin containing) cells of your eye. SLT improves the flow of fluid in the eye, which in turn lowers your eye pressure. This 15 minute office procedure often reduces or eliminates the need for lifelong use of expensive eye drops.
If you would like more information about Glaucoma or to schedule an appointment, feel free to fill out our convenient contact form or call us directly at 310.229.1220.