Glaucoma is an eye disease that affects the optic nerve. Increased pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure) is usually a primary indicator of glaucoma, although eye pressure is normal in some cases. Glaucoma is often associated with older patients, and while it is more prevalent over the age of 60, it can occur in people of all ages. Glaucoma affects approximately 3 million people in the United States, and it is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide.
Early detection is critical to diagnose glaucoma, because many patients do not experience symptoms initially. Left untreated, glaucoma causes permanent damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision that cannot be recovered. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, treatment options are available to preserve vision and slow the progression of the disease. At Gordon Schanzlin New Vision Institute in San Diego, we are committed to preserving vision for patients affected by glaucoma.
Open Angle Glaucoma, also referred to as chronic glaucoma, is the most common type of glaucoma. People with this type of glaucoma often experience no symptoms at the onset of the disease. The drainage canal in the eye becomes blocked, which increases pressure in the eye and causes damage to the optic nerve. As the disease progresses slowly, there is a gradual loss of peripheral, or side, vision. This type of glaucoma is often referred to as the Sneak-thief-of-sight because people may experience permanent vision loss before they realize they are affected. Luckily, this type of glaucoma can be detected during a regular eye exam and your doctor can create a treatment plan to preserve your vision.
Narrow Angle Glaucoma, also called acute angle-closure glaucoma, comes on suddenly and may be referred to as a glaucoma attack. This type of glaucoma causes immediate pain that may be accompanied by blurred vision, red eyes, severe headache, nausea and vomiting. Narrow angle glaucoma is caused by a rapid increase in the pressure of the eye, usually because the iris is pulled or pushed back in a way that blocks drainage. This can occur as a result of the eye dilating in dim light. An occurrence of narrow angle glaucoma should be treated as a medical emergency and treatment should be sought immediately.
Normal Tension Glaucoma, also called low tension glaucoma, refers to a type of damage to the optic nerve that occurs when there is no increased eye pressure. The progression of the disease and lack of initial symptoms are similar to open angle glaucoma, but patients affected have consistently regular eye pressure. Less is understood about this form of glaucoma, so it is important that people with risk factors see an experienced eye doctor for regular examinations. People at higher risk for normal tension glaucoma include those of Japanese ancestry, with a family history of normal tension glaucoma, and people with a medical history of systemic heart disease.
People with the most common type of the disease, open angle glaucoma, will typically experience no symptoms until they notice vision loss, but by the optic nerve has been irreparably damaged. Vision that is lost due to glaucoma cannot be regained because the optic nerve has been permanently damaged, which is why glaucoma is often called the silent thief of vision. Narrow angle glaucoma is less common and patients will experience abrupt symptoms including pain, blurry vision, and nausea. If you suspect you have narrow angle glaucoma, you should seek medical treatment immediately.
Glaucoma can affect anyone, which is why everybody should get regular eye exams, but there are some risk factors which may make you more likely to develop glaucoma:
Many people with glaucoma will not experience any symptoms until it is too late. It is critically important to have regular eye exams with an experienced eye doctor who will measure your eye pressure, evaluate your optic nerve, and assess your vision to check for signs of glaucoma. Let your doctor know if you have any risk factors for glaucoma.
Although there is no cure for glaucoma, there are medical and surgical treatment options that can preserve vision and slow the progress of the disease.
Eye drops are often the first type of treatment offered to glaucoma patients. There are several types of drops for glaucoma. Your eye doctor will help find the type that works best for you.
The experienced surgeons at The Gordon Schanzlin New Vision Institute are dedicated to providing the best vision care possible to every patient. If prescription glaucoma drops are not sufficient in managing your glaucoma, or if your glaucoma is more advanced, we can help determine a surgical treatment that is right for you.
There are two types of laser eye surgery available – Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) and Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT). They each utilize laser therapy to repair the drainage tissue in the eye to increase flow of aqueous through the trabecular meshwork and encourage better draining of eye fluid. SLT uses a lower power of laser and may be repeated if needed, while ALT is typically only performed once. Both procedures have an extremely low rate of complication. SLT and ALT are outpatient procedures performed with local anesthetic and patients are generally able to resume regular activities the day after surgery.
Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery is commonly referred to as MIGS. This type of procedure utilizes microscopic equipment and tiny incisions to lower eye pressure and prevent the progression of glaucoma with minimal complications. At Gordon Schanzlin New Vision Institute, we offer two types of MIGS:
If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma and are interested in glaucoma treatments, please call Gordon Schanzlin New Vision Institute at (858) 455-6800 to schedule a consultation.
1 Samuelson TW, Chang DF, Marquis R, et al; HORIZON Investigators. A Schlemm canal microstent for intraocular pressure reduction in primary open-angle glaucoma and cataract: The HORIZON Study. Ophthalmology. 2019;126:29-37