Do you notice that your vision is blurring? Do your eyes feel heavy or strained on a daily basis? Are these vision issues becoming worse over time? Does your poor eyesight affect your ability to work and enjoy life? If so, you may be interested in an eye examination at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA. This exam can help diagnose a variety of vision problems, including glaucoma. Glaucoma treatment is generally simple and straightforward and can help preserve your vision for years to come.
What Is Glaucoma Treatment?
Glaucoma treatment is designed to correct and reverse glaucoma and its symptoms, which can include pressure building up inside the eye, blurry vision, or distorted vision. In some cases, this condition develops very slowly over time. In others, you may notice large disturbances in your vision over a shorter period of time, necessitating an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to protect your vision. At our professional office, our doctors are trained to detect glaucoma and help you choose the best course of treatment.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by ocular hypertension or pressure buildup in the eye itself. Left untreated, it can result in permanent vision loss due to damage to the optic nerves. This increase in pressure can be the result of an excess of aqueous fluid, an ocular drainage channel that is partially or fully blocked, a fluid drainage rate that is too slow, an eye injury, or the use of a specific drug that can cause ocular hypertension. This condition often develops later in life and can be genetic, making you more at risk if you have family members with a history of glaucoma.
Are There Different Types of Glaucoma?
There are several types of glaucoma. In general, glaucoma treatment can effectively address each one. Our doctors can recommend a treatment based on the type of glaucoma you experience.
Primary Angle Open Glaucoma
This type of glaucoma is characterized by a blocked drainage channel. The channel is designed to carry aqueous fluid and waste out of the eye. However, it can be blocked by debris. Primary Angle Open Glaucoma has a blockage past the entrance of this channel, somewhere in the channel itself. This type of glaucoma tends to develop over time as tiny pieces of debris slowly clog the channel and cause pressure buildup in the eye.
Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma
Like the previous condition, this type of glaucoma has a blockage in the drainage channel. However, Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma has a blockage at the entrance of the channel. As a result, the pressure in the eye can develop more quickly. This type of glaucoma is considered rarer than Primary Angle Open Glaucoma.
This glaucoma affects babies and small children. It is caused by the incomplete or incorrect development of the ocular drainage channel, which causes blockages and places pressure on the ocular nerves. This condition is rare and is often corrected with surgery to ensure that the eyesight is preserved and that the condition does not continue to worsen.
This type of glaucoma is caused by any identifiable source, such as recent injury or drug use. It can manifest itself in either Primary Angle Open or Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma and can affect one or both eyes.
Who Can Get Glaucoma?
While glaucoma can occur in babies and small children due to a structural irregularity in the drainage channel, most glaucoma patients are 40 years or older. There are some medical conditions that can increase your risk of developing glaucoma. These can include a family history of glaucoma, an eye injury, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or nearsightedness.
In general, the recommendation is to begin having regular eye exams to check for glaucoma when you are in your 30s. However, if you have a condition that may increase your risk for glaucoma, we recommend that you begin having eye exams sooner. While the side effects of glaucoma may be permanent, early detection and treatment can significantly improve your chances of little to no damage to your vision.
Which Treatments Are Available?
For the vast majority of patients, glaucoma can be corrected with medicated eye drops. Here are the most common treatments we prescribe to correct glaucoma in our patients:
These eye drops help increase fluid drainage from the eye. They are effective in accelerating slower drainage to regulate the eye pressure and prevent damage to the ocular nerves. They are also one of the most common treatments for glaucoma.
These eye drops help decrease the production of aqueous fluid. For those who experience too much fluid production, these drops can significantly improve the pressure and vision disturbance caused by glaucoma.
Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors
Like beta-blockers, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors decrease the production of aqueous fluid and alleviate the pressure inside the eye. They can be eye drops or pills that can be taken orally.
Surgery or Laser Treatment
In rare cases, some patients may need surgical intervention, especially when their glaucoma develops quickly. If this describes your situation, one of our doctors will connect you to the necessary resources and experts and walk with you through the procedure and recovery process.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
In general, treatment with eye drops takes 1-4 weeks to show improvement in your glaucoma. This depends on how advanced the condition is and how carefully you follow your doctor’s instructions. As you continue to use the eye drops your doctor prescribed, your glaucoma will improve and your eye pressure levels will stabilize. In almost all cases, you must continue to use these eye drops for the remainder of your life to keep glaucoma from continuing to develop or damage your vision.
How Long Will Results Last?
As long as you continue to use your prescribed eye drops, your results should be permanent. As you age, you may experience natural eyesight deterioration which is unrelated to your glaucoma. One of our doctors can routinely examine your eyes and adjust your treatment as needed.
Am I an Ideal Candidate?
If you are an adult with a family history of glaucoma, we especially encourage you to consider an eye exam to assess your risk for this common condition. However, everyone should visit their optometrist to keep their eyes and vision healthy.
If our doctor diagnoses you with glaucoma, you may be an ideal candidate for treatment. The treatment recommended will depend on the type of glaucoma, how advanced it is, and any other medical conditions that may impact this decision. If you are unsure of your candidacy, our doctors can help you evaluate your unique situation during an initial consultation.
What Should I Expect?
Although every patient has a different experience, here is a general idea of what you can expect when you seek glaucoma treatment at our professional office:
For your first appointment, one of our doctors will sit down with you for an initial eye examination. This appointment allows us to determine your glaucoma type, how advanced it is, and which treatment might be best for your situation. You will be asked about your medical history, including any family history of glaucoma. You will also be asked about any other eye conditions you experience.
Your doctor will recommend treatment and a personalized treatment plan that is right for you. They will also show you how to hold and apply eye drops so that you can continue your treatment at home.
Treatment with eye drops is an easy process that does not require you to be in our office. Your doctor will model the application of eye drops for the first time and answer any questions you may have during your appointment. Most eye drops are designed to be used 1-3 times per day. Here is a basic guide to using eye drops in the comfort of your own home:
Wash Your Hands
Before you use your eye drops, wash your hands to ensure that you don’t get dirt or bacteria near or in your eyes. You will use your fingers, so pay special attention and wash your fingertips carefully.
Extend Your Lower Eyelid
Tilt your head back and use your fingers to pull your lower eyelid out and away from your eyeball. This creates a “trough” for the medication and should prevent it from falling out of the eye before you can close your eyelids.
Insert the Eye Drops
Hold the bottle above your eye with the tip facing down. Gently squeeze to release one drop at a time. Most glaucoma treatments are powerful, so follow your doctor’s instructions and use only the number of drops they prescribe for each treatment. Close your eyes as soon as the drop is applied to the eye.
Press and Hold
To aid the effectiveness of the medication, press on the inner corner of your eye to block the drainage channel and allow the medication to distribute. You can usually keep your eye closed for about 2 minutes.
Wait 3-5 Minutes Between Drops
Wait 3-5 minutes between each drop, making sure to keep your eyes closed for at least 2 minutes. You can then apply the next drop, following the same steps to ensure that the treatment is effective.
Apply Artificial Tears or Gel
Some patients find that using artificial tears before their treatment helps soothe the irritation which can be caused by the eye drops. We recommend that you wait at least 5 minutes before using your eye drops if you choose to use artificial tears as well. In addition, there is an overnight gel that can be applied to the eyes to help reduce irritation.
For most patients, a trial period with single-eye treatment can tell us whether a particular type of eye drops is working. If so, you can continue treatment in both eyes. Over 1-4 months, we will evaluate your progress and should be able to see significant improvement in your glaucoma. If needed, our doctors can recommend changing or combining treatments to achieve optimal results.
Once we find the treatment that is best for you, you can plan to enjoy your life while continuing with your daily glaucoma treatment. Most patients need 1-3 treatments per day to effectively treat glaucoma, but this is the only action they need to take. You should expect to see vision disturbances, such as blurry vision, improve in the first few months of treatment and remain stable as long as you continue treatment.
Contact Us to Learn More!
Don’t let glaucoma steal your eyesight. An eye exam at our professional office is fast, easy, and can diagnose multiple eye conditions, which our talented doctors can help your correct and treat. To learn more about how we can help you address your glaucoma, contact our team of experts at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA to schedule an initial consultation today! We look forward to serving you and helping you improve your eyesight!