Located at the back of the eye, the optic nerve has the important responsibility of passing visual information to the brain. Glaucoma is a serious eye condition in which increased ocular pressure harms the optic nerve and lessens the patient’s vision. Untreated, glaucoma can cause severe vision loss and even blindness.
The good news is that the treatment of glaucoma has advanced significantly in recent years. At Schwartz Laser Center, the ophthalmologists can perform MIGS (minimally invasive glaucoma surgery) to lower the patient’s ocular pressure and slow/prevent irreversible vision loss.
Types of Glaucoma
Most cases of glaucoma fit into two categories: open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
With open-angle glaucoma, pressure can slowly increase in the eye leading to vision loss. Almost 90% of glaucoma cases are open-angle glaucoma.
With angle-closure glaucoma, pressure builds in the eye because the iris is blocking fluids from draining sufficiently. This form of glaucoma reduces vision quickly with associated headache and nausea. Taking prompt action is essential since a patient can experience irreversible vision loss within hours.
Glaucoma Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of open-angle glaucoma are subtle and gradual enough that they are generally ignored. Hence, almost half of Americans with glaucoma are unaware that they have this condition. The best way to catch primary open-angle glaucoma is with regular comprehensive eye exams.
With acute closed-angle glaucoma, patients develop more serious symptoms rapidly, including eye pain, headaches, blurry vision, and light halos.
An eye doctor can typically diagnose glaucoma with a comprehensive eye exam. Tests that check peripheral vision are also useful since peripheral vision is usually the first area where vision worsens. After dilating a patient’s pupils, a doctor can more easily check for signs of optic nerve damage.
Glaucoma Treatments – Including MIGS
Usually, the first treatment option offered to patients is laser trabeculoplasty for glaucoma or medicated eye drops. Laser trabeculoplasty for glaucoma can improve the drainage structure of the eye which lowers eye pressure. In some cases, drops can successfully decrease fluid production and improve the eye’s drainage system to avoid pressure building and damaging the optic nerve.
A newer innovation in the last 10 years for the treatment of glaucoma is MIGS (Microinvasive Glaucoma Surgery). MIGS treatments may lower the patient’s dependence on medication and either postpone or eliminate the need for invasive surgery.
The MIGS treatment plan is customized for each patient. Some approaches involve making a tiny incision in the trabecular meshwork to improve drainage from the eye, while other approaches insert microscopic tubes (or shunts) to help drain excess fluids.