What is the treatment for glaucoma?
ANSWER: There are over 40 different kinds of glaucoma of which
open angle glaucoma is the most prevalent. Glaucoma is called
the “silent thief of sight” because, with the exception of closed
angle glaucoma, the disease is painless and gives no indication
of its presence. Diagnosis most often occurs only during an eye
However, angle closure glaucoma is a different story. The patient
may see halos, have severe headaches, feel nauseated and may get
red eyes. If this situation occurs, it is imperative to seek medical
help immediately because eye pressure can rise dramatically, and
vision can be lost in a short period of time. A third kind of
glaucoma, not easily detected, is normal tension glaucoma. People
with this type of glaucoma may pass a vision-screening test.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of preventable blindness,
but complete loss of sight or legal blindness occurs in only 10
percent of glaucoma cases. Glaucoma primarily affects persons
65 or older, and African-Americans are four to five times more
likely to be affected. However, glaucoma can affect anyone, regardless
of age or race.
Medical treatment for glaucoma consists of eyedrops, laser therapy
and operations that are all directed at lowering the intraocular
pressure. Elevated pressure damages the thin optic nerve fibers
that carry the messages from the retina to the visual center in
the brain. Eyedrops increase the outflow of fluid from the eye,
but if they fail to keep the pressure in check, ophthalmologists
usually recommend laser treatment, applying a beam of laser light
to the drainage channel of the eye. This treatment usually lasts
from three to five years before there is again a rise in pressure.
The next management step is an eye operation—a trabeculectomy—where
a tiny hole is made in the eye to allow the outflow of fluid.
A diagnosis of glaucoma with its implications for loss of sight
can be frightening, and support groups exist to help. Prevent
Blindness New York offers such a program and can be contacted
at 212-980-2020 or 212-873-9661.
writer is the author of Coping with Glaucoma. For more
information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.