Glaucoma Treatment and Surgery
Glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve, is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. While damage from glaucoma can often be controlled with medical treatment, some forms of glaucoma require surgical treatment. Our fellowship-trained glaucoma specialists provide advanced laser and surgical treatment for this vision-threatening disease.
Glaucoma kills the nerve fibers in the back of your eye, damaging vision. There are three main types:
- Congenital glaucoma (hereditary)
- Narrow angle glaucoma (eye redness, high pressure in eye, requires emergency care)
- Open angle glaucoma
Open angle glaucoma is the most common, primarily affecting people over 40. This is usually associated with an elevated eye pressure, which kills the nerve fibers used for vision.
There are no known causes for open angle glaucoma other than a family history for the disease. The biggest risk factor is not having your eyes checked annually by an ophthalmologist. Eye exams pinpoint glaucoma and help avoid additional damage if you already have it.
Most instances of glaucoma are painless. Your vision may be 20/20, or you may have some vision loss that you’ve blamed on another disorder, such as cataracts.
During an examination, the glaucoma specialist will take a detailed medical and family history. Your doctor will check eye pressure, central visual acuity, peripheral (side) vision, corneal thickness, and perform a complete eye exam including a detailed exam of your optic nerve.
“Your optic nerve is like a telephone cable,” says Dr. Glen Brindley, glaucoma and oculoplastic surgery specialist at Scott & White Eye Institute. “The 1.2 million nerve fibers from your retina all come together in the optic nerve. Glaucoma kills the optic nerve vision fibers and affects your ability see.”
Lowering eye pressure is the only treatment for glaucoma. There are three methods to lower the intraocular pressure: medicines, laser surgery to the natural eye drains to make them work better, and major glaucoma surgery. There are three types of major glaucoma surgery:
- Trabeculectomy makes a drain in the eye using the patient's own tissues.
- Placing a drain into the eye.
- Laser surgery to damage the muscle making the eye fluid which lowers the eye pressure.
“Glaucoma responds to treatment differently in each person,” says Dr. Brindley. “I check some patients every two months, others once a year. Patients treating their glaucoma with medicines must continue that medication—and get eye exams—faithfully. The most common reason people lose vision from glaucoma is that they stop taking their medications regularly or at all.”
An eye exam by an ophthalmologist at least every two years (annually after age 50) provides the best prevention against glaucoma.
“The Scott & White Eye Institute offers every sub-specialty in ophthalmology,” says Dr. Brindley. “Our fellowship trained doctors provide leading-edge eye care—from prescribing eyeglasses to the most complicated surgeries. We also understand the importance of prevention and early detection, so we encourage our patients to take their eye care as seriously as we do.
Learn more »