What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a term that encompasses a variety of eye diseases, which cause a build-up of pressure within the eye. This fluid pressure builds until it eventually pushes the optic nerve back into a concave shape. If the pressure remains too high for too long permanent damage will occur to the optic nerve. Although glaucoma may start in one eye, it usually progresses affecting both eyes equally.
In many cases, the disease advances without causing any discomfort or pain. Visual changes are subtle and limited to the peripheral field as opposed to the central field of vision. If left untreated glaucoma can result in a total loss of vision. It is the second most common cause of blindness in the US.
Detecting Glaucoma Early with Comprehensive Eye Exams
Dr. Nancy Balin our glaucoma eye specialist, performs comprehensive eye exams, which include a series of diagnostic tests for glaucoma. If glaucoma is suspected, Dr. Balin uses the state-of-the-art laser scanning system known as the Heidelberg Retina Tomograph (HRT II) to thoroughly evaluate the size, depth, and shape of the patient’s optic nerve. The HRT II is capable of detecting minor changes in the optic nerve over time thus enabling the doctor to diagnose glaucoma years before a patient actually exhibits symptoms. The earlier glaucoma is detected the less likely there will be any permanent loss of vision.
Although glaucoma is most common in individuals over 60, it can occur at any age. Certain factors such as extreme nearsightedness or diabetes have been associated with the disease. It is recommended that all individuals be tested for glaucoma at the age of 35 and then again at age 40 with regular checkups every two years thereafter. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, the disease can be controlled with a series of treatments including eye drops, oral medications, laser surgery, and microsurgery.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty for Glaucoma
Dr. Balin offers a progressive new laser treatment for glaucoma called Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty or SLT. This laser treatment reduces intraocular pressure in the eye. SLT is performed on an out-patient basis using anesthetic drops to numb your eye. The procedure takes only a few minutes. The laser targets specific cells in the eye leaving surrounding tissue unaffected. The process stimulates the body’s own healing response to lower the pressure in the eye.
Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS)
New minimally invasive surgical treatments are now good options for treating some Glaucoma patients who require surgery. The new surgical treatments allow doctors to use microscopic sized devices like the XEN® Gel Stent and iStent to drain the excess fluid from the eye. Using microscopic devices and tiny incisions results in less damage to the surrounding eye tissue. In many cases Glaucoma can be controlled with these new surgical implants thus reducing the need for the more complicated traditional Glaucoma surgeries.
Routine eye exams are essential in maintaining good overall eye health and in diagnosing the presence of any irregular and potentially dangerous eye conditions such as glaucoma. Having an eye exam can also uncover certain conditions in patients such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and stroke before the patient is even aware of the condition.
Many doctors recommend that individuals in their 20’s and 30’s have a routine eye exam every 2-3 years. If you are in your 40’s it is recommended that you have an exam every 1-2 years and if you are in your 50’s you should see your eye doctor every year.
To request a comprehensive eye exam or discuss glaucoma treatment options, contact Balin Eye & Laser Center in Northampton, Springfield, or Ware MA to schedule an appointment today.