Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the United States. Glaucoma, known as the "sneak thief of sight," can affect patients of all ages. Many people affected with glaucoma do not experience any symptoms and may not be aware that they have the disease until they have lost a significant amount of vision. With early detection and treatment, eyes can be protected against the serious loss of vision or blindness.
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) rises dangerously high, damaging the optic nerve and causing vision loss. In a healthy eye, fluid is produced in the ciliary body, enters the eye, and then drains through tiny passages called the trabecular meshwork. In people with glaucoma, these passages become blocked and intraocular pressure rises.
Types of Glaucoma
There are several types of glaucoma with two main types: open-angle and angle-closure.
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma where the fluid in the eye drains too slowly through the network of tiny drainage channels, known as the trabecula. The pressure in the eye increases as the fluid in the eye continues to build. Loss of vision occurs gradually and the vision loss is not always noticed until it becomes irreversible. About 95 percent of glaucoma cases are due to open-angle glaucoma.
Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the tiny drainage channels, known as the trabecula, become blocked which then causes a sudden rise in pressure in the eye. This condition is not common but when it occurs it requires immediate medical attention.
Some cases of glaucoma can be treated with medications. For others, laser or traditional surgery is required to lower eye pressure. For patients with primary open angle glaucoma, Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT) and Yag Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) can be performed. The trabecular passages are opened to increase fluid drainage. ALT is effective in about 75% of patients, and SLT may be repeated.