Your eyes are not only your windows to the soul, they’re your windows to the entire world around you. Your brain processes signals transmitted by the optic nerve into the three-dimensional shapes of objects and people. These signals also transmit information about color, relative distance, and how your body is oriented in space.
That’s why it’s so distressing when something happens to your vision. It effectively changes your entire life. The highly experienced ophthalmologists at the Beverly Hills Institute of Ophthalmology in Beverly Hills and Torrance, California, understand and share your concern, and they’ll do everything in their power to help you preserve your sight.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is actually a collection of eye conditions, all of which damage the optic nerve, causing vision loss or even blindness. The damage occurs because of a buildup of fluid inside the eye, which raises the intraocular pressure. It affects more than 2.7 million Americans over the age of 40. It’s most common in older adults, and it’s also one of the leading causes of blindness for those over 60.
The fluid, also known as the aqueous humor, normally drains out at the angle where the iris and the cornea meet, passing through a tissue known as the trabecular meshwork. If there’s either too much fluid produced or the drainage system fails to work properly, the pressure inside the eye increases.
Since the pressure may build up gradually, there may be no early warning signs, and you may not notice that your vision has changed until the disease has reached an advanced stage and you’ve lost parts of your vision. Once lost, that vision can’t be restored.
There are two primary types of glaucoma, open-angle and closed-angle.
This is the most common form of glaucoma. Here, the drainage angle stays open, but something partially blocks the trabecular meshwork, causing the intraocular pressure to increase. It has a very slow onset — so slow that you may notice vision loss before you even know there’s a problem.
Also called narrow-angle glaucoma, this form occurs when the iris bulges forward, either narrowing or blocking the drainage angle. That means fluid is unable to circulate through the eye, and pressure increases. Closed-angle glaucoma can occur either gradually or suddenly — if the latter, it’s a medical emergency and must be treated right away to preserve sight.
How is glaucoma treated?
Sometimes eye drops are enough to help decrease the pressure in the eye and and keep vision stable. However, surgical options often produce the best results. While there are several types of surgeries, including SLT laser and Yag Pl laser, the latter of which is specifically for narrow-angle glaucoma, the most common surgical procedure is the trabeculectomy.
The trabeculectomy relieves pressure by building a passageway for the fluid to flow from the inside to the outside of the eye. Our surgeon makes a small flap in the outer white surface of the eye — the sclera. This creates a reservoir, known as a bleb, which looks like a blister or a bump just above the iris. Since the upper eyelid usually covers it, it’s not visible to someone looking at you. The fluid drains through the flap in the sclera, collecting in the bleb. From there, the fluid is absorbed into the surrounding blood vessels.
Intraocular pressure (IOP) is effectively controlled in 75% of those who have a trabeculectomy. If, however, the new drainage channel closes, or an excessive amount of fluid starts to drain from the eye, additional surgery may be required.
Can you prevent glaucoma?
While glaucoma often gets detected late in the game, there are steps you can take to help prevent it from happening in the first place.
Get regular comprehensive eye examinations
If you have regular examinations, our team should be able to see changes in your eyes’ structure before they pass the point of no return. In addition, we can perform either an “air puff” test or one with a probe resting on your eyes’ surface to measure your pressure at each visit. If your numbers start to rise, we can intervene before you start to lose vision.
Know your family's medical history
Glaucoma often runs in families. If your family has a history of glaucoma, you may need to be screened more frequently.
Regular, moderate exercise may not just help your overall health, but it may also help to prevent glaucoma by reducing the pressure in your eyes. Talk with our team about what types of exercise would be appropriate for you.
Have you had your eyes checked recently? Do you think you might be at risk for glaucoma? Set up an appointment at the Beverly Hills Institute of Ophthalmology by calling us at either of our locations or by using our online form today. Your vision is worth it.