Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve, resulting in severe vision loss. Glaucoma comes in many forms, but the two most common types are primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and acute angle-closure glaucoma (AACG). Both of these conditions cause fluid to build up inside of the eye, resulting in swelling and damage to the optic nerve.
Glaucoma is the worldwide leader in irreversible vision loss. With around 3 million people living with glaucoma in the US, this condition is more common than people think. Glaucoma cannot be cured, but it can be managed to reduce the risk of vision loss. Most types of glaucoma are symptom-free, so it is difficult to realize you have it until vision loss occurs. Any vision lost to glaucoma cannot be brought back, so it is important to diagnose glaucoma early. By scheduling routine eye examinations, your doctor will be able to diagnose and treat glaucoma before vision loss occurs.
Laser iridotomy is a surgical procedure used to treat angle-closure glaucoma. This laser procedure is also performed in patients who are at risk for angle-closure glaucoma. As with many medical conditions, it is preferable to treat patients at risk and thereby avoid vision loss.
What Happens During Laser Iridotomy?
Using a laser, a small hole is made in the iris to create a new pathway for the aqueous fluid to drain from your eye. The new drainage hole allows the iris to fall back into its normal position, restoring the balance between fluid entering and leaving your eye and lowering the eye pressure. The surgery is performed by your ophthalmologist on an outpatient basis, usually in his or her office. Your eye will be numbed with eye drops. A contact lens is placed on your eye to serve as a precise guide for the laser. A hole about the size of a pinhead is made in your iris, and will be concealed from view by your upper eyelid. The actual procedure will only take a few minutes. You should plan to have someone drive you home afterward. Are there any risks or side effects? Complications following laser iridotomy are uncommon.
- a spike in eye pressure
- need for re-treatment
- blurred vision
- light image or streak
The risks and side effects of glaucoma treatment are always balanced with the greater risk of leaving glaucoma untreated.
What is Angle-Closure Glaucoma?
Like other forms of glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma has to do with pressure inside the eye. A normal eye constantly produces a certain amount of clear liquid called aqueous humor, which circulates inside the front portion of the eye. An equal amount of this fluid flows out of the eye through a very tiny drainage system called the drainage angle, thus maintaining a constant level of pressure within the eye. There are two main types of glaucoma. The most common type is open-angle glaucoma, in which fluid drains too slowly from the eye and causes a chronic rise in eye pressure. In contrast, angle-closure glaucoma causes a more sudden rise in eye pressure. In angle-closure glaucoma, the drainage angle may become partially or completely blocked when the iris (the colored part of the eye) is pushed over this area. The iris may completely block the aqueous fluid from leaving the eye, much like a stopper in a sink. In this situation, the pressure inside the eye can rise very quickly and cause an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack.
Symptoms of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack include severe ocular pain and redness, decreased vision, colored halos, headache, nausea and vomiting. Because raised eye pressure can rapidly damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss, an angle-closure glaucoma attack must be treated immediately. Unfortunately, individuals at risk of developing angle closure glaucoma often have few or no symptoms prior to the attack. Risk factors for angle-closure glaucoma include increasing age, farsightedness (hyperopia), and Asian heritage. Some early symptoms in people at risk for angle-closure glaucoma include blurred vision, halos in their vision, headache, mild eye pain or redness.
People who are at risk for developing angle-closure glaucoma should have a laser iridotomy. Many common medications, including over-the-counter cold medications and sleeping pills (and any other medication that can dilate the pupil), should be avoided until after the laser procedure is completed. If one eye has an attack of angle-closure glaucoma, the other eye is also at risk and may need treatment.
Diabetic Eye Care
29 million people in the United States have diabetes. Diabetes can cause a wide array of health problems. There are many eye diseases a diabetic person is more likely to experience, including glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. These conditions can be referred to generally as “diabetic eye disease”.
Diabetic patients should visit the eye doctor more often as a result of their elevated risk of eye disease. Sometimes, controlling blood glucose levels properly can reduce the progression of diabetic eye disease. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes in addition to medication and surgical treatment options.
LASIK is a widely popular and very effective form of laser vision correction. LASIK treats common vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The goal of LASIK surgery is to reshape the surface of the cornea. By reshaping the cornea, light is able to properly focus on the retina – resulting in clear vision.
LASIK is a custom procedure, and results will vary from patient to patient. However, most patients at Family Eye Physicians achieve 20/20 vision or better!
Cataracts are one of the most common causes of blindness in the world. Unlike glaucoma, however, blindness caused by cataracts is reversible.
Cataracts form when the lens (located behind the pupil and iris) begins to break down and become foggy. This causes decreased vision over time, and it can take years to notice any difference in vision. If left long enough, however, cataracts can result in blindness. In fact, worldwide, there are 32.4 million people living with cataract-related blindness.
The only way to treat cataracts is through surgery, but cataract surgery has become very advanced and successful in recent decades. Cataract surgery is quick, painless, and very effective. With the addition of premium lens implants, many people achieve crystal-clear vision after surgery.
Pterygium and Pinguecula
Pterygium (pronounced tur-IJ-ee-um) and pinguecula (pronounced pin- GWEK-yoo-la) are growths on the cornea (the clear front window of the eye) and the conjunctiva — the thin, filmy membrane that covers the white part of your eye (sclera). Both types of growths are believed to be caused by dry eye and environmental elements such as wind, dust and ultraviolet light (UV).
What is the Difference Between a Pterygium and a Pinguecula?
A pinguecula is a yellowish patch or bumps on the conjunctiva, most often on the side closest to the nose. It is a change in the normal tissue that results in a deposit of protein, fat and/or calcium. It is similar to a callus on the skin. A pterygium is a growth of fleshy tissue, often arising from a pinguecula, on the conjunctiva that extends over the cornea. This growth may remain small or grow large enough to interfere with vision. Symptoms of both pterygium and pinguecula can range from mild to severe and may include: redness and/or inflammation, especially during the growth of a pterygium; blurred vision; irritation; dryness; itching; burning; gritty feeling; feeling of having foreign material in your eye.
How are Pterygium and Pinguecula Treated?
In many cases, no treatment is needed. When a pterygium or pinguecula becomes red and irritated, eyedrops or ointments may be used to help reduce inflammation. If the growths become large enough to threaten sight or cause persistent discomfort, they can be removed surgically. They are also sometimes removed for cosmetic reasons. Despite proper surgical removal, pterygium or pinguecula may return. Surface radiation or medications are sometimes used to help prevent recurrences. However, the best way to avoid recurrences is to limit exposure to the environmental factors that contribute to their growth. This includes: adequately protecting your eyes from excessive UV light with proper sunglasses; protecting your eyes in dry, dusty conditions with proper eyewear; applying artificial tears to your eyes in dry conditions.
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Family Eye Physicians, contact our Chicago, IL office today!