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Q&A: New Treatments for Glaucoma

August 12, 2016

Your sight is precious, but there is an eye disease that can sneak up on you and steal your sight, particularly as you age. It’s called glaucoma.

Q. What is glaucoma?
A. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases causing optic nerve damage. The optic nerve is like a video cable that carries the picture from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma causes the increased pressure on the nerve, leading to a gradual loss of vision.

Q. What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
A. In its early stages, there are often no symptoms of glaucoma. Blurry vision, headaches, redness of the eye or vision loss can be signs of advanced glaucoma. It should be noted that vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be reversed. Early diagnosis intervention is key to saving sight.

Q. How is glaucoma diagnosed?
A. During a regular examination, an eye doctor will perform a series of glaucoma screenings to determine optic nerve pressure and corneal thickness. These screenings are painless and quick.

Q. Who should be checked for glaucoma?
A. If you have a parent or sibling with glaucoma, are of African or Hispanic heritage, or are over age 70, you are at higher risk and should get regular eye exams. If you wear glasses or contact lenses you are probably getting checked already. If you are noticing a change in vision, you should get checked right away, otherwise every couple of years is fine.

Q. Are there treatments for glaucoma?
A. Depending upon the diagnosis and disease state, one or more of these treatments could be recommended by your eye doctor:
1. Medication, including eye drops
2. Laser surgery: This procedure uses a concentrated beam of light to focus on targeted parts of the eye to lower eye pressure. It is an outpatient procedure that can be performed in a doctor’s office or surgery center. It is painless and takes a very short period of time – sometimes in just minutes!
3. Traditional surgery: When the disease is advanced, or medication and/or laser surgery either are not options or have not been effective, an eye doctor may recommend a trabeculectomy, which helps with drainage.

Q. Are there any new treatments for glaucoma available in Connecticut?
A. Yes! Here are two that are now available at the Hartford Hospital Eye Surgery Center: The first is called an iStent. It is a tiny 1mm implant that shunts fluid into the natural drainage system of the eye. It bypasses the part of the drainage system that is not working well in glaucoma and lowers the eye pressure. It is placed at the time of cataract surgery and adds only a few minutes to the procedure. It is not a cure for glaucoma but can help reduce the need for drops. The second is called a micropulse laser. It treats the part of the eye that makes fluid and decreases eye pressure.

Q. What is the recovery time for these new procedures?
A. It is very quick for both procedures. They are both done at the Hartford Hospital eye surgery center with topical or local anesthesia. Patients go home with just a patch overnight, or sometimes no patch. There is usually no discomfort afterwards, and they are back to their usual activities very quickly.

Considering LASIK surgery but nervous about the idea of a blade in your eye? We’re the first in New England to offer bladeless, all-laser surgery for LASIK patients. This option can reduce complications, and also may make LASIK a possibility if you’ve been told you aren’t a candidate because of thin corneas. To learn more about our technology and more than 40 board certified ophthalmologists, visit EyeSurgeryCenter.org. Or sign up for an upcoming educational session.

SOURCES:
Dr. Geoffrey Emerick, MD, Hartford Hospital Eye Surgery Center
https://www.glaucomafoundation.org/treating_glaucoma.htm
http://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/glaucoma-symptoms http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/glaucoma-eyes

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