Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. Glaucoma is an eye condition that develops when too much fluid pressure builds up inside of the eye. This increase in pressure, called intraocular pressure, can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. If damage to the optic nerve from high eye pressure continues, glaucoma will cause loss of vision. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause total permanent blindness within a few years.
Glaucoma can damage your vision so gradually you don’t notice any loss of vision until the disease is at an advanced stage. Because most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from this increased pressure, it is important to have regular routine eye exams so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term visual loss occurs because no treatment can restore vision already lost to glaucoma.
There are two main types of glaucoma:
This is the most common type of glaucoma. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the drain of the eye.
The doctor may recommend selective laser trabeculoplasty, which is a laser treatment that can be performed in the office to help reduce pressure within the eye. The treatment only takes a few minutes to perform. Before the procedure, eye drops are used to prepare the eye for treatment. After the procedure, the doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops. Most patients experience a drop in pressure within a day of the procedure.
This type of glaucoma is less common, but can cause a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye. Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea (where a drainage channel for the eye is located) is too narrow. Or, the pupil opens too wide, narrowing the angle and blocking the flow of the fluid through that channel.
The doctor might elect Endoscopic CycloPhotocoagulation, which is performed on an outpatient basis. This procedure reduces fluid production which reduces the pressure within the eye. Endoscopic CycloPhotocoagulation allows the surgeon to view the area through an endoscopic camera, which guides the precise placement of the laser beam used for treatment.
Endoscopic CycloPhotocoagulation is often performed on patients at the time of cataract surgery. This treatment has proven to be an effective way to reduce pressure within the eye. Studies have shown that the majority of patients have their glaucoma medications reduced or completely eliminated after the procedure, reducing their risk of loss of vision from glaucoma.
The majority of patients have their pressure reduced and many can eliminate their need for glaucoma medications. However, this procedure and other glaucoma surgical procedures do not restore lost vision. Serious complications with Endoscopic CycloPhotocoagulation are rare, but like any surgical procedure, it does have some risks.