What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a blinding disease of the optic nerve and has been referred to as the “sneak thief of sight” because it may progress without any warning symptoms. Most commonly, glaucoma damage is associated with elevated intraocular pressure above the normal level. Just as a tire is filled with air to a specific pressure, the eye is a hollow organ with fluid normally maintained within a normal range of fluid pressure. The only proven way to slow the progression of glaucoma is to lower the intraocular pressure.
How Is glaucoma diagnosed?
Cape Fear Cataract & Cornea is a superbly equipped ophthalmology clinic where patients benefit from state of the art glaucoma evaluation instrumentation in addition to the skillful clinical evaluation of comprehensive eye exams. Specifically, our surgeon Brian J. Groat, M.D., utilizes photographic stereo (3D) evaluation of the optic nerve, automated visual field exams with the Humphrey field analyzer, and/or optic nerve fiber layer monitoring with Heidelberg Ocular Coherence Tomography.
Am I a Candidate for Glaucoma Treatment?
Glaucoma is a condition that provides little, if any, clues regarding damage to the optic nerve. This is why dilated eye exams are so important. When an eye exam discovers elevated intraocular pressure, the best course of action is a good follow-up. Frequent follow-up exams enable the eye doctor to get a good sense of whether or not glaucoma is the true cause of this elevation. When the glaucoma risk is low, visits may take place every 6 to 12 months. When it is higher, they will be scheduled more frequently. Through careful observation of the optic nerve and routine measurements of intraocular pressure, an eye doctor can determine the best timing for glaucoma treatment. Eye drops are typically prescribed before surgery is considered for the treatment of glaucoma.
A large percentage of glaucoma patients are successfully treated with pressure-lowering topical eye drops. When medication is not effective, laser or other surgeries may be employed. Increasingly, glaucoma laser treatment is being used worldwide not only when drops are ineffective, but also as a first-line treatment alternative to chronic eye drops. The need for topical drops is often reduced after the performance of such procedures.
What Our Patients Have to Say
“I will recommend Dr. Groat to all my friends and acquaintances. He is very professional and also personable. He follows up with his patients the same day of surgery. His staff is very efficient and friendly. All in all, it was a pleasant experience as I now can see so well.” -Kathleen D.
How much does glaucoma surgery cost?
Several factors may influence the cost of glaucoma surgery, such as the inclusion of additional techniques like cataract removal. During our consultation, we discuss all aspects of care thoroughly, including a cost breakdown.
Is glaucoma surgery safe?
Glaucoma Surgery is typically very successful at substantially slowing the progression of glaucoma and achieving the intended eye pressure. Furthermore, if glaucoma is inadequately treated, it is almost certain that vision will be lost. Although glaucoma surgery can prevent further vision loss and on rare occasions improves vision, the damage that has already occurred as a result of glaucoma is considered permanent and not yet reversible.
Is glaucoma painful?
In most cases, glaucoma is not painful. This is why the condition is referred to as a “silent thief of sight.” There are various types of glaucoma, with primary open-angle glaucoma being the most common. In this disease, intraocular pressure increases gradually. The slow speed at which intraocular pressure and vision changes provide very little indication of danger. Patients rarely feel discomfort as their optic nerve is progressively damaged.
In some situations, patients may encounter an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack. This rapid increase in intraocular pressure may cause pain that is intense enough to provoke nausea or vomiting. The attack also affects the cornea, causing vision to become cloudy. Acute angle-closure glaucoma attack is a medical emergency that requires prompt care. With treatment, pain is immediately soothed but may take weeks to resolve completely.
Secondary forms of angle-closure glaucoma may also cause symptoms such as pain by increasing pressure within the eye.
Does insurance cover glaucoma surgery?
Being an eye disease, glaucoma is a condition for which treatment may be at least partially covered by medical insurance. Patients should contact their health insurance carrier, not their vision insurance, for more information about benefits that cover glaucoma treatments.
Can I Go Blind from Glaucoma?
Glaucoma involves pressure within the eye. The compression on the optic nerve at the back of the eye can cause progressive damage that inhibits the transference of light to the brain, where vision is formed. The damage that is caused to the optic nerve is irreparable. Without treatment, total and permanent blindness may occur. After being diagnosed, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss and help treat your glaucoma.
Recovery from Glaucoma Surgery
- Good eye care is a crucial aspect of all eye surgeries. Patients are advised to follow post-operative instructions that protect the eyes as they recover from surgical treatment.
- The time in which patients recover from glaucoma surgery can vary. Most patients are well recovered within 3 to 6 weeks of their procedure. After surgery, 24 to 48 hours should be reserved for rest. After this point, patients can expect:
- Only mild discomfort, if any.
- Driving may resume as soon as a week after surgery or a few months after treatment. This is dependent on visual clarity and personal comfort.
- Rubbing and scratching the eyes should be avoided for several weeks. Itching and blurriness may be managed with rest.
- Eye drops must be used as directed to manage post-operative inflammation.
- Strenuous activity and heavy lifting must be avoided for a few weeks.
- Swimming pools, saunas, and hot tubs should be avoided for several weeks, as they host infection-causing bacteria.
ISTENT® TRABECULAR MICRO-BYPASS
The iStent is 20,000 times smaller than the intraocular lens placed in your eye during cataract surgery and is designed to reduce your eye pressure. This procedure can be accomplished through the same incision made for cataract surgery and only adds a few minutes of operative time. Many patients will be able to reduce the number of eye drops needed to manage glaucoma. Ask our expert surgeons if this surgical option is right for you.