Glaucoma is a term describing a variety of eye disorders related to a build-up of pressure inside the eye. This abnormal pressure can damage the optic nerve, interfering with visual information sent to the brain.
Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to reduced peripheral vision and eventually blindness.
Glaucoma is a disease that often produces no symptoms and goes undetected until irreversible damage of the optic nerve has occurred. This results in permanent vision loss of varying degrees.
Most glaucoma diagnoses are either primary open-angle glaucoma or acute angle-closure glaucoma. They differ based on the drainage angle controlling fluid flow inside the eye. Other varieties of glaucoma include pigmentary glaucoma, congenital glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma.
Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, also called POAG, gradually reduces a person’s peripheral vision without presenting any other symptoms. Half of those with the disorder won’t even realize that they have it. Typically, when a patient finally seeks treatment for vision loss, permanent damage has already occurred. The most serious cases of POAG result in tunnel vision, with patients only able to see things that are directly in front of them.
Angle-closure glaucoma, also called narrow-angle glaucoma, is associated with the sudden onset of symptoms such as pain, halos around lights, vision loss, dilated pupils, headaches, red eyes, and nausea/vomiting. The symptoms may last several hours, then disappear, only to recur repeatedly over time. These types of symptoms should be taken seriously to avoid permanent loss of vision; visit an eye care professional or the emergency room immediately.
Glaucoma can be treated with surgery, medication, or lasers depending on how severe the condition. First line treatment of glaucoma usually involves medication in the form of eye drops.
Laser Iridotomy is a surgical treatment for closed-angle glaucoma. It involves using a laser to create an opening between the anterior and posterior chambers of the eye to allow fluid flow and reduce pressure in the eye.
Laser iridotomy can be a successful treatment to further reduce intraocular eye pressure in conjunction with medication, to treat patients for whom medication has failed, or to prevent closed-angle glaucoma in at-risk patients (such as those with narrow drainage angles or who have already been diagnosed with closed-angle glaucoma in their other eye).
Prompt treatment of an angle closure with laser iridotomy can result in little or no loss of vision from the condition.
Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT) for Glaucoma
Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty is a surgical treatment for open-angle glaucoma. An argon laser is beamed at the trabecular meshwork which is responsible for drainage of aqueous fluid inside the eye. Successful treatment with ALT opens up the drainage angle and allows the eye to drain more effectively, reducing the build-up of intraocular pressure and reducing the patient’s risk of permanent vision loss.
ALT has proven most successful in treating patients with primary open angle glaucoma, pseudoexfoliation glaucoma and pigmentary glaucoma. It is typically recommended when medications have failed to control the condition. The effects of treatment usually last for up to 3 to 5 years.