Glaucoma Causes and Treatment
Primary open-angle glaucoma is a disorder in which the eye pressure is too high for the health of the optic nerve. Other less well-documented causes may also contribute to optic nerve damage. Early in the disease, glaucoma causes no symptoms.
In some forms of glaucoma a genetic predisposition has been found. If you have a blood relative with glaucoma, then you are at increased risk. African-Americans are five to six times more likely than whites to develop glaucoma and are much more likely to go blind from the disease. Others at increased risk for glaucoma are those with diabetes, hypertension, near-sightedness (myopia), those with previous eye injury, and patients who take steroid medication chronically. Once glaucoma is diagnosed, treatment can be instituted.
Medications have been used to treat chronic open-angle glaucoma since the 1870's. Until recently, however, our choices for therapy were quite limited. In the past ten years, several new eye drops have been developed with a goal of improving effectiveness and safety. The medical therapy must be tailored to the individual patient and must take into consideration their effectiveness, cost, and side-effect profile.
All currently available eye drops lower eye pressure, which helps
to prevent loss of vision. Recently
we have learned that factors other than eye pressure may be partially responsible for the optic nerve damage
seen in glaucoma. Exciting work
is being done to find out what these factors are to develop medications that may protect the optic nerve from
further damage. Some of the currently available medications may indeed have some protective properties in addition the their eye pressure-lowering effects.
Some patients do not respond
to medications or may develop side-effects. Laser or conventional glaucoma surgery may be performed. Laser surgery is effective in up to 80
percent of patients, but the effect
may be short-lived. Conventional
surgery involves creating a new filter in the eye to drain the fluid and low-er pressure. This will stabilize the
pressure and help preserve the optic nerve.
Fortunately, with early diagnosis and treatment, the majority of glaucoma patiena will not lose vision.