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What is Glaucoma and how do you treat it?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. It's often associated with increased pressure inside the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP). If left untreated, this damage to the optic nerve can result in vision loss and blindness.

There are several types of glaucoma, but the two main types are open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, progresses slowly and painlessly, often without symptoms until significant vision loss has occurred.  This type is often referred to as “the silent killer of vision.” Angle-closure glaucoma is less common but can cause a sudden increase in pressure within the eye, leading to severe pain and rapid vision loss.

Treatment for glaucoma typically involves lowering the intraocular pressure to slow down or halt the progression of the disease. This can be achieved through various methods:

Eye drops: These are often and have traditionally been the first line of treatment and work by either reducing the production of fluid in the eye or increasing its drainage. Patients need to use these drops regularly as prescribed by their optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Oral medications: In some cases, oral medications may be prescribed to lower eye pressure when eye drops are insufficient.

Laser therapy: Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) can help increase the outflow of fluid from the eye, reducing intraocular pressure.  This treatment can help reduce reliance on eye drops, for example.

Surgery: In cases where eye drops, oral medications, or laser therapy are ineffective or not suitable, surgical procedures such as trabeculectomy or implantation of drainage devices may be recommended to improve fluid drainage from the eye.

Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS): These are newer surgical techniques that are less invasive than traditional surgeries and aim to reduce intraocular pressure with fewer risks and complications.  These can be implanted at the time of, or separate from, cataract surgery.

Regular monitoring and follow-up appointments with an ophthalmologist are crucial for managing glaucoma effectively, as the condition is often chronic and requires lifelong management to prevent vision loss. Early detection and treatment are essential for preserving vision and preventing further damage to the optic nerve.