The aim of glaucoma treatment is to relieve symptoms of glaucoma to prevent further damage of optic nerve in order to slow down loss of vision. Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages optic nerve due to increased intraocular pressure. This damage to optic nerve leads to progressive loss of vision and if not managed will lead to permanent blindness. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness around the world after cataract. There is no permanent cure for glaucoma, but it can be prevented from progression of vision loss with the help of medications, laser surgery, and conventional surgery.
What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Glaucoma?
There are certain risk factors for glaucoma development that include family history of glaucoma, African-American, African or Asian ethnicity, age over 60 years, history of steroid use, high blood pressure, other eye conditions such as myopia or hyperopia and diabetes. The main cause of glaucoma is increased intraocular pressure leading to damage of optic nerve. The other causes that might lead to glaucoma are injury to the eye, inflammatory conditions, severe eye infection, blocked blood vessels in the eye and on occasion certain eye surgeries. A person who is at a greater risk of developing glaucoma should get routine eye check up after the age of 40, which will detect early signs of glaucoma.
What Are The Treatment Options For Glaucoma?
There are basically two types of glaucoma open angle glaucoma, in which the drainage system becomes clogged and angle closure glaucoma, in which the angle between the iris and cornea is diminished, both leading to increased intraocular pressure due to fluid build-up (aqueous humor) in front of the eye. Therefore, the treatment of glaucoma aims at decreasing intraocular pressure that might be causing damage to optic nerve. This can be achieved either by decreasing the production of aqueous humor or by improving the drainage of fluid. Although, the vision loss in glaucoma patients is permanent, it can be further prevented by prompt treatment, thus preventing permanent blindness.
The treatment options for glaucoma include medications such as eye drops, which are used every day for lifetime to reduce intraocular pressure. Other treatment options include surgery involving laser or incisional surgery and usually laser surgery is recommended prior to incisional surgery as laser is less invasive. In laser, a focused light beam is used to release intraocular pressure by treating trabecular meshwork. Various laser surgeries used to treat glaucoma are selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), argon laser trabeculoplasty (ALT), laser peripheral iridotomy (LPI) and laser cyclophotocoagulation. In incisional surgery (filtering surgery), an artificial drainage hole is created in sclera with procedures such as trabeculectomy or sclerostomy to release intraocular pressure. There are also newer procedures known as minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) that hold promise at treating glaucoma. After laser surgery, the patient recovers within a few days and it may take a few weeks to recover after incisional surgery.
What Are The Complications Of Glaucoma Surgery?
Although, glaucoma surgery has proven to successfully slow glaucoma progression by lowering the intraocular pressure, there are rare side effects of glaucoma surgery that might include loss of vision, infection, sensitivity to light, long term inflammation/irritation of the eye, bleeding, low eye pressure, scarring, cataract and/or need for more surgery.
How Much Does It Cost To Treat Glaucoma?
Generally, the cost of glaucoma treatment depends whether the patient is opting for medication, laser or infiltration surgery. The cost of medication averages around 1000 $ per year in US depending on the type of medication/eye drops brand/generic. The cost of laser average around 1500-5000 $ and incisional surgery costs around 7300-11,300 $. Glaucoma treatment is usually covered by health insurance and the patient has to pay very less in the form of copays. The patients who are not covered by a health insurance can talk to their doctors to get benefits of health coverage.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2021). Glaucoma: What is Glaucoma? https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-glaucoma
- Glaucoma Research Foundation. (2021). Glaucoma Treatment. https://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/glaucoma-treatment.php
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Glaucoma: Symptoms and Causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839
- American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2021). Glaucoma: Treatment. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/glaucoma-treatment
- National Eye Institute. (2020). Glaucoma. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/glaucoma