No Pressure: How Does Glaucoma Treatment Work?
Not all aspects of eye health will give you noticeable symptoms like red eyes, swollen lids, or stinging pain. In fact, there are plenty of ocular complications that occur beneath the surface of the eye and don’t affect your vision until it’s too late. The most well-known of these diseases is glaucoma, a condition which is the result of optic nerve damage in the eye. If you take too long to begin glaucoma treatment, the condition can eat away at your peripheral vision until it reaches the center!
Thankfully, modern medicine has come a long way for treating glaucoma, and in many cases there are a variety of treatment options available for patients. Keep reading to learn more about glaucoma and the methods eye doctors employ to keep it at bay.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is one of the most common ocular diseases patients pick up in the latter half of their lives, and doesn’t show signs or symptoms until it has already begun. In fact, in 2019 more than three million Americans managed their lives alongside some form of glaucoma, and the global number of glaucoma cases is expected to increase by about 30 million in the next 20 years. The disease is primarily hereditary due to the actual anatomy of your optic nerves amongst other factors, which means yearly eye exams are essential to catching it in time. While glaucoma progression is most common in people over the age of 60, it tends to occur at younger ages and is potentially more severe in African American populations.
Each of your eyes has a mechanism called the optic nerve, which is situated in the back of the retina and carries visual information to your brain. The optic nerve also causes a blind spot in your vision; simply close one eye and hold your thumb at arm’s length. While staring straight ahead, slowly move your thumb to the left or right (depending on which eye you have closed). Eventually your thumb should cross a point where it disappears — this is where your optic nerve is located!
One of the glaucoma signs your eye doctor checks for is the “cup” of your optic nerve growing too large compared to its “disc.” An average cup to disc ratio is typically 0.3, but sometimes genetics (or glaucoma) can increase that number. Glaucoma can cause intraocular pressure to build up behind the nerve, enlarging the cup too much. This is usually a clear sign of glaucoma’s lurking presence. When the optic nerve’s cup gets too swollen — known as open-angle glaucoma — nerve damage is soon to follow, leading to permanent loss of vision.
The effects of glaucoma cannot be reversed, meaning there is no cure to get rid of it. However, its progress can be halted through several different regiments before any damage can occur, or stop further damage. These glaucoma treatments are best chosen by your eye doctor after a complete eye exam, as no one case of glaucoma is the same!
What Are the Different Glaucoma Treatments?
In more severe cases of mid-to-late stage glaucoma, select laser trabeculoplasty, or SLT surgery, is often used to apply laser heat to the trabecular meshwork — a web of tissues in the back of the eye — which creates a more porous structure and allows a greater amount of eye fluid to drain, reducing eye pressure. Symptoms and inflammation after the procedure are often mild. Because this surgical technique has been used frequently for the last 25 years and the risks are minimal, it’s a great solution when the eye pressure can’t be managed by other means.
Even more common than resorting to SLT is to first begin a regiment of glaucoma eyedrops based on the patient’s glaucoma progress. Early or mild signs of glaucoma can be easily managed by using medicated eyedrops specifically designed to reduce the intraocular pressure of the eye by either lowering the amount of fluid produced or increasing the rate it drains. Common examples of glaucoma drops include Latanoprost, Simbrinza, Brimonidine, and Timolol, amongst others.
The instructions for these drops will vary depending on what your doctor feels is best, but are typically suited to be used once every day. If the glaucoma was caught early enough, keeping up with a drop routine can prevent the disease from ever messing with your vision. Just remember to stay consistent with them!
Unfortunately, glaucoma eyedrops tend to fall under a hefty price tag, even with good insurance coverage. To make matters worse, studies have shown that most eyedrop bottles put out too much solution than is necessary for your eye. Not only will your supply dry out quickly because of all the excess solution running down your cheek, but you’ll be back at the pharmacy buying a refill much too early.
One reason the Nanodropper exists is to make eyedrop treatments for diseases like glaucoma more affordable! A Nanodropper adaptor is the perfect match for patients who manage their glaucoma with eye drops. Better yet, it’s compatible with every glaucoma drop we’ve already mentioned. Investing in a single adaptor reduces the size of your drop portions to save hundreds — even thousands — of dollars in the long run. Explore our website to learn more about the Nanodropper adaptor and our pay-it-forward program to help give the gift of vision to others!