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Managing Glaucoma

Glaucoma may lead to a complete loss of one’s vision if left undiagnosed and untreated. Bearing that in mind, early detection and prompt treatment can help manage this disease and may stave off the complete loss of one’s eyesight.

Glaucoma can be managed and treated in a number of ways. These options include the following:

1. Eye Drops

When using eye drops for glaucoma, there is a possibility that discomfort may be felt for the first few seconds. Patient may feel a sting or burn after its application, but this should go away quickly.

Apply the eye drops in the exact amount and regularity that the eye doctor has prescribed. The patient should also maximize the amount of eye drops to be absorbed by the eye by pressing on the tear duct to prevent the medication from draining into the nose. This is done by pushing down lightly on the corner of the nose near the eyelid.

Remember as well that the eye drops are later on absorbed into the blood stream. Thus, it is important to inform the eye doctor all the other medications being taken. There is a chance that the combination of the eye drops and the other medications will lead to complications, as some drugs are dangerous when mixed together.

2. Pills

Pills can also be prescribed if the eye drops turn out to be insufficient in managing glaucoma.   It will have more pronounced side effects however than eye drops.

Again, make sure that the doctor is informed of all the medications being taken to stave off potentially dangerous mixing of drugs.

3. Laser Surgery

The most popular type of laser surgery for glaucoma is called trabeculoplasty.  While the success rate of laser surgery is still mixed, it has nevertheless become a common intermediate procedure done between the taking of pills and traditional surgery.

This is a painless procedure that may last for as short as 10 minutes and done on an outpatient basis. In trabeculoplasty, the laser beam is aimed and concentrated on the drain of the patient’s eye. The result is a seemingly minor change in the drain’s opening that will allow fluid to pass out faster and easier.

There are practically no complications that will arise out of laser surgery. Though it may take several weeks before the full effect of the procedure is felt, a patient can normally resume all his regular activities immediately after the laser surgery. The doctor may still prescribe medications during those weeks.

4. Traditional Surgery

The most common form of traditional surgery for glaucoma patients is called trabeculectomy. This procedure is usually resorted to when eye drops, pills and laser surgery come up short.

This is an outpatient procedure in which the doctor makes a flap in the white part of the patient’s eye to allow excess fluid to drain. An anti-fibrotic agent is usually placed before the surgery to minimize scarring.

Patient will have to limit reading, driving and lifting of heavy weights for around a month after surgery.

While the passage created by the surgery may close as the body tries to heal itself, the procedure is still highly preferred. As much as half of the patients will not need glaucoma-related medications afterwards for a significant period of time.

The Good News

What is important like most disease processes is early diagnosis.  Early intervention will normally mean keeping things well under control with using one eye drop in each eye every night.

Early diagnosis means having a comprehensive eye examination at least every two years.  Glaucoma sometimes is not simple to diagnose and requires a number of visits using sophisticated instruments.  Optic nerve assessment using digital photography and optical coherence tomography combined with multiple measurements of the intraocular pressure and peripheral vision assessment using a computerised visual field analyser is the besy way to keep out of trouble.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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