Glaucoma is a condition that usually occurs when the eye is unable to maintain balance between intraocular fluid – or fluid inside the eye – and that which drains away. Intraocular fluid keeps your eye functioning properly and helps to maintain its spherical shape. But when too much fluid pressure builds up, glaucoma develops as the eye pushes on and eventually causes permanent damage to the optic nerve.
Glaucoma occurs in two forms. Narrow-angle glaucoma is a rare, acute condition that requires immediate treatment to save the patient’s vision. Open angle glaucoma, the more common form of the condition, is degenerative, meaning that it worsens over time.
A recent research breakthrough revealed that the impairment caused by the latter condition actually begins in the brain, as the optic nerve begins to lose connectivity, and travels back to the retina. In some people, glaucoma can occur even without high intraocular pressure; in these cases, unusually sensitive optic nerves break down even under normal amounts of pressure.
Open angle glaucoma treatment focuses on preventing further loss of vision, which is permanent once it occurs. Treatment options include:
- Medications to slow the production of fluid
- Drops that are absorbed directly into the eye to help with fluid regulation
- Surgery to create an opening from which excess fluid can drain
- Laser surgery to help the eye’s drainage system function more effectively
In the U.S., doctors typically treat patients with medications and eye drops before suggesting more invasive techniques such as traditional or laser surgery.
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