While prescription eye drops may be one of the most effective treatments for glaucoma, drops can be problematic for some people. Fortunately, glaucoma sufferers have more safe, surgical options available now than ever before. According to Key-Whitman Eye Center’s eye surgeon Ronald M. Barke, M.D., “Surgery can provide relief for many glaucoma patients, and today it is much less invasive than in years past. This is great news, because without treatment, glaucoma will eventually steal your vision.”
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. “The trouble with glaucoma is that you can’t reverse once it takes hold. It’s a silent disease that sneaks up on you, because it affects your peripheral vision, so you don’t experience symptoms or notice vision loss right away. It’s like high blood pressure, you don’t feel that your blood pressure is high early on, so you need to be under a doctor’s care to manage it,” Dr. Barke says.
Dr. Barke explains how glaucoma occurs and why it’s so important to see your eye doctor regularly.
With glaucoma, damage to the optic nerve occurs due to high intraocular pressure in the eye, though some people experience damage with low intraocular pressure. According to Dr. Barke, “Regardless of how the damage occurs, the way we treat glaucoma is to lower the pressure in the eye. Eye drops, once a day for some people and several times a day for others, are typically the treatment option we recommend first, but drops aren’t the best or only solution for every patient.”
“Patients may have issues using eye drops, either from a comfort or irritation standpoint or in simply remembering to take the drops at the appropriate intervals. It’s also difficult for some people to put drops in their eyes. I have trouble putting drops in myself,”
says Dr. Barke.
Compliance with eye drop treatments can be a major issue for some people, but if you don’t treat your glaucoma, you will suffer vision loss. That’s why surgery may be a good alternative for some patients who need cataract surgery anyway.
Dr. Barke explains how the tiny, iStent device helps cataract patients reduce dependence on eye drops.
Key-Whitman offers micro-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) using the iStent implant, which is the world’s smallest medical device. According to Dr. Barke, “The iStent is 20,000 times smaller than an intraocular lens, and our cataract patients have been very receptive to the procedure.”
When I say to patients, ‘If we can do a procedure, during cataract surgery that is painless, quick and easy, with fast visual recovery, that results in you not being as dependent on your eye drops, would you be interested?’ they say, ‘Why not?’”
Wondering if the iStent may be an option for you? The best candidates for iStent are patients with mild to moderate glaucoma, who need to have cataracts removed and would like to reduce their dependency on eye drops. Key-Whitman glaucoma specialists and eye surgeons offer a variety of other treatment alternatives, when the iStent is not a good option.
If you are at high risk for glaucoma, it is vital that you undergo regular eye exams to check for the disease. Common glaucoma risk factors include age (55 and above) as well as diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. People of African American descent, myopic patients and those who have a family history of glaucoma are also at higher risk.
Should you receive a glaucoma diagnosis, there is hope, but only if you follow your eye doctor’s recommendations for treatment. “If you leave glaucoma untreated you will go blind. It is a leading cause of blindness and much like spinal cord injuries, once the damage occurs you can’t reverse it,” explains Dr. Barke.
Regular eye health exams are important for everyone, especially as we get older and for those who are at higher risk for eye diseases. To learn more about glaucoma treatment options, including eye drops and surgery, schedule a visit with your eye
care provider today.