Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. However, with early treatment, patients can protect their eyes against serious vision loss. There are two main types of glaucoma: open angle and closed angle glaucoma. Open angle glaucoma is the most common form and will often go undetected during the early stages. This is because it causes no pain and the vision remains normal. However, as the disease progresses, vision slowly decreases with loss of peripheral vision first. If left untreated, total loss of vision may occur. Patients at higher risk for open angle glaucoma include African Americans over the age of 40, all ethnic groups over the age of 60, and people with a family history of glaucoma.
Angle closure glaucoma is the other main type of glaucoma. It is not as common as open angle glaucoma, but the damage to the optic nerve is more severe. Patients with this type of glaucoma have a sudden increase in eye pressure. The increased eye pressure causes the patient to experience severe pain and nausea, as well as redness of the eye and blurred vision. The increased pressure in the eye leads to faster damage to the optic nerve.
Damage to the optic nerve is apparent when the tissue in the center of the nerve is lost. This loss of tissue is visible to a doctor and can be used to monitor the patient’s status. Gradual loss of optic nerve tissue causes the vision to deteriorate over time.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)
Glaucoma is typically treated by using daily eye drops. However, with open angle glaucoma, selective laser trabeculoplasty surgery may be used to help prevent a patient from needing medicated eye drops or additional eye drops to control intraocular pressure. The laser is utilized to treat the drainage system of the eye known as the trabecular meshwork. Treating this area of the natural internal draining system is designed to improve the outflow of fluid from the eye.
This type of laser surgery will be more effective in some patients than in others. Your response is determined by the type of glaucoma you have and the specific structures found in your drainage system. It is not possible to predict how well the laser will work prior to the procedure. Dr. Bentz will help you determine if the SLT procedure is right for you.