Minnesota Eye Consultants is proud to have been at the forefront of glaucoma care for decades. Our doctors offer a robust set of individualized treatment options for those living with glaucoma. As true partners in your eye care, our team will work with you to help select individualize treatment options that optimize the balance of effectiveness and risk. Offering the latest advances in eye medications, laser procedures, and surgical interventions, including micro-invasive glaucoma surgery, our glaucoma services are second to none. Schedule an appointment today and learn how the doctors at Minnesota Eye Consultants can effectively manage your glaucoma!
Glaucoma is defined as characteristic damage to the optic nerve as a consequence of pressure within the eye, among other factors. The optic nerve is actually a collection of over one million tiny nerve fibers that connect the retina within the eye to the vision centers within the brain. Damage to the optic nerve from glaucoma is a consequence of intraocular eye pressure, which results from a buildup of fluid that flows throughout the inside of the eye. The level of pressure responsible for this damage varies from person to person and pressure that is well tolerated by one individual may be too high for another person.
A normal healthy functioning eye produces a clear liquid, called aqueous humor, at a very consistent rate of 1% per minute. In the normal eye, the natural drainage system drains fluid from the eye at this same rate, keeping the pressure within a tolerable range. However in patients with glaucoma, the fluid doesn’t exit the eye at a fast enough rate, resulting in elevated eye pressure.
The increased force from the additional fluid presses against the delicate nerve fibers at the back of the eye, killing off the irreplaceable nerves that are essential for healthy vision. These damaged optic nerve fibers do not regenerate and result in reduced peripheral (side) vision as the disease progresses. This nerve damage and vision loss is permanent. If the pressure remains too high, it may result in progressive, permanent vision loss and ultimately blindness.
Early on, glaucoma is asymptomatic and the only way to know if you need to be treated is to schedule an annual fully dilated eye examination. Early detection can help halt the progression of the disease and in most cases avoid serious vision damage and blindness. While most glaucoma is asymptomatic in the early stages, some less common forms of glaucoma may cause blurred vision, halos, mild headaches, eye pain, and even nausea. If you are experiencing these, you should see your doctor right away.
Open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma and in the USA occurs in approximately 90% of those who suffer from the disease. In this particular type, access to the drainage channels within the “angle” are open, however, there is obstruction within the drain itself causing the fluid within the eye to drain too slowly. The increased fluid causes pressure within the eye to rise, potentially resulting in damage to the optic nerve.
In “primary” open-angle glaucoma the cause of this obstruction is not known or identifiable. It usually develops gradually and without any symptoms or red flags in the earlier stages. As a result, open-angle glaucoma can go undetected for years, leaving patients unaware that this disease is slowly stealing their vision.
There are numerous forms of “secondary” open-angle glaucoma. In these conditions, there is an identifiable cause of poor drainage. Common examples include pseudoexfoliation related glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, steroid related glaucoma, inflammatory glaucoma, and many others.
Angle-closure glaucoma, also referred to as “closed-angle” or “narrow-angle”, affects less than 10% of glaucoma patients in the USA and has a much more rapid onset. It is more common in hyperopic or “far sighted” eyes and those of Asian descent. In this form of glaucoma the drainage channels within the eye may be normal but access to the drain is blocked by the iris, the colorful tissue surrounding the pupil. This occurs when the structures within the eye are more crowded together either because the eye is inherently smaller or when the lens of the eye becomes larger during cataract formation. The peripheral iris protrudes forward and blocks access to the drainage channel. As a result, aqueous fluid can no longer reach the trabecular meshwork at the angle, so the eye pressure spikes rapidly. Symptoms occur suddenly and are much more severe, but the good news this form of glaucoma is potentially curable because the drain itself functions normally, thus if access can be restored with prompt treatment, vision can be preserved.
Angle-closure signs and symptoms include:
The team at Minnesota Eye Consultants is an industry leader when it comes to the treatment of Glaucoma. We have all the medical, surgical, and diagnostic tools within our offices to monitor patients and provide appropriate treatment plans aimed at lowering intraocular pressure.
Minnesota Eye Consultants is proud to offer patients convenient access to eye care across the Twin Cities. We have 4 locations, each with an onsite ambulatory surgery center (ASC).