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What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that cause damage to the eye’s optic nerve. When the optic nerve is damaged, it can no longer send signals to the brain for the vision process to occur.

In most glaucoma types, pressure builds up in the eye because fluids are not draining as they should. This is called elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). If glaucoma is not treated, it can result in severe vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma affects millions of people worldwide.

Can Glaucoma be prevented?

Unfortunately, most types of glaucoma are not preventable. However, early detection and treatment can usually control the disease before severe vision loss occurs. Because glaucoma usually affects side vision first, you may not notice early signs that your sight has changed.

Be Eye Wise and schedule a regular and thorough eye examination that includes dilation of the pupils. Your Northwest eye care specialist will check your eye pressure and the condition of your optic nerve for any evidence of glaucoma.

Chart Illustrating a Healthy Eye Compared to One With Glaucoma

What Are the Types of Glaucoma Diseases?

Open-Angle Glaucoma occurs when ocular fluid cannot pass through the eye’s filtration system (trabecular meshwork) to the drainage canals. Often inherited, it is the most common type of glaucoma. Most people do not notice early symptoms because glaucoma attacks the peripheral vision before it affects central vision.

Angle Closure Glaucoma

Angle Closure Glaucoma is a dangerous type of glaucoma that occurs suddenly when the eye’s fluid cannot drain and causes a rapid increase in eye pressure. Symptoms include severe pain and nausea, blurry vision, and redness in the eye. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to avoid severe vision loss.

Low Tension Glaucoma

Low Tension Glaucoma occurs when patients with normal eye pressure experience damage to the optic nerve or peripheral vision loss.

Congenital Glaucoma

Congenital Glaucoma is a condition in which children are born with a defect in the eye’s angle. This defect interferes with fluid drainage and causes elevated pressure.

Secondary Glaucomas

Secondary Glaucomas can occur as a result of other diseases or treatments, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Complications of cataract surgery
  • Steroid treatments
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye)
Diagram Illustrating How Open-Angle and Angle-Closure Glaucoma Affects the Eye

What Are the Risk Factors for Glaucoma?

You are at higher risk for developing glaucoma if any of these characteristics apply to you:

  • Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP)
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Abnormal optic nerve anatomy
  • Over the age of 40
  • African or Asian descent
  • High myopia (nearsightedness)

What Are the Symptoms to Watch Out For?

While many people don’t notice early symptoms of the more slowly-developing forms of glaucoma, you should contact Northwest Eye right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Vision loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Small blind spots
  • Tunnel vision
  • Halos or rainbows around light

How Is Glaucoma Treated?

While there is no cure for glaucoma, there are many effective treatments available at Northwest Eye to limit its damaging effects. Our eye doctors use several different methods to lower the pressure in the eye:

Medications in the form of eye drops or pills are the most common form of early treatment. Some lower eye pressure by reducing the amount of fluid the eye produces and others help fluid drain from the eye.

One disadvantage of medications is that patients may have difficulty remembering to insert their drops regularly because they aren’t experiencing symptoms. Medical treatment of glaucoma is only effective when patients use their eye drops regularly as prescribed.

If medication isn’t enough, our highly trained surgeons will help you understand the advanced options for laser treatments and surgery offered at Northwest Eye.

Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is used for patients with open-angle glaucoma when eye drops are not lowering eye pressure or causing uncomfortable side effects. SLT is a minor procedure, and painless for the patient. Your ophthalmologist will use a special lens to apply an intense beam of light to the trabecular meshwork, which is the eye’s drainage system.

SLT usually reduces eye pressure significantly. Many patients can eliminate their eye drops or use them less frequently.

Micropulse Cyclophotocoagulation – Micropulse Cyclophotocoagulation is a laser procedure that decreases fluid production by treating the part of the eye that produces fluid.

Glaucoma Tube Shunt – A tube shunt is a surgical procedure used to drain excess fluid when medications and laser procedures are no longer an option.

In the last decade, new micro-invasive surgeries have been developed. These revolutionary procedures are performed in surgical eye centers.

These procedures can be effective in reducing IOP with lower risks than traditional glaucoma surgery. MIGS procedures take several different approaches:

  • Increasing fluid outflow using the eye’s drainage system
  • Shunting fluid outside the eye
  • Reducing the production of the fluid within the eye.

The iStent® is an excellent option for patients who are planning cataract surgery. This procedure works to reduce IOP and enables many patients to eliminate or reduce their use of prescription eye drops. The FDA approved the iStent® (in 2012 for use in combination with cataract surgery.

Showing an iStent on top of a Penny, Letting You Know How Small it Is

This tiny titanium implant (smaller than a grain of rice) improves the drainage of aqueous fluid from the eye using its regular drainage system. It creates permanent bypasses from the front part of the eye through the trabecular meshwork where the fluid block is occurring.

Some advantages of the iStent® device procedure are:

  • Rapid recovery time from surgery
  • Lower risk than traditional glaucoma surgeries
  • Allows for future treatment options for preserving vision

The Hydrus™ Microstent is a highly effective device implanted to reduce intraocular pressure in patients with mild to moderate primary open-angle glaucoma. Through minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS), Hydrus is implanted into the eye to allow the eye’s natural aqueous fluid to drain through Schelmm’s canal – bypassing the normal trabecular meshwork, where the blockage causing glaucoma is likely to be located.

The XEN® Gel Stent is a small surgical implant designed for use in minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. The procedure helps drain fluid and reduce intraocular pressure (IOP) in open angle glaucoma patients, thus preserving vision. It is also referred to as aqueous shunt surgery.

Filtering surgery (trabeculectomy) surgery is an option when medical and laser treatments have failed to control IOP. Your Northwest Eye surgeon will create a tiny hole in the eye and a flap in the white of the eye (sclera) to cover it.

A small piece of tissue is removed to create a new channel for the fluid to drain from the eye. This fluid will drain between the eye tissue layers and create a blister-like “filtration bleb.” The tissue around the eye eventually absorbs the liquid.

Whether you are at risk for glaucoma or have already received a diagnosis, our Northwest Eye ophthalmologists are here to help. The sooner we detect a problem and initiate treatment, the better chance we will have to preserve your vision. Be Eye Wise and call for an appointment today at one of our convenient offices in Golden Valley, Maple Grove, Minnetonka, St. Anthony, or Wayzata!


Serving Our Community

With six locations throughout the Twin Cities metro area, Northwest Eye is among the largest eye care providers in the Midwest. Be Eye Wise and schedule a general eye exam or a specific service consultation today. We have optical  at the following offices:  Golden Valley, Minnetonka, Maple Grove, St. Anthony, and Wayzata, MN.

8501 Golden Valley Rd.,
Suite 100 & 200
Golden Valley, MN 55427
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12501 Whitewater Drive, Suite 110
Minnetonka, MN 55343
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12000 Elm Creek Blvd N., Suite 100
Maple Grove, MN 55369
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2601 39th Ave NE., Suite 1
St. Anthony, MN 55421
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250 Central Ave N., Suites 105 & 107, Optical Suite 106
Wayzata, MN 55391
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7125 Tamarack Rd, Suite 150,
Woodbury, MN 55125
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11091 Ulysses St NE., Suite 400
Blaine, MN 55434
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9801 Dupont Ave S., Suite 100
Bloomington, MN 55431
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10709 Wayzata Blvd., Suites 100 & 120
Minnetonka, MN 55305
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