Glaucoma Can Drain Your Joy

The front of the eye is full of a transparent liquid called aqueous humor. This liquid provides nutrients to parts of the eye that are too far removed from blood vessels. After depositing these nutrients, aqueous humor drains out of the eye through a series of passageways called the trabecular meshwork. Glaucoma refers to instances where fluid gets trapped in the eye, leading to a spike in pressure.

What makes glaucoma such a pain?

Glaucoma is often a slow-acting disease that damages the eye without any symptoms. Excess fluid causes pressure buildup that causes tension on other parts of the eye. The damaging effects of glaucoma occur once this pressure reaches the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain. Optic nerve cells begin to die, permanently cutting off pathways to the brain and leading to blindness.

Ways to beat the disease

In cases with no symptoms, routine eye exams may be the only way to catch the disease before irreparable damage occurs. If caught early on, glaucoma can sometimes be kept at bay through the regular administration of eye drops. These eye drops can help open the trabecular meshwork to increase drainage or reduce the amount of aqueous humor present.

An eye specialist may also consider an in-office laser procedure to address the flow of aqueous humor. A trabeculoplasty involves using a laser to stimulate drainage channels and improve outflow. In an iridotomy, an eye doctor will make a small hole in the iris. This helps fluid flow out of the front of the eye. These procedures are up to the discretion of a physician and don’t always produce the desired effect.

Can you say trabeculectomy five times fast?

If eye drops or lasers are unable to bring intra-ocular pressure down, surgery is usually the next logical step. The most common surgical procedure to treat glaucoma is known as a trabeculectomy and is performed in an operating room. After administering anesthesia, the surgeon forms a new opening that aqueous humor can drain through, bypassing the trabecular meshwork. The ophthalmologist then creates a flap called a bleb to help regulate flow.

Is it risky, or is it beneficial?

A trabeculectomy is considered a gold standard procedure for many individuals with moderate to severe glaucoma. Risks of the surgery are typically low and can include the following: bleeding, swelling, infection, low eye pressure, vision loss, scaring, and cataract formation. That being said, the benefits of a trabeculectomy generally outweigh the risks. Without surgery, vision can continue to degrade until permanent blindness sets in.

The path to recovery

Recovering from a trabeculectomy can be a slow process. The eye starts out red and irritated from the surgery and must be protected at night with a shield. Patients will likely have to avoid physical activity for a few weeks afterward as the eye heals. Sight from the operated eye may be blurry as healing occurs but should return in time. Vision lost before the surgery cannot be restored.

After surgery, the doctor will prescribe medications or eye drops as needed to keep swelling, infection, and pain at bay. While recuperating, be sure to keep any appointments with the surgeon who will closely monitor the situation. These checkups are essential in confirming that everything is healing correctly and provide an idea of when normal activities can resume.