Have you recently found out you or someone you love has glaucoma? Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve because of increased intraocular pressure.
Intraocular pressure (IOP) is pressure in the eye. While there are various causes of glaucoma, the most common is poor fluid drainage from the eye.
When the eye cannot drain as it should, it elevates pressure in the eye, causing permanent damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. Without timely treatment, glaucoma eventually causes total blindness.
Keep reading to learn more about glaucoma and how eye drops can be an effective form of treatment for patients with glaucoma.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Your eyes are always making a fluid known as aqueous humor. The aqueous humor supplies your eyes with nutrients.
It also maintains your intraocular pressure. Since your eyes constantly produce more fluid, it drains the old aqueous humor to stabilize the pressure levels in your eyes.
Fluid drains through the eye’s drainage angle. But if it’s not draining properly due to blockages, the pressure inside your eyes increases.
Elevated pressure causes glaucoma and destroys your optic nerve. If it’s damaged, it’s permanent and irreversible.
That’s why prompt detection and treatment are vital in slowing or stopping optic nerve damage and further vision loss from glaucoma.
Glaucoma is often referred to as the silent thief of sight because it has few symptoms. Many patients don’t realize they have glaucoma until irreversible vision loss has occurred.
Because it’s asymptomatic, it’s even more essential to see your eye doctor regularly. You may have late-stage glaucoma if you notice any of the following symptoms. See your eye doctor as soon as possible if you’ve started experiencing these:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Vision loss
- Eye pain
- Red eyes
- Severe headaches
- Nausea or vomiting
The only way to diagnose glaucoma early and save your remaining sight is to regularly schedule appointments for routine eye exams. With timely diagnosis and treatment, damage from glaucoma can be significantly slowed or stopped. The key is monitoring and treatment.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
Certain risk factors mean that some people are more likely to develop glaucoma. To stay on top of any developments, they should get tested for glaucoma annually, if not more. These risk factors include:
- If you’re 60 or older
- Having a family history of glaucoma
- Having very thin corneas
- You’ve had a previous eye injury
- You’re of African American, Hispanic, or Asian descent
- Long-term use of steroid drugs
- You’re incredibly nearsighted or farsighted
- You have certain health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and sickle cell anemia
Glaucoma Eye Drops
One of the first treatments eye doctors recommend for many glaucoma patients is eye drops. Eye drops to treat glaucoma help improve the drainage of the aqueous fluid through the trabecular meshwork or uveoscleral pathway.
Glaucoma eye drops also work by decreasing the production of aqueous humor. Increasing fluid outflow or reducing the amount of fluid your eye produces stabilizes your eye pressure and prevents more damage to the optic nerve.
There are different classes of eye drops, and your eye doctor may prescribe you a combination of these for the best results in managing your intraocular pressure. These include:
- Prostaglandin analogs
- Carbolic anhydrase inhibitors
- Alpha agonists
- Rho-kinase inhibitors
You may take a combination of glaucoma eye drops if your Eye Consultants of North Dakota eye doctor determines you need more than one type of medication. The choice will depend on various factors, like your type of glaucoma and its severity.
Your ophthalmologist will also consider the pressure goals they’re aiming for and any pre-existing health condition when prescribing drops. Because of the numerous factors determining the best type of glaucoma drops, your eye doctor will tailor the decision according to your unique needs.
Make sure you inform your ophthalmologist of any medications you’re taking. Knowing this information is the only way they’ll be aware of any potential interactions or side effects.
What to Know When Taking Glaucoma Eye Drops
Research shows that eye drops are an effective glaucoma treatment. These eye drops can help lower eye pressure while also controlling your glaucoma and preventing it from worsening.
You Must Follow Treatment Instructions
Even when your symptoms reduce, you must continue using glaucoma eye drops exactly as directed. Because glaucoma is a progressive condition, you must take these eye drops exactly as prescribed to avoid vision loss.
Not taking your eye drops could result in your glaucoma progressing and leading to further irreversible vision loss. If you struggle to remember to take your glaucoma eye drops, think about setting reminders on your phone or in your calendar to have a visual.
It’s a Lifelong Commitment
Glaucoma eye drops aren’t a one-and-done thing. You’ll need to administer them for the rest of your life.
You’ll have to get used to applying eye drops several times a day for the best results. Initially, you’ll work closely with your ophthalmologist to determine the kind of drops needed and if there are any allergic or adverse reactions.
If one eye drop has adverse effects or doesn’t lower your eye pressure enough, your eye doctor can switch you to a different medication. Alternatively, your ophthalmologist may add another one or give you a combination of medications with two different drops in a single bottle.
Don’t Allow Glaucoma to Steal Your Vision
At Eye Consultants of North Dakota, our team recommends you come in for annual eye exams if you’re at risk of developing glaucoma. Regular eye exams help detect glaucoma as early as possible.
An early glaucoma diagnosis helps limit further vision loss and preserves your remaining vision.
Do you have questions about the best way to treat your glaucoma? Schedule an appointment at Eye Consultants of North Dakota in Fargo, ND, to discuss your options with a member of our expert team!