Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that result in damage to the optic nerve, which is located in the back of the eye and is responsible for carrying information from the eye to the brain. When the optic nerve is damaged, you can lose your vision. In the beginning stages, people with glaucoma lose peripheral, or side, vision. If the disease is not treated, vision loss may get worse and can lead to complete blindness.
The onset of glaucoma can be attributed to a number of factors. In some patients, the condition develops in the early years of life, but most commonly it affects people as they age. Glaucoma can occur after an injury to the eye, while at times it may result from other eye diseases. The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma. With open-angle glaucoma, the optic nerve gradually deteriorates, which results in a slow, but steady loss of vision. Glaucoma is often, but not always, associated with high pressure in the eye.
Glaucoma can often be controlled or treated with eye drops or surgery. A patient may be prescribed multiple eye drops to be administered several times a day. Eye drops can either reduce the production of fluid in the eye or assist the eye’s natural drainage system. Some cases of glaucoma will require surgery. Traditional glaucoma surgery includes cutting a small hole in the eye to allow the fluid to drain externally on the eye, or in some cases to a biocompatible reservoir positioned on the eye. A new, minimally-invasive procedure using the Trabectome surgical instrument is now available at Houston Methodist. The surgical instrument has a curved tip that allows surgeons to remove a layer of ocular tissue blocking the eye’s natural drainage ducts through a two-millimeter incision. Another advanced minimally- invasive surgery now available at Houston Methodist uses a microscopic endoscope to perform laser surgery on the internal part of the eye that produces fluid, thus decreasing fluid production and thereby lowering the eye pressure.