Vail Daily column: Glaucoma is a vision-stealing disease
There are number of medical complications that can wreak havoc on our lives and the capabilities we daily take for granted. Some are simply genetic, other may be due to age and some self-inflicted.
Currently, 2.7 million people in the United States over age 40 have glaucoma. This not a disease specific to an elder population. Glaucoma is vision-stealing disease and is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States and the world.
This month is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of potentially preventable blindness. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision.
Glaucoma is asymptomatic. Therefore, by the time you may become aware of a vision issue, odds are that there has already been an estimated 60 percent damage (this is irreversible). Think cannabis is an option? The answer is yes and no. Why? Because while this research has been supported by the National Eye Institute, studies indicate that it only lowers pressure within the eye for a short period of time — about three or four hours. (Yes, you could use cannabis every three hours)
Lowering your eye pressure
Currently, the only way to control glaucoma and prevent vision loss is to lower your pressure within the eye, called IOP levels. There are three commonly acceptable means of accomplishing this. The first option is by use of eye drops which have proven to have longer lasting effects. The second option commonly available is the use of laser surgery called trabeculoplasty whereby the eye’s drainage system is changed in a way so that fluid is able to pass more easily out of the eye. The third type of option available is two types of laser application. One is called selective laser trabeculoplasty and the other is called argon laser trabeculoplasty.
These are newer laser procedures that use very low levels of energy. Laser energy is applied to the trabecular meshwork (a spongy tissue), which promotes drainage through tissue in the eye. This starts a chemical and biological change in the tissue that results in better drainage of fluid through the drain and out of the eye.
The laser trabeculoplasty procedures can be done without the person being admitted to the hospital. However, the patient may need to be checked by the doctor within a couple hours of the surgery. Follow-up exams are also recommended and patients often need to continue taking medicine after he surgery to keep down the pressure in their eyes.
Shunts and Stents
For those persons with high eye pressure, there is a procedure that utilizes shunts and stent implants. Shunts and stents are small devices that are surgically inserted into the eye during a trabeculectomy to increase outflow of intraocular fluid
Glaucoma shunts and stents are small devices that are surgically inserted into the eye during a trabeculectomy to increase outflow of intraocular fluid. Some studies indicate that after five years, tube shunt surgery had a higher success rate compared to trabeculectomy. You should be aware that tube shunt implantation come with a somewhat higher risk than that of trabeculectomy.
Worth noting is that since the procedures are accepted glaucoma treatments, and is FDA approved, it is covered by Medicare and medical insurance. Further, the cost for an uninsured individual or with an insurance co-pay will vary.
Nothing can help your eyes better that a yearly visit to the eye doctor. Here in Eagle County, you can call Eye Center of the Rockies for additional information.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.