The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle, which usually has no symptoms and progresses gradually. The best way to detect it is with a yearly comprehensive eye exam. This includes tests for visual acuity, eye pressure, and a visual field test.
Be sure to tell your doctor about any family history of glaucoma and your overall health, including diabetes and high blood pressure. They may also order a few other tests.
The most common type of glaucoma causes high pressure in your eye and can damage your optic nerve, causing vision loss. It can lead to blindness, but it can be managed with regular visits to a glaucoma specialist.
Your doctor can diagnose glaucoma by performing an exam. This includes checking your eyesight and evaluating your peripheral (side) vision with a visual field test. A glaucoma specialist Austin TX may also use drops to widen your pupils and measure the pressure inside your eyes with a tonometer.
A glaucoma specialist Austin TX is an ophthalmologist who has completed a year of fellowship training specifically in diagnosing and treating glaucoma. This is a separate qualification from the four years of medical school and residency that all doctors must complete before earning their MD. A comprehensive ophthalmologist can manage most medical and surgical glaucoma cases, but they often refer patients to a glaucoma specialist in Austin, TX, for advanced or complex issues.
In most types of glaucoma, vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This large nerve exits the back of your eyeball and connects to the brain. It’s like a cable that brings messages about what you see to your brain.
Most glaucoma specialists are ophthalmologists who have completed a fellowship in glaucoma after their ophthalmology residency. To find one, contact your state optometric association or go to the AGS online listing of members (Find an AGS Doctor).
Your ophthalmologist may do several tests to check for glaucoma. These include:
Glaucoma treatment aims to lower the vision-threatening pressure within your eye. This can be accomplished with medicines that decrease fluid production or help it drain more quickly. There are also surgical procedures. These include laser peripheral iridotomy (where your doctor creates a small hole in your iris to allow fluid flow) and trabeculoplasty.
Your doctor will examine your eyes with special lenses and other equipment to diagnose glaucoma. They will ask you about your family history of the condition and your general health. They will perform tests such as gonioscopy, which looks at the angle where fluid drains from your eye, and pachymetry, which measures the thickness of your cornea.
If you have open-angle glaucoma, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help decrease the fluid pressure in your eye and prevent further damage. If this doesn’t work, they may recommend surgery. Surgery can involve creating a new passage for fluid to leave the eye or implanting a shunt to reduce your eye’s pressure.
Medications and laser treatments decrease intraocular pressure in the eye and protect the optic nerves from damage. If these do not help, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery can’t cure glaucoma or undo vision loss, but it can prevent it from worsening. Your doctor can perform filtering surgery to create a new passage for fluid drainage. They can also insert a tube shunt to increase fluid drainage and lower pressure.
These surgeries can take less than an hour and are done with sedation and medicine. You may experience some redness or swelling after your procedure. You can usually go home after a day or two.
Several newer procedures require less cutting into the eye. These are called MIGS (micro-invasive glaucoma surgery) and use tiny tubes or shunts to move fluid out of sight. These can be done with cataract surgery and are suitable for many types of glaucoma.