Glaucoma Fact Sheet

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What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease that causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve from increasing pressure within the eye. This occurs because the eye produces a clear fluid that does not drain adequately and raises the eye pressure.

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the U.S., affecting about 3 million Americans. Because this disease often progresses with no warning or symptoms, it is estimated that up to one-half of the nearly 3 million Americans with glaucoma do not know they have it. Glaucoma screening can lead to early detection and treatment, which can prevent, slow, or stop vision loss from the disease.

The first sign of glaucoma is a loss of peripheral vision that is usually not noticed by the patient until it affects the central vision. Vision lost to glaucoma can't be restored so treatment aims to reduce eye pressure to prevent further damage.

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 

Who is at risk for glaucoma?

Glaucoma screenings are suggested every two to four years for anyone over age 40. A routine exam can help identify risk for glaucoma and early signs of the disease. Medicare covers glaucoma screening for the risk factors listed below:

  • A family history of the disease
  • African American or Hispanic ancestry
  • Diabetes
  • Certain rare eye diseases
  • Having had an eye injury
  • Having used any corticosteroid preparation for a prolonged period of time

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

There may be no early signs or symptoms to indicate glaucoma. Slight vision loss typically begins with peripheral or side vision but may be unconsciously fixed by turning your head to the side to correct your vision. You may not begin to notice any changes until significant vision is lost.

How is glaucoma treated?

Traditionally, ophthalmologists first prescribe eye drops to reduce the eye pressure in glaucoma patients and if that doesn't work, physicians can perform a laser procedure called a trabeculoplasty to the existing internal drainage canal.

If eye drops or the laser procedure are not effective in controlling pressure, the patient may need an operation called trabeculectomy. This involves creating a small hole in the sclera (white of an eye) and removes a small area of trabecular meshwork, tissue that is diseased in glaucoma leading to eye pressure build up. Another operation option is to place a silicone tube in an eye to drain fluid.

How is glaucoma treated?

Patients who have glaucoma now have access to a new treatment option at the University of Kentucky, the only medical facility in the state to offer the procedure. Performed with a device called a Trabectome, the minimally invasive procedure takes about 30 minutes.

The Trabectome tool is inserted in the eye through a tiny 1.7 millimeter incision at the edge of the cornea. A small strip of trabecular meshwork is then removed. This gently unblocks the eye and lowers the pressure. The procedure requires very little sedation and patients generally recover within one week. Not all patients with glaucoma are suitable for Trabectome surgery.

UK HealthCare Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences provides medical and surgical services for ocular diseases and eye disorders. We offer:

  • Ophthalmic consultations
  • Computerized visual field testing
  • Diagnostic electrophysiology testing (electroretinography, visual-evoked potentials)
  • Ultrasonography
  • Photography
  • Fluorescein angiography

Subspecialties include:

  • Retinal and vitreous problems
  • Corneal and external disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Pediatric ophthalmology
  • Ophthalmic pathology services
  • Refractive surgery (i.e. LASIK, LASEK, etc.)

To Find Out More

Visit UK HealthCare or call toll free 1-800-333-8874 .

American Glaucoma Society  

Glaucoma Research Foundation  

Other Locations

We also provide subspecialty care as well as routine eye exams at these locations:

UK HealthCare Eye Care - Richmond
920 Barnes Mill Rd. Ste D
Richmond KY 40475
To make an appointment, call 859-624-EYES (3937).

Central Baptist Eye Clinic
1760 Nicholasville Rd, Suite 203
Lexington KY 40503
To make an appointment, call 859-275-4001.

Page last updated: 8/10/2015 2:12:00 PM