If you have recently been diagnosed with glaucoma or have been battling it for years, then you likely wonder when it will be a good idea to begin looking into surgical options to manage it instead of using eye drops daily. While glaucoma surgery used to be considered a "last resort" after eye drops and lifestyle alterations began to fail to keep intraocular pressure under control, many ophthalmologists have since reconsidered this opinion and now recommend them much earlier than before. So, when should you begin considering glaucoma surgery and what does it involve? Read on to find out.
Surgical Intervention Is Becoming a First-line Option Instead of the Last Resort
Various eye drops that control glaucoma have been the standard, first-line treatment for decades. There are many types of eye drops for glaucoma; some help eye fluid drain more effectively and some decrease production of fluid in the eyes. However, all have various side effects, and many can be very expensive, even when medical insurance covers part of their costs. In addition, it often takes a lot of trial and error to find the right drops for each patient, and patients who cannot tolerate the various side effects of the medication that would manage their glaucoma best often end up with drops that work, but not as effectively as they could.
However, classic glaucoma surgery is invasive and can end in complications with repeated surgeries being needed, so ophthalmologists are hesitant to recommend it until glaucoma becomes severe. Now, fortunately, there are new surgical options to manage glaucoma that are less prone to complications and side effects, so physicians are less hesitant to have patients consider glaucoma surgery early on after their diagnosis.
The Latest Surgical Intervention and How it is Different from Old Techniques
For many decades, the classic trabeculectomy was the only surgical option available to help control glaucoma. A classic trabeculectomy involves literally removing a part of the eyeball. The portion removed is part of the drainage angle, and in people with glaucoma, this area is often clogged and malfunctioning. This traditional surgery was effective at times, but it had many side effects and could fail. Complications after surgery were very common, including infection, long-lasing inflammation of the eye, and scar tissue build-up.
With the invasiveness, the large potential for complications, and the common need for more surgeries later to re-open the new drainage canal that was created, it is easy to see why this procedure was not considered a first-line option for glaucoma. The new surgeries are much less invasive, require no removal of the eye's existing tissues, are more effective, and surprisingly, more affordable. The most common new technique for mild to moderate glaucoma is the trabecular micro-bypass procedure.
While technically called a trabecular micro-bypass surgery, this procedure is more commonly known as the iStent. During this procedure, a tiny drainage tube is placed in a specific part of your eye drainage angle called the Schlemm's canal. This canal has been discovered to be the main canal where natural eye-fluid drainage occurs.
By targeting just this canal during modern glaucoma surgery, the rest of the eye drainage angle does not need to be operated on at all. Fluid can drain properly from the eye through the tube like it does in a healthy eye. This stent is smaller than an eyelash, and patients don't feel it or even notice it is there after the surgery. Due to the presence of the stent, repeated surgeries are not necessary to re-open the canal.
Whether you have had glaucoma for years or were just diagnosed, it helps to know that today's surgical interventions are safer and less invasive. If the medications you currently use leave you with bad side effects, or you just want a more permanent method to controlling your glaucoma, speak with your eye doctor to discuss the best treatment option for you. If you'd like to read more, go to websites like http://www.checdocs.org.
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