Glaucoma: The Silent Thief

It's estimated that approximately three million Americans in Chicago and across the nation are affected by glaucoma, yet nearly half of them remain unaware of their condition. What makes glaucoma particularly concerning is its silent progression, often lacking early symptoms. Unfortunately, noticeable signs, such as peripheral vision loss, typically manifest in the late stages, when the damage is irreversible. This silent thief of sight can affect anyone, underscoring the importance of regular and comprehensive eye examinations, especially for early glaucoma treatment in Chicago.

Envisioning a brighter future with Chicago Cornea Consultants

Founded in 1986, Chicago Cornea Consultants represents the Gold Standard of Ophthalmology in the Midwest. We have invested in the most sophisticated technology and cutting-edge equipment on the market to reduce or eliminate the use of glasses, delivering the best customizable eye care that patients can receive.

At Chicago Cornea Consultants, we see a brighter future for our patients where they can enjoy their most cherished moments with loved ones free from eye disease.

Our six board-certified ophthalmologists are renowned across the globe for their advanced techniques and commitment to excellence. They train other physicians and are frequently featured in industry podcasts, newspapers, magazines, and journals. Our award-winning team has been named Newsweek America's "Best Ophthalmologists," "Best Cataract Surgeons," and "Chicago's Top Doctors" by Chicago Magazine. We are passionate about transforming patients' lives and have performed thousands of successful procedures with outstanding outcomes.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is defined as a disorder of the optic nerve (the bundle of fibers connecting the eyeball and the brain). Gradual damage and loss of the fibers composing the nerve can lead to vision loss in a specific pattern, initially in the periphery. If advanced, the damage can affect the central vision. The disease is typically but not always associated with elevated intraocular pressure. 

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in America, but it can often go unnoticed in its earliest stages because there may be no noticeable symptoms. Because of this, regular eye exams are the best way to detect signs of the disease before serious irreversible damage has been done to your eyesight. While there is no cure for glaucoma, if detected early, your vision can often be preserved, and further damage can be prevented.

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Types of glaucoma

There are several types of glaucoma. They can be divided into "open-angle" and "narrow-angle," depending on the anatomy of the area in the front of the eye where intraocular fluid movement happens (the anterior chamber). About 30% of glaucoma patients never have above-normal eye pressure; this is "normal-tension glaucoma."

Another way to categorize the disease is "primary" (in the absence of other eye conditions) and "secondary" (associated with other eye disorders, past traumas, or previous eye surgeries).

What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma is typically caused by an imbalance between the eye's fluid production and the outflow of that fluid. When your eyes experience high levels of pressure, the optic nerve, a delicate and vulnerable part of your eye, can become damaged. Regular eye exams to detect the early stages of glaucoma should be a crucial part of your regular healthcare.

Those who may be at an increased risk of developing glaucoma include people with a family history of glaucoma, people over the age of 40, African-Americans aged 35 and over, diabetics, people with extreme nearsightedness, and those with long-term steroid medication use. When the process is gradual, patients may be completely unaware it is happening. There may be no appreciable pain, no difference in how the eye looks and feels, and no perceptible changes in vision. By the time pain or evidence of vision loss is obvious, it may be too late. The nerve damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible, and the vision loss is permanent. Early detection and prevention of loss are critical.

Glaucoma diagnosis

Diagnosis involves detailed evaluation in the office by one of our expert eye physicians. A complete eye exam will be performed, with measurements of the intraocular pressure (IOP), determination of the thickness of the central cornea (pachymetry), and evaluation of the anterior chamber angle anatomy (gonioscopy). Drops are instilled for dilation of the pupil, which allows for careful visualization of optic nerve appearance.

Imaging studies of the nerve (photographs and ocular coherence tomography) and assessment of its function (visual field testing) are all required to correctly diagnose whether someone may have glaucoma, and if so, how severe, or if the individual is at risk for developing glaucoma in the future (glaucoma suspect).

How can glaucoma be treated?

There is no cure for glaucoma, but it can be managed with a variety of treatment options aimed at lowering and stabilizing the eye pressure, reducing further damage to the optic nerve, and protecting you from vision loss. Eye drops of several classes can decrease eye fluid production or improve eye fluid outflow. Laser procedures of two types (YAG or SLT) can serve to improve eye fluid circulation. More invasive procedures are at times performed by glaucoma surgical sub-specialists if other treatments are ineffective.

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MIGS: A newer option for glaucoma management

Minimally invasive or micro incisional glaucoma surgery (MIGS) is a treatment option for patients who have glaucoma or glaucoma suspect diagnosis and are undergoing cataract surgery. These are procedures performed in the operating room during the same session as cataract surgery.

After the cataract has been removed and the intraocular lens implant of your choice has been placed, the surgeon can insert a microscopic device into the eye to help with lowering eye pressure. Several devices are presently FDA-approved in the US, including the iStentInject.

Reducing intraocular pressure with the iStent

Our Chicago Cornea Consultants specialists have been using the iStent (also known as the trabecular micro-bypass stent) for a number of years and have found it a successful modality for lowering the pressure in our glaucoma patients. A good number of patients are able to achieve target pressures and discontinue or decrease the number of drops they need to use to keep glaucoma under control.

According to Glaukos, the maker of the iStent, it is also "the smallest medical device ever approved by the FDA" – 20,000 times smaller than the (already tiny) intraocular lens used in cataract surgery. You can read more details about this amazing micro-device on the Glaukos website.


Kahook Dual Blade Goniotomy

Another MIGS procedure offered at Chicago Cornea Consultants is Kahook Dual Blade Goniotomy. This can be performed as a standalone intervention or in combination with cataract surgery and IOL implantation.

A specially-designed microscopic tool, the Kahook blade is inserted into the eye via a tiny corneal incision and is used to remove a strip of tissue (trabecular meshwork) that creates resistance to intraocular fluid flow (goniotomy). The circulation and outflow of fluid are improved, and the intraocular pressure is lowered. For many patients, drops can be decreased or discontinued. Click Here to Learn More

Patients still need to keep their glaucoma under control by taking drops and seeing their doctor regularly, but this technology is an exciting advance we are glad to be offering our patients at Chicago Cornea Consultants.

For more information about your options for treating glaucoma in Chicago or to schedule an exam, please contact us.

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Glaucoma FAQ

What age groups are most at risk for developing glaucoma?

Is glaucoma treatment covered by insurance plans?

What are the early signs of glaucoma?

What age groups are most at risk for developing glaucoma?

People over the age of 60 are at the highest risk for developing glaucoma, with the risk increasing with age. However, glaucoma can affect individuals of all age groups.

Is glaucoma treatment covered by insurance plans?

In many cases, glaucoma treatment is covered by insurance plans. However, coverage may vary depending on the specific insurance provider and plan, so it's advisable to check with your insurance company for details regarding coverage and potential out-of-pocket costs.

What are the early signs of glaucoma?

Early signs of glaucoma often include no noticeable symptoms. However, as the condition progresses, individuals may experience subtle changes in vision, such as reduced peripheral vision or increased intraocular pressure.

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