Glaucoma treatments highlighted during Glaucoma awareness month

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More than 2 million Americans suffer from Glaucoma, a sight-stealing disease that has no early symptoms and once vision is lost, it is permanent. Glaucoma vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve - the part of the eye that carries images we see to the brain. What many people don’t realize is that vision loss from this disease is entirely preventable and there are ways to successfully battle blindness. Early detection is vital to early intervention and stopping progressive vision loss which is inevitable without treatment.

There are several known risk factors associated with glaucoma. Higher intraocular pressure (IOP), the pressure inside the eye, is correlated to a higher likelihood of optic nerve damage. Family history increases risk of glaucoma in an individual four to nine times that of the general population). Age is also important. Individuals who are age 60 and older are six times more likely to suffer from glaucoma than younger people.

There is no cure for glaucoma. However, there are treatment options combining medication, laser therapy and surgery that may prevent further or stop vision loss by controlling the only proven way to treat glaucoma effectively– lowering the eye pressure inside the eye. While millions of Americans use eye drops to treat this silent sight thief, January is Glaucoma Awareness Month and a great time to explore other treatment options that are safe, effective and can cost much less.

One new safe and effective treatment option is Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT). SLT is a laser procedure used to treat glaucoma by reducing the pressure in the eye during a single, office procedure. The SLT mechanism does not rely on medicines, instead, it uses an advanced laser system to target only specific outflow cells of the eye—those containing melanin, a natural pigment. This allows for only these cells to be treated, leaving surrounding tissue intact. As a result, one’s own healing response helps lower the pressure in the eye.

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SLT is also reimbursed by Medicare as well as other insurance providers, minimizing out-of-pocket expenses and potentially saving patients thousands of dollars in prescription medication costs.

Other benefits of Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT):

• Safe: SLT is not associated with systemic side effects or the compliance and cost issues of medications.
• Selective: SLT utilizes selective photothermolysis to target only specific cells, leaving the surrounding tissue intact.
• Smart: SLT stimulates the body’s natural mechanisms to enhance outflow of the fluid in theeye.
• Sensible: SLT therapy is reimbursed by Medicare and many other insurance providers, which minimizes your out-of pocket expenses.

For patients with glaucoma, there are more treatment options available currently than ever before. SLT helps clinicians to use the least amount of therapy to achieve the desired result of lowering IOP to levels that prevent progression. Patients appreciate the option to undergo SLT in an effort to control their glaucoma and reduce issues of cost, compliance and side effects in their treatment. Many patients are already educated about SLT and clinicians should be prepared to discuss this treatment as an option to medical or surgical therapy. While it is recognized that there is no one management option that works for all individuals, SLT is a proven tool that has become a significant part of the armamentarium in the treatment of glaucoma.

Written by Dr. Robert J. Noecker
A leading ophthalmologist specializing in the medical, laser and surgical management of glaucoma and cataracts, he has more than 15 years of experience in developing innovations in glaucoma surgery and has conducted numerous trials on the pharmacologic and surgical treatment of glaucoma, macular degeneration and dry eyes. Dr. Noecker finished his medical school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, residency in Ophthalmology at the University of Arizona and Fellowship in glaucoma at Tufts University in Boston.

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