How is glaucoma treated?

Ok, so your optometrist has worked the tonometer, the pachymeter, the ophthalmoscope and found the bad news.

You have glaucoma.

So what can you do?

There is no cure, but there are treatments.

In cases of primary open-angle glaucoma, those treatments generally start with eye drops. The drops either aid the trabecular meshwork in the draining of the aqueous humor, or they stem the production of the aqueous humor so that the system is not overloaded. The goal? Reduce intraocular pressure and either delay, or prevent, the occurrence of glaucoma. But if there was already damage, the drops will do you no good. They cannot reverse any damage that has occurred. And, as with all medications, consult your physician, because there can be adverse reactions with other drugs.

If the eye drops fail, your eye doctor may turn to pills to stem the damage to your optical nerve. But more likely, the doctor will employ laser surgery, which will create minute openings in the trabecular meshwork, increasing its drainage capacity. This may work for a few years, but you may need even more surgery later. Laser surgery is especially likely in acute cases of angle-closure glaucoma, in which the symptoms force the patient to the hospital.

Finally, there is a procedure called trabeculectomy, where an eye surgeon will create a new drainage system for the eye by cutting a new flap into the eye, allowing the aqueous humor to drain out. This procedure is how congenital glaucoma is treated and can be an option for those suffering from angle-closure glaucoma.

Glaucoma treatments generally focus on reducing intraocular pressure to a level the healthcare professional believes will not cause further damage to the optic nerve. This level is often called the target pressure, and it differs from person to person and may change over the course of treatment. Eye pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It varies, even throughout a single day. Generally, eye pressure readings between 10 and 21 mm Hg are considered normal, although a person may have glaucoma even with pressures in this range.

Most newly diagnosed cases of glaucoma are treated with medications, which come in topical and oral form. Topical medications may be eyedrops or eye ointments. Oral glaucoma medications come in pill and tablet form.

As a rule, damage caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed. Lowering eye pressure is the only proven way to treat glaucoma. Eyedrops, laser surgery and surgery in the operating room are used to lower eye pressure and help prevent further damage. In some cases, oral medications may also be prescribed.

With any type of glaucoma, periodic examinations are very important to prevent vision loss. Because glaucoma can progress without your knowledge, adjustments to your treatment may be necessary from time to time.

Continue Learning about Glaucoma Treatments

What are the treatments for closed-angle glaucoma?
Louis B. Cantor, MDLouis B. Cantor, MD
Laser iridectomy is the gold standard for treating closed-angle glaucoma, also known as angle-closur...
More Answers
How can I protect my vision from being affected by glaucoma?
Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhDDr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
The best way to prevent glaucoma is through an early detection and early treatment. If you are highe...
More Answers
How is incisional surgery for glaucoma performed?
Laura C. Fine, MDLaura C. Fine, MD
Trabeculectomy, or filtrations surgery, is the most commonly performed incisional surgery for glauco...
More Answers
What happens during a trabeculectomy for glaucoma?
American Academy of Ophthalmology's EyeSmartAmerican Academy of Ophthalmology's EyeSmart
In performing a trabeculectomy, your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) makes a small flap in the white of t...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.