How is Glaucoma Treated?
Glaucoma is a group of conditions that cause damage to the nerves at the back of the eye responsible for vision. It often starts with loss of peripheral vision that extends into central vision in extreme cases.
A variety of risk factors are associated with glaucoma, with high eye pressure, age, race, and other systemic conditions being a major component. Treatment options are available for glaucoma but the only options available to date are targeted at maintaining the current level of vision by reducing eye pressure.
There is no cure for glaucoma that will allow for regaining peripheral vision but limiting further progression with treatment can be done in the vast majority of cases.
Eye Drops are Usually the First Treatment Option
Hypotensive, or pressure lowering, eye drops are the most commonly used treatment method. High eye pressure is one of the strongest predictors for glaucoma progression and thus pressure lowering drops are a great way to decrease the risk.
Eye pressure is also one of the only modifiable risk factors that are comparatively easy to implement change for in daily life.
Our optometrist will determine the right eye drop for you, depending on a variety of factors such as your eye pressure, race, or lifestyle. The frequency at which the medication is taken also varies, depending on the specific medication prescribed.
In emergency situations where the eye pressure is extremely high, a combination of oral and topical medications will be used. An urgent visit to the emergency room may be warranted in order to quickly lower the eye pressure.
Laser Procedure for Glaucoma Treatment
Another method of lowering eye pressure is through laser procedures. One possible procedure produces a small hole in the iris, the colored part of the eye, promoting flow of fluid between the different chambers in the eye and helping to prevent a block and build up of eye pressure.
This procedure is usually painless and quick with rare side effects. The dot is often unnoticeable to the human eye.
There is another laser procedure where the drainage system of the eye is activated with a laser to let more fluid out of the eye. These procedures will be completed by an eye surgeon and our optometrist will refer you if necessary.
When All Else Fails, Glaucoma Surgery is also an Option
This is often the last treatment option for patients with glaucoma, as the previous treatment options are considered first. If topical medications and laser procedures were unsuccessful in decreasing eye pressure, surgery may be warranted.
Cataract surgery can help with decreasing eye pressure in some cases, and everyone will eventually need this surgery at some point in their lives anyway. Removing the anatomical lens can increase the amount of space within the eye, especially around the fluid drainage area in the periphery of the iris.
In some cases, patients will already be around the age at which they would expect to need cataract surgery, in which case our optometrist may suggest that the surgery be completed sooner.
If the patient is younger or their lens anatomy does not normally warrant surgical intervention, other procedures may be considered first or this procedure will be completed earlier than usual.
In either case, the intraocular lens implanted in place of the lens will require less space and will often provide improved quality of vision.
Other surgical procedures include implanting tubes that assist in fluid exchange that ultimately decreases eye pressure by large amounts. Devices such as blebs and shunts are used.
Other Treatments for Glaucoma
To date, the above treatment methods are available with significant amounts of research backing up their success. Although alternative methods may be advertised in the general public, to date, there is limited evidence supporting their success.
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