Glaucoma is an eye disease that, left untreated, can cause permanent blindness. The glaucoma treatment method that your doctor will recommend for you will depend on a number of factors. Treatments are typically designed to reduce intraocular pressure and reduce the production of aqueous. While there is currently no cure for glaucoma and the damage cannot be reversed, regular exams and treatment can help to prevent complete blindness in those in the earlier stages of the disease and further vision loss can be prevented in those who have already suffered some loss of vision.
Glaucoma treatment typically begins with medicated eye drops that are designed to help reduce the pressure in the eye. It is important to use these drops exactly as prescribed. The most common types of eye drops for glaucoma include beta blockers, alpha-agonists, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, prostaglandin-like compounds, miotic or cholinergic agents and epinephrine compounds.
In addition to medicated eye drops, oral medications may also be prescribed particularly if the prescribed drops do not lower the pressure in the eye to a more desired level. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are typically prescribed for the treatment of glaucoma. These medications have been known to lower potassium levels in patients so adding bananas and/or apple juice to your daily diet is recommended. Other side effects of carbonic anhydrase inhibitors include frequent urination, rashes, fatigue, depression, tingling in the fingers and toes, weight loss, kidney stones, nausea, lethargy and impotence.
Neuroprotective drugs are currently being clinically tested as a form of glaucoma treatment as well. Since lowering the pressure in the eye only solves part of the problem in preserving overall vision, many drugs such as brimonidine and memantine are being tested to determine whether or not they can help to protect optic nerves from the damage that is typically seen with glaucoma.
If all else fails, surgery may be needed. Patients who have severe cases, are unaffected by the medications or cannot tolerate eye drops or oral medications given for glaucoma may need surgery in order to lower the pressure in the eye. As with any surgery, glaucoma surgery has its possible complications including infection, unusually low or high eye pressure, bleeding and/or loss of vision. You should understand that undergoing surgery for glaucoma can also increase the risk for development of cataracts.
There are different surgeries that are done to treat glaucoma. Laser surgery has become increasingly popular over the past few years and involves a laser beam being used to open drainage canals in the eyes that have been clogged. This allows the fluid in the eye to drain more effectively. This surgery is typically done in-office and only lasts for around ten to fifteen minutes.
Filtering surgery is typically performed when laser surgery and eye drops do not effectively lower or control the pressure in the eye. This procedure is done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical center. The surgeon will create an opening in the eye and remove a tiny piece of trabecular meshwork which will allow the fluids in the eye to drain more effectively. This lowers the pressure in the eye and the hole is then covered. This procedure is recommended more for those who have never had eye surgery and may require the use of antibiotic eye drops to reduce the risk of infection as well as scarring.
You should understand that there are severe cases of glaucoma that require emergency medical attention. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is considered to be a medical emergency and requires doctors to reduce eye pressure immediately. If and when this happens, the pressure in your eye will be reduced using a laser procedure that will create a tiny hole in the iris to allow the aqueous fluid to pass through. This procedure is called an Iridotomy. If you have this procedure done, you will likely be scheduled at a later date to have the procedure done on the other eye. This is because the risk of the drainage angle closing is very well in the second eye if it has closed in the first eye.