Standing Up To Glaucoma: What Are Your Treatment Options?

For many glaucoma sufferers, the diagnosis was something they never saw coming. If you've been blindsided by your glaucoma, it's important to find out what you can do to treat your condition before it worsens. Your eye doctor can help you choose the best treatment for you, but it certainly won't hurt to know your stuff before you choose to go ahead with treatment. 

Eye Drops

The most common prescription for glaucoma sufferers is medicated eye drops. Typically these drops are effective in patients with minor to moderate cases, but due to their varied side-effects they cannot be used by all patients. When it comes to the effects of the drops, you have several different options:

  • Drops like prostoglandins, which relax the muscles of the eye in order to reduce overall pressure. Patients typically prefer these drops over other options because they need only be applied once per day.
  • Beta-blockers, alpha-andrenergic agonists, and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, which all work to reduce production of aqueous humor. This slows pressure buildup in the eye and helps it compensation for the slow drainage experienced in glaucoma.
  • Parasympathomimetics, which increase the outflow of the humor from the eye. These are often prescribed for patients with the rarer narrow-angle form of glaucoma.
  • Epinephrine, which has the double function of reducing humor production in the eye and increasing its outflow. 

As you can see, medications for glaucoma usually only have one effect on the eye each. For this reason, you may need to take more than one type of glaucoma treatment. Depending on the combination your eye doctor recommends, you may be able to find combination drops that provide an all-in-one medicine. Talk to your doctor about this possibility in order to limit the number of times you must apply drops daily.

Laser Surgery

For patients whose eyes do not respond to drops or who cannot stand to apply drops to their eyes long-term, laser surgery is a more permanent solution. 

Despite what you may think, these procedures do not involve poking a hole in the eye to help drain the fluid. Rather, the laser is used to reshape the draining mesh of the eye, which improves outflow considerably. For patients with the most common form of glaucoma, open-angle, primary laser surgery effectively lowers eye pressure in approximately 75% of cases.

Secondary surgery is also available to touch up work done during a previous surgery or to provide a gentler initial approach. Patients can see even greater chances of recovery through secondary surgery. Patients who elect not to have primary surgery may need to repeat the procedure in order to see significant improvement, however.

For all types of laser surgery, the procedure is very quick, usually lasting less than 15 minutes. Recovery is likewise quite speedy. You should expect to return to your normal life by the end of the same day you have the surgery performed. In some cases, drops may still be prescribed to control remaining glaucoma symptoms.

Micro-Implant Devices

A relatively new alternative for patients who dislike drops or don't benefit from them is the micro-implant. Available only for open-angle glaucoma patients, these tiny devices work to provide guaranteed outflow from the eye, which helps to decrease pressure significantly.

Surgery and recovery times have been described as very quick, meaning you should be able to resume your normal life within days of the surgery. The implant is a millimeter long and, once placed, you won't be able to feel it or even see it without the aid of a special microscope. Best of all, patients who use implants will no longer need to apply eye drops.

Don't let your glaucoma control you. Read up on the treatments available and go into your eye doctor's office fully prepared to fight for your comfort and your vision. With the right treatment you may be able to not only control your glaucoma, but possibly even beat it altogether.