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How is glaucoma treated?
Most treatment for glaucoma is aimed at lowering the pressure in the eyes (intraocular pressure, or IOP). This helps save your eyesight by slowing the damage to the optic nerve. In adults, treatment can't restore eyesight that has already been lost because of glaucoma. But in some children who are born with glaucoma, some of the damage can be reversed.
Treatment options include medicines and surgery, including laser surgery. The risks and benefits of these options differ depending on the type of glaucoma and other factors.
It is important to know that treatment for glaucoma will most likely continue for the rest of your life. You will need regular eye exams by an eye doctor. Ask your doctor about the best treatment for your condition.
Though glaucoma can lead to a significant loss of vision, your doctor can refer you to counselors who specialize in helping people adjust to living with low vision.
Here are the treatments based on your target eye pressure and which type of glaucoma you have.
Target eye pressure
The eye doctor sets a target eye pressure for each eye. He or she will check it regularly. If the pressure is high enough, or if the doctor sees signs of damage caused by glaucoma, the doctor may advise that you start taking medicine. Or the doctor may recommend that you change the medicine you take or think about having surgery.
Open-angle glaucoma (OAG)
Treatment for OAG usually starts with medicines (most likely eyedrops). The medicines help lower the pressure inside the eye. If medicines don't work, your doctor may use laser treatment or surgery. In some cases, laser treatment or surgery will be tried before medicine.
Closed-angle glaucoma (CAG)
The first treatment for CAG is usually a procedure called laser iridotomy. You may also need medicine (usually eyedrops) to help you stay at your target eye pressure.
If the pressure in your eye stays high or if damage to the optic nerve gets worse despite treatment, your doctor will adjust your treatment. In some cases, your doctor may need to adjust your medicines. Or, if you haven't had the laser treatment, you may need this or another surgery.
Acute closed-angle glaucoma
CAG can be an emergency situation, called acute closed-angle glaucoma. Blocked fluid in the eye causes a sudden increase in pressure. The sudden increase causes rapid damage to the optic nerve.
Acute closed-angle glaucoma usually causes a lot of pain. You need laser treatment right away for this problem.
If you have had a case of acute closed-angle glaucoma, your eye doctor may talk with you about having cataract surgery. It may be discussed even if you don't have a cataract that bothers you right now. You can talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of each option to lower your risk of future problems with closed-angle glaucoma.
Congenital glaucoma almost always requires surgery to lower eye pressure. Medicine may sometimes be used, but it usually doesn't work as well.
Because glaucoma can't be cured and treatment doesn't always prevent further loss of vision, people may try alternative, unproven treatment methods, such as acupuncture or marijuana. But most of these alternative treatments either haven't been studied or haven't been proved to work for glaucoma. Such treatments may cost a lot. And some can be bad for your health.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.
Glaucoma ClinicThe glaucoma specialists at the Byers Eye Institute offer a range of procedures to treat the disease, including canaloplasty, trabeculectomy and glaucoma tube shunt.
Byers Eye Institute2452 Watson Court
Palo Alto, CA 94303