Frequently Asked Questions About Glaucoma
Q. Are there effective treatments for glaucoma?
Yes. There are many different types of medications (in eye drops or pills) that are used to treat glaucoma. Typically, the doctor will start you on an eye drop formula. The medications work two ways: Some decrease how much fluid is produced in the eye; others help the fluid flow out better. Many people can preserve their vision if they take their medications as scheduled and visit their doctor regularly. Note: Medications for glaucoma -- even eye drops -- can affect the entire body, so you should alert all of your doctors that you are taking them.
In some people, however, drugs alone do not control the eye pressure, and surgery is needed. One type of surgery called laser trabeculoplasty uses a laser to improve the flow of fluids out of the eye. This can be done in your doctor's office. There are also several conventional surgeries -- the most common is called trabeculectomy -- in which your doctor creates a new drainage path in the eye under the eyelid. This surgery must be done in an operating room. After both of these procedures, people may still have to take eye drops to further lower the eye pressure.
Q. Can marijuana really treat glaucoma, and is it legal?
Studies performed in the 1970s reported that smoking marijuana could lower eye pressure. Other studies have been inconclusive. Newer reviews by the National Eye Institute and the Institute of Medicine show that there is no scientific evidence that marijuana is more effective than the drugs currently available.
Q. If I have glaucoma, can I still drive?
Most people with glaucoma can still drive -- as long as they pass the Department of Motor Vehicles' vision test. Simply put, your ability to drive will depend on how much vision has been lost. Some people with advanced glaucoma can still get their license renewed but with restrictions. Ask your doctor to discuss your condition with you to determine if driving will be a concern for you.
Q. Can I still wear contact lenses if I have glaucoma?
Whether or not you can wear contact lenses depends on which glaucoma treatment your doctor selects for you. You should be able to continue wearing them if you use eye drops. However, some drugs may need to be taken when lenses are not in your eyes. Also, some of the older medications can affect your prescription, so you may need to get new contacts at some point.
If your doctor decides that you need surgery, your ability to wear contacts may be affected. Be sure to discuss your contacts with your doctor so together the two of you can manage your vision concerns and your medication concerns.