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Glaucoma - Treatment Overview

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 as a result of glaucoma. But in certain children, some of the damage caused by congenital glaucoma can be reversed.

Treatment options include medicines and surgery, including laser surgery. Studies show that medicine and surgery are both effective treatments, but the risks and benefits may differ depending on the type of glaucoma, age, race, and other factors.3

It is important to understand 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 particular 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.

Target eye pressure

The eye doctor sets a target eye pressure for each eye and 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 treatment with medicine or adjust your medicine.

Open-angle glaucoma (OAG)

Treatment for OAG usually starts with medicines (most likely eyedrops) to 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)

Initial treatment for CAG camera.gif 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 procedure, you may need this or another surgery.

Acute closed-angle glaucoma

CAG can be an emergency situation (acute closed-angle glaucoma). Blockage of fluid in the eye causes a sudden increase in pressure, causing rapid damage to the optic nerve.

Acute closed-angle glaucoma usually causes significant pain. Laser treatment is needed right away for this problem.

Congenital glaucoma

Congenital glaucoma almost always requires surgery to lower eye pressure. Medicine may sometimes be used, but it usually doesn't work as well.

Unproven treatments

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 be expensive. And some can be hazardous to your health.

To learn more, see Home Treatment, Medications, and Surgery.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 22, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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