Treatment of open-angle glaucoma -- the most common form of the disease -- requires lowering the eye's pressure by increasing the drainage of aqueous humor or decreasing the production of the fluid. Medications can accomplish both of these goals. Surgery and laser treatments are directed at improving the eye's aqueous drainage.
If not diagnosed early, open-angle glaucoma may significantly damage vision and even cause blindness. That is why it's so important to have your eye doctor test you regularly for glaucoma. Once diagnosed, glaucoma is usually controlled with eye drops that reduce eye pressure. Glaucoma is a life-long condition and needs continual follow-up with your eye doctor.
Both drugs and surgery have high rates of success in treating chronic open-angle glaucoma, but you can help yourself by carefully following the doctor's treatment plan. Some patients may find it difficult to follow a regimen involving two or three different eye drops. Be candid and tell the doctor if you cannot follow the medication schedule or if the eye drops cause unwanted side effects. There are frequently alternative treatments. Because of potential drug interactions, be sure to tell your doctor about any other medical problems you have or other medications you take. If glaucoma drops causes the eyes to become chronically red, consult your doctor about switching to preservative-free glaucoma drops that may alleviate the redness from preservatives.
Acute closed-angle glaucoma is different from chronic open-angle glaucoma in several important ways: The symptoms usually occur with relative suddenness; the eye is painful and red. If the high pressure in the eye is not relieved quickly, blindness can occur. On the other hand, treatments for acute closed-angle glaucoma -- usually laser treatment -- are usually permanent and do not require long-term therapy. For this type of glaucoma, making a hole to allow fluid to drain, called an iridectomy, is the standard treatment to cure it. The unaffected eye also is usually treated to prevent a future attack. However, it's important to get your eyes checked regularly, as some people may develop a case of chronic angle-closure glaucoma later in life, even after laser treatment.