How to Slow Glaucoma Progression

Glaucoma happens when pressure in your eye damages your optic nerve. Over time, it can make you lose your eyesight permanently. But you can take steps to slow it down, and help save your vision.

Get Your Eyes Checked Regularly

A visit to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) is the best way to spot and manage glaucoma early on.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends you have what’s called a comprehensive dilated eye exam by age 40 to get a baseline picture of your eye health. That way, your doctor can track changes in your vision from one checkup to the next.

Before age 40, you may only need to see your eye doctor every 2-4 years. But as you get older, you’ll need to step it up. If you are over 60, African-American, or have a family history of glaucoma or other things that raise your chances of getting it, you should get checked every year or two starting at age 35.

The tests you have might differ from visit to visit. You’ll likely have these two every time, though:

Eye pressure check. Your doctor will put numbing drops into your eye, then lightly push on it with a small device. Sometimes she may use a puff of air instead. This will help her find out if the pressure inside your eyes is in the range normal for you.

Optic nerve check. You’ll get special drops to dilate your pupil so your doctor can look closely at the shape and color of your optic nerve.

If your doctor suspects glaucoma, she may order special imaging of your optic nerve and a test to check your side vision.

Don’t Put Off Treatment

Lowering eye pressure slows how quickly your glaucoma advances. If you get treated right away, it can help stop your eyesight from worsening, or make it happen much later. Your treatment options include:

Eye drops. These are often the first step for glaucoma treatment. The drops come in different types, but all manage eye pressure in two basic ways: They help your eye fluid drain better, or they help your eyes make less of it. In order for them to help your eyes, you’ll need to follow your doctor’s orders exactly. You’ll need to use your drops every day. Make it a part of your daily routine, like after brushing your teeth.

Continued

Surgery. If eye drops don’t do the job, or if you can’t use them for whatever reason, your doctor may suggest surgery. The best approach for you will depend on the type of glaucoma you have.

Laser surgery. Two main types can be done without a hospital stay. Both help your eye drain by relieving pressure. Open-angle, also called wide-angle, glaucoma is the most common. With it, your surgeon uses a laser to create a better angle for fluid to flow. If you have angle-closure glaucoma, your doctor makes a tiny hole in the iris, the colored part of your eye, to help the eye drain.

Operating room surgery. If drugs and laser surgery aren’t enough to lower your eye pressure, you might have traditional surgery. With this type, your surgeon creates a new drainage channel for your eye fluid. This might be a tiny tube connected to a collection site -- or reservoir -- or a little drainage flap that flows into a pocket tucked into your eyelid.

Exercise

Working out regularly, such as walking or jogging three or more times a week, can help lower your eye pressure. Yoga can help, but it’s best to avoid upside-down poses like headstands. They can make your eye pressure go up.

Stay Away From Marijuana

You may have heard that medical marijuana can help with glaucoma. While the drug has been shown to lower eye pressure, it also lowers blood pressure. That could wipe out any gains from marijuana, since lower blood pressure can limit the amount of blood flow your optic nerve needs.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on August 22, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Glaucoma Research Foundation: “Learn About Glaucoma,” “How Often Should I Have My Eyes Tested?” “Five Common Glaucoma Tests,” “Glaucoma Medications and Their Side Effects,” “What Can I Do to Prevent Glaucoma?” “Should You Be Smoking Marijuana to Treat Your Glaucoma?”

Kellogg Eye Center: “Glaucoma.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Glaucoma Treatment,” “Does Marijuana Help Treat Glaucoma?” “Early Detection Key to Slowing Progression of Glaucoma.”

American Glaucoma Society: “Position Statement on Marijuana and the Treatment of Glaucoma.”

International Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Coffee Intake and Progression of Glaucoma.”

National Eye Institute: “Immediate Treatment Helps Delay Progression of Glaucoma.”

© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination