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Treatments for Glaucoma

by Mary Calvagna, MS

The management of glaucoma depends on the type, the underlying cause, and the severity of the disease. Treatment may involve medications, in the form of eye drops or oral drugs, laser procedures, or surgery.

Glaucoma cannot be cured. The focus and goal of treatment is to control the disease and prevent or slow any further visual damage from occurring.

An important recent advance in the treatment of glaucoma is the release of results from The Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study. Published in the June 2002 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, this study showed that using glaucoma eye drops was effective in delaying or preventing the onset of primary open-angle glaucoma in patients with increased intraocular pressure (IOP). Another important study, entitled "Reduction of intraocular pressure and glaucoma progression: results from the Early Manifest Glaucoma Trial," was published in the October 2002 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology. This study concluded that progression of glaucoma occurs less frequently and usually at a later time in patients treated with glaucoma drops than in patients who do not receive treatment. However, some people in the study who did not receive any treatment did not progress either.

It should be noted that in some cases, the physician and patient may decide not to treat glaucoma at all. The reason for this is that treatments for glaucoma are often expensive and associated with many side effects. Glaucoma is generally a slowly progressive disease. For some patients diagnosed with glaucoma, there is little chance that the disease will progress significantly enough to cause noticeable problems within the patient's lifetime. These patients, with the guidance of their physicians, may decide that the side effects of treatment are not worth the risk compared to the small chance that they will ever develop problems from glaucoma without treatment. Therefore, the treatment for glaucoma is determined on an individual basis.

Treatment involves the following:

Lifestyle changes


American Academy of Ophthalmology

National Eye Institute

Last reviewed September 2003 by Marc Ellman, MD

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