For individuals recently diagnosed with glaucoma, the first thing they want to know is how to prevent glaucoma from worsening. That’s certainly understandable since glaucoma doesn’t currently have a cure and can lead to blindness if untreated.
Fortunately, those with glaucoma can greatly slow the progression of this disease by following their eye doctor’s individualized treatment plan. The field of ophthalmology has made great strides in the last decade. Not only discovering more treatment options but validating their effectiveness with long-term studies and offering less invasive methods.
Let’s talk about the goal of glaucoma treatment, the options available to you, and how to make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect your vision.
What is the goal of glaucoma treatment?
When the fluid in your eye (called aqueous humor) doesn’t drain properly, it can build up, damaging your optic nerve. This is what eye doctors believe causes glaucoma, although there could be other factors at work. Therefore, the goal of glaucoma treatment is to reduce damaging intraocular pressure to your optic nerve by improving the flow of fluid in your eye or reducing the production of fluid.
What are my glaucoma treatment options?
Your eye doctor will likely want to start with the least invasive options first, and then monitor your eye pressure, the health of your optic nerve, and your vision to see if the treatment is working to slow the progression of glaucoma. Here are the four primary categories of glaucoma treatment:
Prescription Eye Drops
Prescription eye drops are the most common treatment, but your eye doctor may also prescribe these drugs in pill form. There are many different kinds, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about any drug interactions or if you’re having side effects. Many glaucoma patients need to use eye drops indefinitely. Make sure you’re comfortable administering them because they’re a key step in preventing glaucoma from worsening.
Glaucoma Laser Surgery
If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma at a later stage (and therefore need to reduce your eye pressure more quickly), your ophthalmologist may suggest laser surgery. Laser surgery is also a good option if you’re unable to use prescription eye drops due to a drug interaction or difficulty administering them.
Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS)
A newer set of procedures, commonly called MIGS, offers another alternative to traditional surgery. However, while MIGS offers a safer procedure, it achieves only modest eye pressure reduction. Therefore, MIGS are usually recommended for patients with early to moderate stage glaucoma. In some cases, it’s combined with cataract surgery.
Traditional Glaucoma Surgery
If the glaucoma treatments above aren’t successful in reducing eye pressure, your eye doctor might recommend traditional surgery. Procedures like trabeculectomy and drainage implant surgery have been used for many years with success. However, surgery always has risks, so it’s usually a last resort.
What else can I do to prevent glaucoma from progressing?
In addition to the medical treatments above, there are many lifestyle changes that can help you lower your eye pressure, thus slowing the progression of glaucoma. The Review of Ophthalmology recommends the following:
- Do some aerobic exercise
- Limit or quit cigarette smoking
- Eat a diet high in antioxidants and low in fat
- Avoid excessive caffeine
- Consider taking a magnesium supplement
They also advise telling your eye doctor if you do yoga (as head-down positions can be problematic), if you play a wind instrument, take any antihypertensive medications, have (or might have) sleep apnea, or experience migraines. These are all things that can help your eye doctor create a treatment plan that’s appropriate for you.
Finally, it should go without saying that you should visit your eye doctor regularly for check-ups to monitor the progression of glaucoma and follow his/her instructions for any treatment.
Now that you know how to prevent glaucoma from worsening, hopefully, you feel more confident and empowered to keep your eyes healthy for years to come. When treated properly, glaucoma is a manageable disease.