Doctors may recommend eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment, or surgery for glaucoma. These interventions can help reduce eye pressure and protect the optic nerve from further damage. However, they cannot restore lost vision.

Doctors cannot repair optic nerve damage, meaning that if someone loses their vision due to glaucoma, they cannot regain it. While there is no cure for glaucoma, early diagnosis, and careful monitoring are necessary to slow the progression and preserve a person’s remaining sight. Treatment options may differ based on the severity of the condition, the individual, and the type of glaucoma.

Read on to learn more about the treatment options for glaucoma.

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Prescription eye drops are the most common type of treatment for glaucoma.

They work by lowering the pressure in the eye and preventing damage to the optic nerve. Eye drops cannot cure glaucoma or restore lost vision but can prevent the condition from worsening.

Some eye drops lower pressure in the eye by helping fluid to drain from the eye. This type includes:

  • prostaglandins, such as:
  • rho kinase inhibitors, such as netarsudil (Rhopressa)
  • nitric oxides, such as latanoprostene bunod (Vyzulta)
  • miotic or cholinergic agents, such as pilocarpine (Isopto Carpine)

Other eye drops reduce eye pressure by limiting the volume of fluid the eye makes. This type includes:

  • Alpha-adrenergic agonists, such as:
    • apraclonidine (Iopidine)
    • brimonidine tartrate (Alphagan P, Qoliana)
  • Beta-blockers, such as:
    • betaxolol (Betoptic)
    • timolol (Betimol or Timoptic)
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, such as:
    • dorzolamide (Trusopt)
    • brinzolamide (Azopt)

Some potential side effects of eye drops for glaucoma include:

  • blurred vision
  • stinging, itching, burning, and redness in the eye
  • changes in eye color or the skin around the eye
  • dry mouth
  • headaches
  • changes in energy levels, heartbeat, or breathing

Doctors rarely prescribe pills to treat glaucoma.

However, if the pressure in the eye is too high, it could require emergency treatment, in which case eye drops will not work fast enough. Instead, doctors may prescribe an oral medication called acetazolamide (Diamox) to help protect the person’s eyesight. Acetazolamide reduces the volume of fluid that the eye produces, rapidly lowering the pressure.

Common side effects of acetazolamide include:

In rare cases, people can develop Stevens-Johnson syndrome. It occurs due to immune system overactivity and causes blisters or peeling in the eyes, skin, mouth, or throat.

In some cases, acetazolamide may not work or be unsafe, so alternatives include oral glycerine or intravenous mannitol.

Laser treatment helps to drain fluid and lowers the pressure inside the eye. It can work for certain types of glaucoma. For instance, doctors can treat open-angle glaucoma using a simple and noninvasive laser procedure called trabeculoplasty.

Potential side effects of laser treatment for glaucoma include:

  • soreness
  • swelling
  • scratching or drying of the cornea, the transparent front layer of the eye, which heals in time

Doctors might recommend surgery to treat glaucoma when the abovementioned methods have been unsuccessful.

Surgery does not repair lost vision but can stop it from deteriorating further. The different types of surgery for glaucoma include:

  • Trabeculectomy: This procedure involves creating a tiny opening in the top of the eye — under the eyelid — which allows excess fluid to drain away.
  • Glaucoma implant surgery: It involves implanting a tiny tube (or shunt) onto the white of the eye, helping excess fluid to drain out.
  • Minimally invasive glaucoma (MIGS) surgery: These procedures use specialized instruments and devices to create tiny incisions to encourage eye drainage. MIGS tend to carry a lower risk of complications than other surgery types. Surgeons often perform this type of surgery in conjunction with cataract surgery.

Possible side effects and risks of glaucoma surgery may include:

  • swelling
  • soreness
  • cataract, which is clouding on the lens of the eye
  • issues with the cornea
  • excessively low eye pressure
  • vision loss

Below are some common questions about glaucoma:

How long does it take for glaucoma to go away?

Glaucoma does not go away. However, with early treatment, a person can halt further eye damage and vision loss.

A person with glaucoma may benefit from regular visits to an eye specialist called an ophthalmologist.

Can I live a normal life with glaucoma?

It is possible to live a typical life with glaucoma. With the appropriate care and regular checkups, a person with glaucoma can manage the condition well.

More than 90% of people with glaucoma who get treatment can live the rest of their life with a useful level of sight. This statistic refers to the U.K. population.

Treatments for glaucoma may include eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment, or surgery. They aim to lower pressure in the eye by helping excess fluid to drain from the eye. While doctors cannot cure glaucoma, treatments can prevent further eye damage and preserve vision.

Early diagnosis and regular checkups with an ophthalmologist are vital in choosing the right treatment option. As with all medical interventions, each treatment option has potential side effects. Some side effects of glaucoma treatment include pain or swelling in the case of surgery and laser treatment, stinging eyes with eye drops, and abdominal pain with oral medications.