Help and frequently asked questions

Are there treatments for glaucoma?


Treatments for glaucoma are available, but it is vital to seek medical advice as soon as you begin noticing symptoms. This is because any vision loss you have already experienced cannot be reversed. Glaucoma is a condition that typically affects both eyes and is caused when the drainage tubes within the eye become blocked. These tubes - known as the trabecular meshwork - help the fluid in the eye drain properly. When they are blocked, pressure builds up in the eye and can damage the optic nerve or the nerve fibres in the retina. These parts of the eye are essential for transferring information to the brain, making them an important part of your sight.

What treatments are available?

Early diagnosis is the best way to prevent glaucoma from developing into a serious condition. Many of the treatments for the disease aim to reduce pressure in the eye, which can be achieved in several ways.Eye drops: Your eye specialist will typically prescribe eye drops in cases where glaucoma is in the early stages or is developing slowly. You must remember to use the eye drops regularly, even if feel you have not experienced any vision loss.If you usually wear contact lenses, you may need to switch these out for glasses as eye drops can build up on the lens and damage your eye. There are a number of different eye drops that serve various purposes:

  • Prostaglandin analogue: Usually used once a day, these increase the flow of aqueous humour - the fluid in the eye. This reduces pressure.
  • Beta-blockers:  These are thought to slow the production of vitreous humour (fluid in the eye) and should be used once or twice a day.
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: These also cause the eye to produce less aqueous humour (eye fluid) and can be applied up to three times a day.
  • Sympathomimetics: Can reduce pressure in the eye by slowing production of aqueous humour and boosting flow of the fluid from the eye. May need to be used cautiously if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.Some of the eye drops may have side effects, so it is important to consult with a specialist to ensure you receive the right treatment for your circumstances.

Are there surgical options for glaucoma?

There are surgical treatments available if your glaucoma symptoms do not improve using eye drops.Laser treatment: An ophthalmologist may try to open up the blocked drainage tubes using a high-energy laser. The laser will be shone through the lens and makes small holes in the tubes. This should improve fluid drainage and lower pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure). Another laser option is to destroy tissues in the eye that produce aqueous humour. This serves a similar function to some eye drop solutions, with less fluid leading to lower pressure build-up.Laser treatments are typically painless and fairly quick, but you may still need to use eye drops following the procedure.

  • Surgery: Several surgical options exist, although a trabeculectomy is the most common. This removes part of the drainage tube network to improve fluid flow.However, other surgical treatments include:
  • Deep sclerectomy: An operation where a small device is implanted into the eye to widen the drainage tubes.
  • Aqueous shunt: A shunt is a device that helps fluids to drain quicker.
  • Viscocanalostomy: This removes a small section of the sclera (the white of the eye), which allows fluid to filter out of the eye and into the body.The treatment your eye specialist chooses for your condition will often depend on the type of glaucoma you have and how quickly it is likely to continue developing.