If a routine eye exam reveals that you are developing glaucoma, your ophthalmologist will conduct additional tests that will measure eye pressure, inspect the eye’s drainage system, test peripheral vision, examine the optic nerve, and possibly take photographs of the eye for future comparison.

While damage already caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed, the treatment will be to lower eye pressure to a level at which no more damage takes place. There are three general treatment options.

2 million Americans are visually impaired by glaucoma; 1 million more have the disease but don’t know it.


Medication, in the form of eye drops, is the first line of therapy for both open– and closed–angle glaucoma. Medications are used to either slow down the production of fluid or improve the drainage of fluid within the eye. Patients usually start with one drop and then add additional drops if necessary and as directed. Like other medications, these prescription eye drops can produce side effects. Your ophthalmologist will choose the best medicine to lower the eye pressure while trying to avoid possible side effects.

Laser Surgery

The laser is used in two ways depending on the type of glaucoma a patient has. For open–angle glaucoma the laser treats the drainage system to make it more efficient in draining fluid from within the eye. In closed–angle glaucoma the laser creates a hole in the iris (colored part of the eye) to improve the flow of fluid to the drainage system.

Operative Surgery

Operative eye surgery is usually the last resort when medication and/or laser surgery have incompletely controlled the eye pressure. Your ophthalmologist uses surgical instruments to create a new drainage channel for the fluid to drain from the eye. While surgery has more risk than medicines or laser surgery, your ophthalmologist may determine that it is safer to operate than to allow the optic nerve damage to continue.

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