Treating and Preventing Glaucoma

Medications are available that can reduce eye pressure and prevent damage. Most are given as eye drops. Beta-blockers (e.g., betaxolol*, levobunolol, timolol), alpha2-agonists (e.g., brimonidine), and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (e.g., dorzolamide, brinzolamide) slow the production of eye fluid (aqueous humour), while prostaglandin analogs (e.g., latanoprost, travoprost, bimatoprost) and miotics (medications that contract the pupil, such as pilocarpine) improve drainage. Medications have to be used indefinitely, so many people with glaucoma end up opting for surgery or laser treatment.

The most common operation is laser trabeculoplasty, a painless 15-minute outpatient procedure. The laser is unfocused and harmless when it passes through the surface of the eye, but it concentrates its energy on the trabecular meshwork, shrinking it and reopening the holes. Many patients are able to stop using their glaucoma medications after this operation. There are other surgical procedures available if this doesn't work.

With early treatment, vision loss can be minimized or prevented. Because glaucoma isn't obvious, it's vital to get your eyes checked regularly, especially if you have any of these risk factors :
  • family history of glaucoma
  • African descent
  • myopia (nearsightedness)
  • previous eye injury
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • long-term use of prednisone, cortisone, or other steroids

If you are between the ages of 20 and 64 years, you should have your eyes checked every 1 or 2 years. From the age of 65 years onwards, you should have them checked every year. But if you have any of these risk factors, you should go as often as your eye care professional recommends.

*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

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