Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the nerve that connects your eye to your brain. This nerve is known as the optic nerve. Damage can occur when the pressure inside your eye (also known as intraocular pressure or IOP) is too high, or when it is low. However, if you develop glaucoma, your eye doctor may use eye drops to lower your eye pressure. In doing so, this helps reduces your risk of developing further damage.
You may be wondering, “what is a normal eye pressure?” While everyone’s eyes are different, most people have an eye pressure between 11-21 mmHg and will never have any damage to their optic nerve.
Eye drops, laser treatments, and surgeries are all effective ways to lower the pressure inside your eye to a safe level. With this in mind, glaucoma is most commonly treated with eye drops or a simple in-office laser treatment.
Glaucoma eye drops
Glaucoma eye drops are usually dosed once or twice a day and work by either reducing how much fluid is made inside your eye or increasing how much fluid drains from your eye. The fluid inside your eye, known as aqueous humor, is completely separate and unrelated to the tears on the front surface of your eye.
Like any medication, glaucoma eye drops have side effects. Fortunately for us, they’re usually minor and depend on the specific drop you are using. Common side effects include burning, stinging, and redness.
Once you start taking eye drops to treat glaucoma, you’re usually on them for the rest of your life (unless another treatment is performed). Unfortunately, if you stop taking your eye drops, they will stop working and your eye pressure will go up. This puts you at a higher risk for developing damage to your optic nerve and losing vision.
Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT)
On the other hand, SLT is just as effective as most glaucoma eye drops and only takes a few minutes perform. This laser treatment works by stimulating cells inside the eye to clean out the eye’s internal drain. In doing so, this allows more fluid to drain from the eye, reducing your eye’s pressure. I like to use the analogy that SLT is like cleaning out your gutters so they drain more effectively.
Eye damage from glaucoma
Unfortunately, once the optic nerve is damaged, it cannot be recovered. On the bright side, once diagnosed, the technology available today is good enough to prevent further vision loss. This is why compliance with your eye drops and eye doctor’s treatment plan is critical!
Lastly, if one eye drop or treatment is not enough to lower your pressure to an appropriate level, you may need more than one intervention.
Curious about which glaucoma treatment options are best for you? What are you waiting for? Make sure to schedule an appointment with your local eye care professional today!