Though glaucoma can cause severe and permanent loss of vision, early detection and treatment are generally quite effective for preserving your sight. Glaucoma is the term used to indicate any disorder of the eye that results in damage to the optic nerve; once damaged, there is no known way to repair the nerve. The best prevention for vision loss is to simply get an eye exam at least once per year, during which time common risk factors and indicators of glaucoma will be reviewed. If you have optic nerve damage or certain factors are evident that put you at higher risk for damage, your doctor may offer one of several treatment options.
Medication. Eye drops that help regulate the pressure inside the eye are generally the first line defense against glaucoma progression. These drops either increase the rate at which fluid drains from your eye or decrease the rate at which the fluid is produced. Though a number of side effects are linked to these eye drops, they are generally considered the safest and least intrusive treatment option. If drops fail or are contraindicated, your doctor may prescribe an oral medication with a similar function.
Surgery. If medications fail or you can’t use them for any reason, the next option is surgery. There are a couple of different types of surgery for glaucoma. In general, this involves creating a small hole in the eye itself or reopening the drainage canals in the eye to allow the fluids to drain more efficiently. In some cases, surgery has to be repeated several times in order to achieve the appropriate pressure.
Limits of treatment. According to the Mayo Clinic, “[Glaucoma] treatment and regular checkups can prevent visual loss in people with very early glaucoma. If visual loss has already occurred, treatment can slow or prevent further vision loss.” However, there is no known treatment that will restore vision that has already been lost due to glaucoma. For this reason, regular eye exams are essential, especially if you’re in a high-risk category for eye diseases or disorders. With early detection, glaucoma may be able to be treated before you have any noticeable vision loss.