If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma, you’re probably already familiar with the typical options in glaucoma treatment – eye drops, laser treatment, or traditional surgery. While these are certainly effective, especially when glaucoma is diagnosed early, researchers have been working hard to offer new glaucoma treatments. Their goal is not only to improve outcomes but also reduce the treatment’s side effects and frequency of use.
Before we dive into the new options, it’s important to understand the goal of any glaucoma treatment. At present, glaucoma is not curable. However, treatment can significantly slow the progression of the disease. Glaucoma results in damage to the optic nerve due to increased pressure inside the eye. Reducing this pressure is the primary objective of any glaucoma treatment.
Eye drops for glaucoma treatment seem like an easy option but there are several challenges that can reduce their effectiveness. Eye drops can be difficult to get in the eye, they must be applied once or more per day, and some can have side effects like burning or red eyes.
Beyond eye drops, laser surgery is a less invasive option. The laser opens clogged tubes and drains fluid. It can take a few weeks to see the full results. If laser surgery or drugs don’t relieve your eye pressure, you may need a more traditional operation. Although usually effective, glaucoma surgery can make you more likely to get cataracts later on. It can also cause eye pain or redness, infection, inflammation, or bleeding in your eye.
Alternatives or Improvements to Eye Drops
The Glaucoma Research Foundation reported several new developments on the horizon. These technologies focus on reducing patient error in applying eye drops, which would make the medication more effective and improve the quality of life for the patient. Here are some of the products underway:
A polymer, like a contact lens, would contain the drug; it would sits under the eyelid and release the medication over several months
Implantable extended-release devices
Drops that allow the medication to get into the eye more easily
Tear duct plugs that release medication
Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) procedures are small cuts or micro-incisions through the cornea that cause the least amount of trauma to the surrounding tissues. Doctors implant a tiny device to allow fluid to drain from the eye, reducing internal pressure. Some devices are implanted during cataract surgery. Cataract surgery alone lowers pressure, but the combination of both is more effective and can lower the need for medication.
These new techniques minimize tissue scarring, allowing for the possibility of traditional glaucoma surgery in the future if needed. They also give doctors the opportunity to treat patients earlier and more safely than older surgeries.
If you have a glaucoma diagnosis, you can feel confident that your glaucoma treatment options are only going to improve in the years ahead. Although the disease is not curable, it is very manageable with the right treatment.