Eye Health

Updated 25 July 2018

Treating glaucoma

The appropriate course of therapy for glaucoma will take your unique factors into account.

The aim of treatment is to prevent further visual deterioration by slowing down or preventing damage to the optic nerve.

The only method that’s been proven to work is to reduce the intraocular pressure (IOP) – the pressure in the eye.

Fortunately, this makes glaucoma a treatable condition. 

The three main treatment options for glaucoma are:

  • Medication
  • Laser treatment
  • Surgery

Medication: The medication used in the treatment of glaucoma may be in the form of drops or tablets. These are used to reduce the pressure in the eye, either by decreasing the production of fluid or increasing the drainage of fluid. These medicines may have side effects, and typically require lifelong use. 

Laser treatment: Various laser therapies, which can be tailored to the type of glaucoma, are also available. The majority of laser treatments also aim to increase the drainage of fluid in the eye. Most laser treatments can be performed in the doctor’s rooms, but some require theatre admission. 

Surgery: The most common surgical procedure performed for primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is a trabeculectomy. This procedure reduces the pressure in the eye by creating a fistula (passage) to drain fluid from the inside of the eye. A variety of other surgeries make use of different surgical techniques and/or drainage devices. The reasons for surgery, and possible complications, should be carefully discussed with your ophthalmologist.

People with significant visual loss may also be assisted by low-vision aids.

These may include:

  • Special glasses
  • Magnifying lenses
  • Money-identifying devices

Reviewed by ophthalmologist Dr Tshilidzi van der Lecq. MBChB (UCT), Mmed (Ophth), FC Ophth (SA). March 2018.


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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