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Glaucoma treatment

Find out how glaucoma can be treated, along with the risks and the benefits

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of conditions that cause damage to your optic nerve. Often this is caused by a build-up of fluid, which creates an increase in eye pressure. Because the optic nerve is the part of your eye that carries images from your retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye) to your brain, optic nerve damage can seriously affect your vision.

People of all ages can be diagnosed with glaucoma, but it is most often experienced by older people. It is most common in people aged 40 and over.

Glaucoma is a common condition and has the potential to be very serious. It can lead to blindness if it is not treated early. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma or believe you have symptoms of glaucoma, it's important to speak to an eye specialist as soon as possible. While you can't prevent glaucoma, there are various treatments that prevent the side effects of vision loss and blindness.

At Circle Health Group, we have a network of experts who can help you to find the right treatment for your glaucoma, including consultant ophthalmologists and consultant ophthalmic surgeons. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, call or book online today. You can usually get an appointment within 48 hours.

Different types of glaucoma

There are several different kinds of glaucoma. The most common type of glaucoma is primary open angle glaucoma, which occurs when fluids in the eye build up because the drainage channels become blocked over time.

Primary angle closure glaucoma (also known as acute angle closure glaucoma) happens when these channels become blocked quickly. This type of glaucoma typically needs immediate treatment.

Other types include secondary glaucoma, which is usually caused by another eye condition, and childhood or congenital glaucoma, which occurs in children, although it is very rare.

Glaucoma can be slow to develop, and the signs of glaucoma may not be immediately obvious until the condition has progressed. It is often discovered during a routine eye test. You might experience blurry vision, coloured rings around bright lights or issues with your peripheral vision.

In rare cases symptoms can come on quickly, causing intense eye pain and head pain, nausea, vomiting and blurred vision. It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible in these cases.

There are several glaucoma treatments available, including glaucoma medications, laser therapy and operations. Your doctor will discuss the different options for treating glaucoma with you and help you to find the best solution that works for you.

Initial treatments for glaucoma

Most people will find that their glaucoma can be successfully managed using conservative and non-invasive methods.

Eye drops

Medication in the form of eye drops is often recommended as a first treatment to reduce the high eye pressure. However, if they do not work, then surgery or laser treatment will be recommended.

Eye injections for glaucoma

Your doctor can administer medicine for glaucoma into your eye using a syringe. This is a quick and easy way treatment and often can improve your symptoms. If it is not effective, surgery or laser therapy will be suggested.

Laser treatments for glaucoma

There are a number of different types of laser treatment for glaucoma, including:

YAG laser iridotomy

This uses a laser to create a small hole in your iris, allowing excess fluid to leave your eye, relieving your symptoms in turn.

Before the procedure begins, you will be seated in front of a laser machine. Anaesthetic drops will be administered to numb the front of the eye.

A special lens will be positioned against the front area of your eye. The YAG laser is then directed toward the lens to create a small hole in your iris (the coloured part of your eye). This is known as an iridotomy. This hole is typically created on the upper edge of your iris to allow fluid to move across your iris and through your trabecular meshwork (the drainage system of your eye).

During laser iridotomy surgery, you can expect to hear some clicking noises from the laser, but this is nothing to worry about. You might experience slight pain that lasts no more than a second. The laser treatment for each eye can take around five to 10 minutes to perform.

After your laser iridotomy, you will be prescribed eye drops to minimise any inflammation from the laser. You might have slightly blurred vision for the first few hours following the procedure. Your eye could also feel bruised and you could have blurred vision, which can take a couple of days to resolve.

Cyclodiode laser treatment

This uses a laser to eliminate the section of your eye tissue responsible for producing watery liquid. This can also help alleviate eye pressure.

Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)

This procedure uses a laser to open the drainage tubes in your eyes, allowing fluid to drain out of your eye, reducing any intraocular pressure (pressure in your eyes).

Laser energy is applied to the drainage tissue in the eye, encouraging it to drain fluid better. A 'cold laser' is used, meaning that its energy only affects certain tissues. This means that it causes minimal pain and scarring.

This laser treatment is often successful in reducing pressure in the eye, though its results can reduce over time, meaning that the treatment often needs to be repeated after a few years.

iStent Inject

The iStent Inject device is in fact two small – very small, they're the smallest things currently implanted into the human body and one fifth the size of a grain of rice - stents which are added to the eye. A stent is a small method of holding open tissue to allow the passage of liquid through it. The stents are inserted into in the same area as the eyes' natural drainage system.

The iStent Inject stents are made of titanium and work by creating and holding open very small extra holes in that natural drainage system of the eye. The extra and unwanted pressure inside the eye - which may lead to glaucoma - is drained through the eye's natural pathway.

This is a type of minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS).

Glaucoma surgery

In severe cases, glaucoma surgery will be recommended. This will usually be a procedure called a trabeculectomy, which involves draining some of the fluid in your eye out to lower the pressure.

Your surgeon will make a small draining hole in the lining of the white of your eye. The fluid will drain out into a space in the outer lining of your eye and collect just under your eyelid.

The operation usually takes between 45 minutes and an hour. You should be able to go home a few hours after the operation. However, your doctor may recommend that you stay in hospital overnight.

Glaucoma will not improve on its own and can cause blindness if it is not treated. The risks of glaucoma treatment should be weighed up against the risks of no treatment. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your condition.

Invasive glaucoma treatment is more likely to cause side effects and problems than less invasive treatments. Risks of surgery and laser therapy include:

  • Loss of sight
  • Bleeding
  • Issues with eye pressure
  • Infection
  • Formation of cataracts

At Circle Health Group we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant best suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about treatment for glaucoma, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in February 2023. Next review due February 2026.

  1. Glaucoma treatments, NHS
  2. Glaucoma, National Eye Institute
  3. Laser iridotomy, NHS
  4. Minimally invasive glaucoma treatment options,

Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) for glaucoma

Consultant ophthalmologist Mr Mamun Rahman shares key information about selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) for glaucoma, which is a highly effective type of non-surgical treatment for glaucoma.

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