Are There Alternatives to Drops for the Treatment of Glaucoma?


Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is one of the major risk factors for glaucomatous damage to the optic nerve. It has now been well established in large clinical studies that reducing IOP slows the progression of glaucoma.  Topical glaucoma drops help to reduce eye pressure either by increasing the outflow of aqueous fluid (the fluid within the eye) and/or decreasing the production of aqueous.  Topical drops are typically well tolerated and often are the initial treatment of choice. However, for some patients they can be cumbersome and difficult to apply.  There are minimally invasive IOP lowering procedures such as laser trabeculoplasty or minimally invasive glaucoma surgery that may also be offered as early treatment options. Discussions with a glaucoma physician can help to determine what treatment may be best for you. 

New sustained release drug delivery systems are an exciting alternative being actively studied and may be available in the near future.  Additionally, there is some indirect evidence that suggests healthy habits such as exercise and a diet with a high omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio may help protect the ocular nerve fiber layer.  Additional research is needed to confirm these findings. Some patients also ask about marijuana use in glaucoma. Research has shown that active ingredients of marijuana can lower IOP. However, the significant negative side affects and very short duration of action of these substances make this a poor treatment alternative. See link below for the official statement from the American Glaucoma Society on marijuana use and glaucoma:

http://www.americanglaucomasociety.net/patients/position_statements/marijuana_glaucoma