Treating glaucoma, the “thief of sight,” from Harvard's Aging Eye Special Health Report

Published: January, 2010

Glaucoma is sometimes called the "silent thief of sight" because it creeps up unnoticed in its early stages. The attack, when it finally comes, damages vision. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, threatening one in 50 people over age 40. Yet early diagnosis and treatment can almost always save vision. The Aging Eye: Preventing and treating eye disease, a Special Health Report from Harvard Health Publishing, describes when and how people should be tested for glaucoma and outlines treatment options, including medications and surgery. It also gives important tips on how to apply eye drops — a mainstay of glaucoma therapy.

The most common form of the disease, open-angle glaucoma, stems from the gradual accumulation of fluid inside the eye. This raises pressure inside the eye and damages the optic nerve. Eye drops, topical ointments, or sometimes pills are used to reduce eye pressure. This can slow or halt the advance of glaucoma. Since eye pressure fluctuates during the day, it is important to take these medications on the recommended schedule and not skip any doses. If a pressure-reducing medication stops working or has little effect, surgery may be an option. Procedures such as an operation called laser trabeculoplasty can ease the buildup of pressure inside the eye.

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