As a glaucoma specialist I often prescribe medication to lower patients' eye pressure. Glaucoma is a disease that can lead to permanent vision loss when the pressure in the eye is too high. Most patients with glaucoma do not have any symptoms until it is very advanced. The vision loss from glaucoma occurs very slowly over the course of many years. Once treatment for glaucoma is established, the goal is to keep the disease process stable. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease but there are different treatment options available.
Often a patient will stop taking their glaucoma medication because they don’t see a difference with the treatment or feel they are getting worse with the drops. In fact, sometimes the eye drops can cause burning, redness or a transient blurring of vision causing patients to discontinue their treatment without discussing it with their eye doctor. It is essential that the patient discuss these side effects with their doctor and look for an alternate drop or treatment if they are unable to tolerate their current regimen. It is important to understand that even if you feel that the medication may not be working well to continue to treat the glaucoma.
Some patients have trouble remembering to take their medications. Using the drops once in a while can cause wide fluctuations in pressure that may be harmful for the optic nerve. The only way to prevent further damage is by using them as prescribed. If you have trouble remembering the drops then speak with your doctor so you can come up with a schedule that may be easier for you to remember.
I always ask my patients to be honest about how and when they are taking their medications. Some patients take their drops only when they go to the doctor. This can be confusing for the physician because the patient’s exam and tests may show that the glaucoma is worse but the eye pressure readings during the visit seem adequate. The doctor then may decide that the goal eye pressure should be lower and may recommend more medication, laser or surgery.
Glaucoma medications are important to save your sight but they only work if you take them. If for any reason you are having trouble taking them please discuss this with your doctor. They can help find a solution for you.
Guest Blogger: Roslyn Stahl, M.D. Glaucoma and Cataract Surgeon at The Eye Care & Surgery Center