Glaucoma affects more than 3 million people in the U.S., the majority of whom are more than 40 years old, with 95 percent of these people having the most common form of this eye condition -- open-angle glaucoma. Glaucoma is more common in African Americans and Hispanics, especially those over 65, than in non-Hispanic whites. While there is no cure and any damage to the eye is permanent, there are some treatments available to help limit the vision loss glaucoma can cause. New advances in glaucoma treatment may help limit the need for traditional surgery to treat glaucoma.

Daily Eye Drop Alternatives

One of the first glaucoma treatments prescribed is daily eye drops. These eye drops can sting and be a bit painful, and people don't always use them as directed. In fact, at least half of people don't actually take their glaucoma medications. Because of this, researchers are trying to develop alternatives. There are already some combination eye drops that limit the number of different eye drops a patient needs to use. This makes the routine simpler and can improve compliance, as otherwise, it's necessary to wait five minutes in between administering each type of eye drop. Now researchers are attempting to develop slow-release devices, such as contacts or flexible hoop inserts, that would get rid of the need for medicated eye drops altogether. This could greatly increase adherence and limit the number of people who go blind from glaucoma.

Traditional Surgery Alternatives

Should eye drops not be sufficient, the next step is oral medications. After that, it used to be a traditional surgery called trabeculectomy was the next step. Only about 50 percent of those who have this surgery are able to stop taking their medications, although it does help somewhat in another 40 percent of patients even though they still need their medication.

Recent advances in glaucoma treatment include laser surgery, which is less risky and has a shorter recovery period than traditional surgery, and MIGS, or minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. With a MIGS surgery, a tiny device is implanted into the eye to improve drainage and limit the pressure in the eye that damages the nerve and causes vision loss. These devices can be added during cataract surgery or in a stand-alone surgery, both of which are safer than trabeculectomy surgeries. Laser surgeries can sometimes be performed more than once should the effects start to wear off, but most types can only be performed two or three times before needing to try another treatment alternative.