Glaucoma treatments can lower eye pressure

Research Activities, June 2012, No. 382

Treatments for glaucoma—including medication, laser treatment, and surgery—can lower eye pressure, according to a new research review from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). It also finds that trabeculectomy, a common surgery for glaucoma, appears to be superior to other types of treatment, such as laser trabeculoplasty and medications to decrease eye pressure. However, compared to medications, surgery has more risk for complications. The risks related to medication use, most commonly eye irritation, do not cause vision loss. However, potential complications from surgery, such as cataract formation, can result in vision loss. A second research review summarizes evidence linking glaucoma screening to health outcomes. It finds that there is insufficient evidence to address whether glaucoma screening is effective in improving vision-related outcomes and that more research is needed to address the association between screening and quality-of-life outcomes.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, affecting over 60 million people worldwide. Open-angle glaucoma, the most common subtype of the disease, affects over 2.5 million people in the United States, with a prevalence of 4.6 percent, and 1.6 percent, among black and white people, respectively. In most cases, glaucoma is caused by increased pressure in the eye, which results in damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma is an asymptomatic disease that most patients do not notice until the onset of severe vision loss. There is no single test to identify people with glaucoma, which limits the establishment of preventive screening programs.

To view Screening for Glaucoma: Comparative Effectiveness or Treatment for Glaucoma: Comparative Effectiveness and other materials that explore the effectiveness and risks of treatment options for various conditions, visit AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program Web site.

Page last reviewed June 2012
Internet Citation: Glaucoma treatments can lower eye pressure: Research Activities, June 2012, No. 382. June 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.