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How can early stage glaucoma be treated with medication or surgery?

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Quick Answer

The treatment for early-stage glaucoma usually begins with prescription eye drops, Mayo Clinic says. If the drops do not control the pressure in the eye, the doctor may prescribe pills in addition to the drops. Patients who do not respond to these treatments may have surgery.

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The eye doctor may prescribe one or more different eye drops, depending on the type and severity of the glaucoma, Mayo Clinic states. Because the medication eventually gets into the blood stream, patients can have side effects unrelated to the eyes, such as frequent urination, fatigue, high or low blood pressure, and heart problems.

If the glaucoma doesn't improve with eye drops, doctors often add prescription pills, Mayo Clinic says. They can cause stomach upset, kidney stones and depression.

If a patient cannot tolerate the pills and eye drops, or if the treatments do not bring down eye pressure, the doctor may operate, Mayo Clinic reports. Sometimes patients must undergo more than one surgery to achieve lowered pressure.

Patients can help reduce the eye pressure with some lifestyle changes, including avoiding caffeine, which in high amounts increases pressure, Mayo Clinic says. Patients should avoid drinking more than a quart of liquid at a time and eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Studies have found that regular exercise may reduce pressure in patients with open-angle glaucoma.

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