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12-02-2008, 01:36 PM
Managing Your Glaucoma: A Long and Winding Road

Glaucoma Insights from Linda J. Greff, MD

You have just been diagnosed with glaucoma. Your eye doctor may have given you a prescription for eye drops. Perhaps your glaucoma requires laser eye treatment or even surgery. What can you do to manage your eye condition over the long term?
The one most important thing you can do is to see your eye doctor for regular check ups. Most forms of glaucoma do not have any symptoms until advanced stages so you usually will not be able to tell how your glaucoma is doing. Your doctor will check not only your IOP (intraocular pressure) but will also use other specialized tests to monitor your glaucoma. Regular check ups with your eye doctor are the key to managing your eye health.
What about between check ups? If you are taking drops to manage your glaucoma, it is important to use them according to your doctor’s directions. Studies with glaucoma patients have shown that many people don’t use their drops as directed, often not spacing them properly or not using the drops until just before their doctor’s appointment. Also, refill your prescription when you run out of your drop(s) unless directed otherwise.
Follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Be sure you understand the directions. Be honest with your doctor if you have forgotten to take your drops or if you are unable to afford them. Communicate any concerns or even fears you may have. Your eye doctor is your partner in treating your glaucoma.
As time goes by, make it a point to discuss your treatment plan with him or her to determine whether any changes might be required in order to further reduce your IOP or to reduce unwanted side effects. Tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions and report any new medications. Eye drops are real medicine and can interact with other drugs.
Be informed. Make sure you understand what kind of glaucoma you have. Read brochures and websites about glaucoma and consider joining a local glaucoma support group.
Let your family know. Not only can family be supportive but they should know to have their eyes checked regularly by an eye care professional — relatives of people with glaucoma are known to be at higher risk for the disease.
Practice a healthy lifestyle. Take walks and exercise regularly. Eat healthy foods. Your overall health is just as important as taking care of your eyes. Making healthy choices, seeing your eye doctor for check ups and following your recommended course of treatment will help you to continue to live your life fully.

Linda J. Greff, MD is a board certified specialist at the Cincinnati Eye Institute and an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati. She completed glaucoma fellowships at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, and at New England Glaucoma Research Foundation.