Cost of Glaucoma Treatment
Glaucoma is an incurable eye disease that often requires lifelong management to prevent blindness. Treatments can be costly. A 2014 article in Glaucoma Today reported the estimated direct cost of early glaucoma treatment was about $600 per year, with end-stage glaucoma treatments costing up to $2,500 annually.
The actual price of treating glaucoma depends on the type and on your geographic location. Our office offers financing options for our Tampa Bay area patients, and insurance may cover some costs. Glaucoma treatment is also eligible for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA).
Types of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause increased eye pressure and damage to the optic nerve. There are four primary glaucoma types, including:
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of this eye disease in nine out of 10 patients. You may not experience any symptoms until vision loss occurs, and it typically affects peripheral (side) vision first. The cause of open-angle glaucoma is unknown and happens when pressure builds inside the eye and can’t drain fast enough, increasing pressure and leading to optic nerve damage. Open-angle glaucoma will eventually cause blindness, and high blood pressure and diabetes are high-risk factors for this form.
This type of open-angle glaucoma is more common in people of Japanese descent or with a family history of normal-tension glaucoma and in people with heart problems and low blood pressure.
Also called narrow-angle or acute glaucoma, this form is considered a medical emergency. It’s imperative to seek medical attention if you experience the sudden onset of intense eye pain, nausea, red eye(s) and blurry vision. Closed-angle glaucoma happens when the edge of the iris blocks fluid from flowing out from the eye, creating a quick spike in eye pressure that can cause blindness in mere days. Laser treatment and medicine are required to drain the excess fluid and lower intraocular pressure.
One in 10,000 children may be born with this type of glaucoma that prevents fluid from draining out of the eye normally. Infants may have cloudy eyes, excess tear production, larger eye sizes and light sensitivity. Early surgical intervention can typically avoid permanent vision loss.
Secondary glaucoma may be the result of another condition and can require special treatment.
Glaucoma Treatment Options
Your glaucoma treatment will be unique to your circumstances and may include oral medicines, prescription eye drops, laser treatment, surgery or a combination of these options. Prescription eye drops are often the first treatment method for early glaucoma and work to decrease intraocular pressure and enhance drainage from the eye. Some eye drops may lower fluid production in the eye to manage eye pressure. You may be prescribed multiple eyedrops and oral medications for optimal management.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty
Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) is a procedure for open-angle glaucoma and may be offered instead of eye drops or in combination with them. SLT is a relatively new glaucoma treatment that uses low-energy light in brief pulses to target the pigmented cells (cells that contain melanin) in the trabecular meshwork. The trabecular meshwork is a sponge-like tissue near the cornea that filters the fluid out of the eye and is the area of greatest resistance for drainage.
Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgeries (MIGS)
These are a group of procedures that are less invasive than traditional glaucoma surgeries and work to lower eye pressure and protect the optic nerve. MIGS mitigates many of the risks of standard glaucoma surgery and could be a good option for mild to moderate cases.
These procedures include microtrabeculectomy, trabecular surgery, suprachoroidal shunts and fluid-reduction surgeries. MIGS may not prevent the need for traditional glaucoma surgery later on but provides a surgical option for people who previously had to wait for the disease to progress to qualify for invasive treatment.
Laser iridotomy is the first-line treatment for angle-closure glaucoma. It’s used as a preventive measure for eyes at risk of vision loss from the sudden spike in intraocular pressure. The procedure creates a hole outside the iris to widen the drainage angle between the cornea and iris to expose the trabecular meshwork and restore proper drainage. Laser iridotomy can preserve your remaining vision and halt disease progression but does not work for all cases and may require further laser surgery and treatment.
Filtration surgery is an option for open-angle and closed-angle glaucoma and can dramatically decrease eye pressure to save your remaining vision. The procedure makes a small channel to improve fluid outflow using microsurgical equipment. An opening in the sclera (white portion of the eye) allows fluid drainage to bypass the trabecular meshwork, and the hole is covered by a flap that controls outflow. The draining fluid collects in a small blister called a bleb and is absorbed by the blood vessels under the upper eyelid.
Filtration surgery has a high success rate, but some patients require additional surgery and treatment to maintain results or lower eye pressure even further.