Glaucoma Surgery: Long-Term Care

Your eye doctor most likely recommended glaucoma surgery to help preserve your vision and reduce your use of glaucoma eye drops. Once you’ve had glaucoma surgery, such as a trabeculectomy, you’ll want to do all you can to take care of your eyes for long-term success. The following information details how to care for your eyes over time after you have glaucoma surgery.

Picture of man smiling.
Maskot / Getty Images

Benefits of Surgery

Glaucoma surgery won’t cure your glaucoma. It won’t restore any lost vision, but it should help to lower your eye pressure. That can help maintain your remaining vision and decrease the chance that glaucoma will affect your vision any more than it may already have done.

The best thing you can do for your eyes after your recovery from surgery is to maintain all of your eye doctor appointments. Your eye doctor has special technology to measure how your glaucoma is progressing. Even if you don’t feel any difference in your eyes, and even if your glaucoma surgery was successful, make sure to show up for your regularly scheduled eye appointments.

Another reason that an eye doctor may have recommended glaucoma surgery was to lower your dependence on medicated eye drops. For example, you may have used three types of drops before surgery. Then, after surgery, you only use one type of drop.

Glaucoma eye drops often are used to lower your eye pressure. It can be hard to keep up with the schedule of using glaucoma drops every day. It also can be hard to get drops in your eyes properly.

After your glaucoma surgery, continue to use any drops as prescribed by your doctor, even if you are using fewer drops. The best way to get in the habit of using eye drops is to make them part of your daily routine.

Let your eye doctor or the staff know if you have trouble using the drops. They can instruct you on how to properly place drops in your eyes or refer you to online videos or articles that show the proper way to use your drops. Those instructions also can help any caregivers who administer eye drops if you aren’t able to do so yourself.

Possible Future Surgeries

Trabeculectomy, the most common type of glaucoma surgery, is effective in 60% to 80% of patients who have it. Success tends to be greater in those who haven’t had previous eye surgery. Tube shunt glaucoma surgery is effective in more than 50% of patients.

These surgical success rates mean that some patients will require another glaucoma surgery in the future. This could mean the same type of surgery, such as another trabeculectomy, laser procedure, or tube shunt procedure. Or, your eye surgeon may decide to perform a different glaucoma procedure than the one you had previously.

The goal of these additional surgeries usually is to lower your eye pressure and help preserve vision. Keep in mind that the risks associated with another glaucoma surgery are lower than the risk of losing vision from glaucoma.

Some patients who have had a trabeculectomy may require a type of procedure called a needling to release scar tissue at the original surgical site. One sign that a needling is required is increasing eye pressure.

Sometimes, glaucoma surgery is successful for several years, but then the eye surgeon must repeat the surgery again to help keep the eye pressure low. The 60% to 80% success rate for trabeculectomy, for instance, is for the immediate five years after surgery.

One side effect for some patients after glaucoma surgery is the formation of a cataract. A cataract is a cloudy lens. Cataract formation requires surgical removal. Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure in the U.S.

Glaucoma surgeons usually believe that cataract development is a minimal risk compared with the risk of vision loss from glaucoma. There are even surgeries that can be combined to remove a cataract and treat glaucoma in the same surgical setting.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Both before and after glaucoma surgery, there are some general good health practices you can follow to take care of your eyes. After all, the eyes aren’t an isolated part of your body. Your overall health choices also affect your eye health. Here are a few lifestyle guidelines to follow when you have glaucoma to provide better care for your eyes:

  • Ask your doctor if you should wear protective googles or special glasses while swimming or doing contact sports. These could help further protect your eyes while engaging in activities that might put them at risk.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods, including antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. These are good for eye health and your entire body.
  • Get active. Exercise isn’t just good for your physical shape. It’s also good for your eye health. Federal health guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise a week. You could break that down to 30 minutes, five times a week. Just be sure that bouts are at least 10 minutes in duration. Talk to your doctor first if you are new to regular physical activity.
  •  Try not to rub your eyes. This is important even if glaucoma drops irritate your eyes.
  •  Avoid smoking. If you have trouble quitting, ask your health providers for resources to help quit.
  •  Ask your eye doctor how much caffeine, if any, it’s safe for you to have.
  •  If you have diabetes, keep up with any regularly scheduled doctors’ appointments and eye appointments. You’re at higher risk for eye problems when you have diabetes.
  •  Do your best to manage stress.

A Word From Verywell

There are many more treatments and surgical options for glaucoma available now than in the past. If you keep up with your eye doctor appointments and use any medications as prescribed in the long term after your glaucoma surgery, you’ll go a long way toward preserving your vision and keeping your eye pressure in a normal range.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wills Eye Hospital. Trabeculectomy surgery for glaucoma.

  2. Glaucoma Research Foundation. Eye drop tips. Updated June 1, 2020.

  3. National Eye Institute. Glaucoma surgery. Updated June 26, 2019.

  4. UW Health. Tube-shunt surgery.

  5. Bright Focus Foundation. Glaucoma surgery series: Trabeculectomy. Updated April 23, 2018.

  6. Behrens A. Cataract surgery. Johns Hopkins Medicine

  7. Glaucoma Research Foundation. What you can do to manage your glaucoma. Reviewed April 13, 2020.

  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Current guidelines.

  9. Glaucoma Research Foundation. Diabetes and your eyesight. Reviewed Oct. 29, 2017.