What Is Glaucoma Laser Surgery?

A.M. Boyle

People who suffer from glaucoma might have the option of undergoing glaucoma laser surgery to treat the condition. A laser uses a tiny but powerful beam of light to relieve the pressure caused by fluid buildup within the eye. The laser can eliminate blockages within a person’s eye or create alternate pathways for the fluid to drain. Glaucoma laser surgery usually will be recommended if a patient’s glaucoma is not adequately controlled by medication such as pills or eye drops.

Any kind of eye surgery comes with a certain amount of risk for complications.
Any kind of eye surgery comes with a certain amount of risk for complications.

This procedure usually is done in an eye doctor’s office or outpatient clinic. Generally, a patient will be given drops to numb the eye and will be seated in front of a special lamp called a slit lamp, to which the laser is attached. The doctor typically will insert a special contact lens into the patient’s eye, which will help to guide the laser. During the procedure, the patient will see flashes of colored light but should not experience any pain or discomfort.

Laser eye surgery can be used to treat glaucoma .
Laser eye surgery can be used to treat glaucoma .

There are three types of glaucoma laser surgery, each designed to treat a different type of glaucoma. The first type is laser iridotomy, and it is used to treat angle-closure glaucoma. For this procedure, a tiny hole is created in a person’s iris, which is the colored part of the eye, to help the fluid drain more consistently and thus relieve the pressure within the eye.

The second type of glaucoma laser surgery is laser trabeculoplasty, which is designed to treat open-angle glaucoma. It is designed to clear blockages inside a person’s eye that might be preventing the fluid from draining properly. For this procedure, the laser is used to clear away clogs along the trabecular meshwork within a person’s eye, thus allowing fluid to drain through.

Cyclophotocoagulation is the third type of glaucoma laser surgery, and it is used for individuals who have severe glaucoma. In this procedure, the laser is aimed at the ciliary, the part of a person’s eye that makes the fluid. The ciliary is intentionally damaged so that it will make less fluid.

After surgery, a patient might experience some swelling and a feeling of itchiness or grittiness in the eye. The patient might also experience blurred vision and sensitivity to light. These symptoms generally subside within a few days. Although laser surgery can be very helpful in treating glaucoma, the success of the procedure might depend on other factors, such as the patient’s age, the shape of the eye and whether there are other diseases present, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Additional treatments might be necessary, depending upon the severity and persistence of a patient’s glaucoma.

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