Laser Surgery for Glaucoma: All Your Questions Answered
Glaucoma is not one disease but a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. This nerve is the facilitator between your vision and your brain. If the optic nerve gets damaged enough, you can lose your vision. In fact, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. But with regular eye exams, it can be caught early and treated effectively.
Although there is no cure for glaucoma, there are numerous treatments that can prevent it from progressing toward vision loss and impairment. One of those options is laser surgery.
Glaucoma usually occurs when fluid builds up in the front of the eye because of drainage issues. This fluid buildup increases the pressure in your eye, which can damage the optic nerve. Laser surgery helps relieve the pressure.
Do you have questions about whether laser surgery for glaucoma is right for you? Dr. Leonard Achiron and Dr. David O’Day, of Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center, can answer all of them.
What type of laser surgery is available to treat glaucoma?
There are many types of glaucoma, but the most common one, accounting for about 90% of all cases, is primary open-angle glaucoma. The latest and safest glaucoma laser surgery that treats open-angle glaucoma is Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT).
SLT applies laser energy to targeted cells, or pigments, on the drainage area of your eye. This selective targeting ensures that the surrounding cells are not touched.
Am I a good candidate for laser surgery?
If you have open-angle glaucoma and medicated eye drops are not working, or if you have problematic side effects from the medication, SLT may be a good option for you. Often, SLT is used as a first line of treatment. Drs. Achiron and O’Day can determine if you’re a good candidate for laser surgery.
How does SLT work?
SLT, introduced in 1998, is a minimally invasive procedure that targets tissue to help the eye drain better. It uses a lower level of energy and, therefore, does not cause scarring. This is an improvement over another version of laser surgery, called Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT), which uses high energy laser that sometimes can lead to scarring.
During SLT laser surgery, the targeted laser energy initiates a chemical reaction that results in better drainage, or fluid output, in the eye. Because there is no scarring, this procedure can be safely repeated a few times. SLT may be an alternative treatment to medication or can be used as a combined therapy with medication.
What are the risks of SLT?
As with any surgery, there are some risks. But overall, SLT has a low-risk profile with usually only minor side effects such as swelling or soreness. These side effects should go away on their own or with the help of eye drops.
There is also the risk of the surgery not being effective. The procedure is relatively pain-free, but you may feel some type of sensation in your eye and possibly see flashes of light. Talk to your doctors to learn more about the risks and side effects.
What should I expect after laser surgery?
The effects of surgery are not immediate. It usually takes about one to three months for you to experience the full benefits. Also, laser surgery is not a permanent fix. The benefits wear off after a few years. The surgery may be repeated, or you can take medications.