Glaucoma: Is Laser Eye Surgery the Right Option for You?
Glaucoma is an eye condition that can cause pain, headaches and nausea, vision interference and blind spots. Unfortunately, around 5% of glaucoma patients go on to lose their sight completely. These symptoms are caused by excessive fluid in the eye, which causes a pressure build-up.
Glaucoma is a very common condition. As many as 2% of elderly Americans have glaucoma, although it affects all ages to a lesser degree. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, if you are of African, Hispanic or Asian heritage, or if you have a family history of glaucoma, then you are more at risk than most.
Thankfully, there are available treatment options for glaucoma. If patients are treated in the early stages of the condition, the outcomes are often very good. Treatment can stop a patient’s eyesight from deteriorating further, and postpone the visual field loss. There are no treatments, however, that can reverse the damage that has already occurred. This is why it is important to get your eyes checked regularly after your 40th birthday, and to seek help at the first signs of glaucoma.
Laser eye surgery is one option offered by eye specialists in Dubai. Read on to explore whether it might help you.
What is laser eye surgery?
LASER stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” Various types of lasers are used in ophthalmology. The choice is made according to the type of eye disorder being treated.
The most commonly used lasers by eye doctors work by sending a powerful electric current through a tube. This tube contains either a gas, like argon or krypton, or a solid material called neodymium-YAG. A reaction causes energy to be produced, which causes the laser to emit a light beam. The eye surgeon magnifies this through a microscope. They are then able to use the laser to cut, or to coagulate (thicken) or dissolve eye tissues.
Laser eye surgery has revolutionized ophthalmic treatments over the last three decades and it has become a very routine treatment. Technological improvements mean that eye doctors have been able to expand the range of laser treatments available. More and more people are being treated with lasers for a range of eye conditions. No doubt, the future will bring even greater advancements in this area, and that even more patients will benefit.
How does laser eye surgery work for glaucoma patients?
The type of laser therapy chosen will depend on which kind of glaucoma you have been diagnosed with.
Open Angle Glaucoma
There are no early signs of this form of glaucoma, but it is possible for an ophthalmologist to diagnose it through examination. Usually, the first stage of treatment is through oral medication or eye drops. This often proves adequate enough to control pressure in the eye and prevent the condition from getting worse.
If medication does not succeed, then laser surgery may be used to improve drainage of fluid from the eye. A technique called trabeculoplasty is used. It is designed to improve the drainage angle within the eye so more fluid can escape. This should lower pressure and treatment is usually very successful.
Angle Closure Glaucoma
If you have angle closure glaucoma, you will be treated first by medication, either pills or eye drops. If this is not adequate for controlling your condition, then you may be offered a laser treatment called iridotomy.
Iridotomy involves making a tiny hole in the iris of the eye. This allows for better fluid circulation and lowers pressure.
How will I benefit from laser eye surgery?
If your prescribed medication for glaucoma is not working, then laser eye surgery often provides the solution. Your eye surgeon is able to work with a great deal of precision so success rates are good. Laser eye surgery will usually prevent your glaucoma from worsening. Your symptoms should ease and your eyesight will not usually deteriorate further as a result of glaucoma.
However, like all treatments, laser eye surgery does not succeed every time. It may not permanently treat the condition for everyone undergoing this treatment. Sometimes it works well initially, but the effects wear off over time. In other cases, the treatment may not achieve the desired result the first time. When this happens, you might be recommended further laser treatments, or there are other surgical options to explore.
The chance of success is greatly influenced by your cooperation with your eye doctor’s instructions. You must follow their advice on how to look after your eyes after surgery and attend all your scheduled appointments. It is likely that you will still need to take medication after laser treatment.
Is laser eye surgery uncomfortable?
In the vast majority of cases, laser eye treatment is undertaken in your ophthalmologist’s office as a day case. It is a fast and convenient option. You can return to your normal way of life very quickly, often as early as the next day.
Furthermore, laser eye surgery is relatively painless. Eye drops are used to numb the eye during the procedure. Most patients describe mild discomfort only post-treatment. This is almost always remedied by further eye drops prescribed to you.
Is the treatment safe?
Laser eye treatments are considered to be very safe. Ophthalmologists are able to work with great precision. This is a non-invasive treatment and infection rates are very low.
Occasionally, patients experience glares, but these usually resolve themselves. More serious side effects are very rare but will be discussed with you before your treatment appointment.
Should I opt for laser eye surgery for my glaucoma?
If you have been recommended laser eye surgery for your glaucoma, then you should seriously consider this option. Often, it is because oral medication and eye drops are not working well. You need to act quickly to prevent your eyesight from worsening.
Your eye doctor can discuss the risks and benefits for your individual case. For almost all patients, the risks associated with laser eye treatment are small, especially when compared with more invasive eye surgeries. All risks are also usually greatly outweighed by the benefits to your vision.
Make an appointment with your ophthalmologist to discuss laser eye surgery for glaucoma as soon as possible. They will help you explore your options further.
Dr. Millicent M. Grim, Specialist Ophthalmologist & LASIK Specialist, is the Medical Director of Gulf Eye Center in Dubai. Since 2002, Gulf Eye Center’s highly qualified ophthalmologists and optometrists/ODs have been successfully treating a wide range of eye conditions using advanced techniques. They also provide comprehensive eye care and vision restoration procedures for people of all ages.