Do Laser Treatments for Glaucoma Work?

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness worldwide. It’s called the silent thief of sight because it doesn’t usually have any symptoms in the early stages until significant vision loss has occurred. 

Fortunately, you can preserve your remaining vision and live a full life when glaucoma is detected and treated early. Keep reading to learn more about glaucoma and laser treatments for this progressive eye condition!

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that often cause a buildup of fluid in your eyes. The accumulation of fluid increases your eye pressure or intraocular pressure, also known as IOP. 

Over time, the high eye pressure damages your optic nerve. The optic nerve sends messages from your retina to your brain to create the images you see. 

Damage to the optic nerve causes permanent vision loss or blindness.

What is Open-Angle Glaucoma?

Inside the front section of your eye is a clear fluid called the aqueous humor. Your eye is constantly creating this fluid. At the same time, an equal amount of the fluid drains out through the trabecular meshwork in the drainage angle. 

The trabecular meshwork is the spongy tissue near the edge of your cornea. It allows the aqueous humor to flow out of your eye.

Your eye pressure rises when fluid can’t drain properly or there’s an overproduction of the aqueous humor. This is what happens in open-angle glaucoma.

Open-angle is the most common form of glaucoma. It tends to progress very slowly. So, there are usually no symptoms during the early stages. 

By the time you notice any changes in your vision, it’s often late in the disease, and extensive damage has already occurred. In the late stages of open-angle glaucoma, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Patchy vision loss in your peripheral or side vision
  • Trouble seeing things in your central vision

What is Angle Closure Glaucoma?

Angle-closure or closed-angle glaucoma is a rare but serious type of glaucoma that needs immediate medical attention. It develops when your cornea and iris move toward each other, closing the angle between them.

The closed angle completely blocks off the fluid’s access to your eye’s drainage system, which comprises the trabecular meshwork and uveoscleral drains, preventing the aqueous humor from flowing out. When the flow is suddenly blocked, fluid builds up rapidly and causes a dangerous rise in eye pressure. 

Closed-angle glaucoma is an emergency that can cause irreversible blindness in only a matter of hours. It requires prompt treatment to reduce damage to your optic nerve and preserve your remaining vision. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe headache
  • Eye redness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Halos around lights

What is Normal-Tension Glaucoma?

Sometimes, the optic nerve becomes damaged even when eye pressure remains within normal levels. This is known as normal tension or low-tension glaucoma.

Eye doctors still don’t know exactly why some people develop normal tension glaucoma. However, a lack of blood flow to the optic nerve or a very delicate optic nerve that could be easily damaged by normal eye pressure may be factors in this form of glaucoma.

Are Laser Treatments Available for Glaucoma?

The damage already caused by glaucoma can’t be reversed. However, there are effective treatment options that can slow or stop further vision loss, especially if glaucoma is caught early.

The goal of any glaucoma treatment, including laser treatment, is to lower intraocular pressure and slow the progression of glaucoma. Here are some of the most common laser treatments for glaucoma:

Laser Trabeculoplasty

Your eye doctor may suggest laser trabeculoplasty if you have primary open-angle glaucoma. The laser targets your trabecular meshwork, opening it up.

In turn, this increases fluid outflow and brings your eye pressure down. This simple yet highly effective procedure takes around five minutes to complete.

On average, laser trabeculoplasty lowers eye pressure by around twenty to twenty-five percent. Your eye doctor will need to assess the effectiveness of the treatment during your follow-up visits.

Laser Iridotomy

The fluid known as aqueous humor normally exits the eye through the trabecular meshwork after passing through the angle. However, if the angle is narrow, the fluid encounters difficulty in its passage, leading to its accumulation and the subsequent buildup of pressure within the eye.

Laser iridotomy treats narrow-angle or angle-closure glaucoma by creating a tiny hole in your iris using a laser. The new opening provides an alternative channel for fluid to flow out, which relieves the pressure inside your eye.

Endocyclophotocoagulation (ECP)

Endocycyclophotocoagulation is typically performed with cataract surgery to decrease pressure inside your eye. It works by delivering laser energy to the ciliary body. 

The laser energy alters the cells in the ciliary body so that they produce less fluid. You’ll have to wait about four to six weeks to know if the treatment worked.

Transscleral Cyclophotocoagulation (CPC)

Transscleral cyclophotocoagulation is another type of laser treatment used to reduce your intraocular pressure. The laser energy is applied to the ciliary body so that it produces less aqueous humor. 

During the procedure, the laser probe physically touches your sclera, which is the white of the eye. Then, it transmits laser energy to the ciliary body. 

Decreasing the amount of fluid the ciliary body produces helps lower intraocular pressure. The quick outpatient procedure lasts approximately three minutes. 

Like other glaucoma laser treatments, your eye pressure won’t go down immediately, so you’ll be examined by your eye doctor about a week after treatment.

Don’t Let Glaucoma Steal Your Sight

In most cases, comprehensive eye exams with your eye doctor at Sierra Nevada Eye Center is the only way to detect glaucoma early. Early detection and treatment will increase your chances of slowing the progression of this sigh-threatening condition and preserving your vision.

Is it time for you to be screened for glaucoma? Schedule an appointment at Sierra Nevada Eye Center in Reno, NV, today!


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