Laser treatment is a popular option for glaucoma, but it can come with certain risks. Swelling and pain are common side effects, and there is a small chance of developing cataracts after some types of laser surgery. However, the potential advantages of the procedure often outweigh any risks. In the United States, laser trabeculoplasty is usually given to patients after they have unsuccessfully tried drops.
However, research suggests that it may be more effective if done before the drops are used. Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) has a low risk of angular scarring, which occurs in less than 3% of eyes treated with this procedure. A variety of lasers can be used to reduce eye pressure by limiting the ability of the ciliary body to produce fluid. Laser surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis in a doctor's office or hospital clinic and have a higher safety profile than more traditional glaucoma surgeries.
Glaucoma surgery can prevent further vision loss and, in rare cases, even improve vision. Unfortunately, any damage that has already occurred due to glaucoma is considered permanent and is not yet reversible with medications, laser surgery, eye stents, or MIGS. Lasers produce a focused beam of light that can cause a burn or very small opening in eye tissue, depending on the intensity of the light beam. Most people with open-angle glaucoma who require treatment are candidates for laser trabeculoplasty.
Glaucoma surgery may be combined with cataract surgery if cataracts are having a moderate to significant impact on vision. It's important to discuss all your questions or concerns about laser surgery with your eye doctor before undergoing the procedure. If laser surgery or medications don't relieve eye pressure, you may need a more traditional operation. How long your intraocular pressure stays lower depends on the type of laser surgery, type of glaucoma, age, race, and many other factors.