Common Surgical Treatments for Glaucoma

Medical treatments can’t reverse vision loss caused by glaucoma. However, they can slow or prevent vision loss, especially when the eye disease is detected early. Depending on the type of glaucoma, treatment can involve prescription eye drops, oral medications or surgery.

Glaucoma treatment aims to improve eye fluid drainage and reduce pressure in the eye. It usually starts with prescription eye drops, sometimes in combination with oral medications. These treatments are intended to decrease the production of eye fluid or improve its outflow.

When conventional methods are unsuccessful in lowering eye pressure, ophthalmologists treat glaucoma with laser therapy or non-laser surgery. Like prescription medications, surgery is designed to decrease fluid production or increase outflow. Sometimes, a surgical procedure can accomplish both. Occasionally, surgery can eliminate the need for eye drops.

Laser Trabeculoplasty

Trabeculoplasty is one surgical treatment for glaucoma. During the procedure, an ophthalmologist uses a light beam to create small holes in the eye where the iris and cornea meet. This improves the outflow of eye fluid. The newest procedures create minimal heat damage to the surrounding eye tissue and can be repeated when necessary.

Trabeculectomy and Trabeculotomy

A trabeculectomy is the most common non-laser surgical procedure for glaucoma. During the procedure, an ophthalmologist makes a surgical incision in the eye’s drainage system to create new channels for fluid outflow. The procedure involves the partial removal of eye tissue. A trabeculotomy is a similar procedure, but it does not involve tissue removal.

Iridotomy and Iridectomy

In some cases, glaucoma is treated with a surgical procedure called an iridotomy. During this procedure, an ophthalmologist uses a laser to create a hole in the iris to improve fluid drainage. An iridectomy is a similar procedure that involves the surgical removal of part of the iris.

Shunts, Stents and Implants

Shunts and stents are small tubes that are surgically implanted in the eye to increase fluid drainage and reduce pressure. These devices create an alternate passageway that bypasses clogged or damaged drainage channels in the eye. Glaucoma implants can refer to shunts and stents, but they also describe small devices implanted into the eye to provide a sustained release of medication.

Complications and Risks

All surgical procedures carry some risks, and glaucoma surgery is no exception. Possible complications include eye pain, redness, inflammation, infection, abnormal changes in eye pressure, bleeding and vision loss. Despite the risks, these treatments are typically safe and effective and may eliminate the need for daily glaucoma medications.