Glaucoma Laser - Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty
This handout was written to explain laser treatment for glaucoma. If you have questions or concerns, please call the number listed at the end.
The Purpose of Glaucoma Laser Treatment
Glaucoma laser is used to lower the pressure in the eye. By lowering the eye pressure to a safe range, we can prevent further damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye.
How Laser Works
The part of the eye where fluid normally drains out is a sponge-like meshwork. By treating this meshwork with laser, we can stretch it in such a way as to enlarge its tiny openings. This allows fluid in the eye to drain more easily. Pressure in the eye is lowered.
How Effective Is Laser?
Glaucoma laser lowers pressure in about 80% of people. This decrease in eye pressure tends to lessen in time to about 50% in five years. Laser is slightly more effective than any of the eye drops taken for glaucoma.
Risks of Laser
The major risk of laser is a rise in eye pressure for a short time. Special drops (different from the ones used on a daily basis) are used one hour before the laser treatment in order to prevent such a rise. A very small number of people (2%) will have a rise in pressure that requires other medicine and, very rarely, surgery. This change in pressure should not affect your vision.
Other risks include mild redness and swelling of the eye. This is treated with drops for one week after the treatment. Rarely, you might have tiny bleeds in your eye or changes in the cornea. This will only last a short time. Often, vision is slightly blurred for 1-2 hours after the laser because of the gel used. Sometimes, there is slight discomfort after the treatment.
How Laser Is Done
- One hour before the laser, eye drops are given to you to prevent a rise in pressure and to make the treatment easier to perform. Some people have a mild headache for a short time after one of these drops.
- Just before the laser treatment, a drop is placed in the eye to make it numb.
- A special contact lens is placed on the eye to direct the laser light to the correct part of the eye. This lens also prevents blinking and helps to steady the eye. A lubricating gel is used on the lens to make contact with the eye.
- The laser is switched on. You will see a blue light. During the treatment, pulses of light (bright flashes) are given while the contact lens is slowly turned. You may feel stinging, but there is no real pain from the laser.
- After the treatment, the gel is washed out of the eye with rinsing liquid. Several more eye drops are applied to prevent swelling and a rise in pressure.
- One hour after the laser treatment, the pressure in the eye will be checked. You will be given a prescription for steroid eye drops to be taken 4 times a day for 5 days. Once home, all of your other glaucoma medicines should be continued.
- You will come back to the clinic for a pressure check in 4-6 weeks. It often takes weeks for the laser to have its full effect.
- Most people notice some blurred vision for an hour or two after the laser. This is mainly because of the gel still in the eye. Some people also feel a slight discomfort in the eye. You may take Tylenol®.
If you have questions or concerns or if you notice more pain or loss of vision than has been described, call (608) 263-7171. Ask to speak with your doctor. During the evenings and on weekends, the answering service will direct your call to the ophthalmology doctor on call. Give the answering service your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942 and ask for the Eye Clinic.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 12/08/2009
Copyright © 12/08/2009 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4580
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