Basics of Glaucoma
More than 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma. Glaucoma is a complicated eye disease in which the optic nerve gets damaged due to high eye pressure. If it’s not treated properly or is ignored glaucoma can lead to progressive, irreversible loss of vision. Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the world today.
Glaucoma is incurable, but it can be managed through drug therapies. However, when medication fails to lower the eye pressure, or causes severe side effects, surgery is recommended. In some cases, doctors might recommend surgery as the first course of treatment.
Glaucoma surgery is typically categorized two ways: laser surgery; and incisional surgery. Your ophthalmologist will take into consideration the type of glaucoma you have, its severity, and your general eye health before deciding which type of surgery is most suitable for your condition.
Surgery can stabilize vision by lowering the eye pressure, but it cannot cure glaucoma or reverse any loss of vision which has already occurred.
The following is a brief overview of glaucoma laser surgery and incisional surgery, and what to expect during recovery.
Doctors ordinarily recommend laser surgery unless pressure in the eye is extremely high or the damage to the optic nerve is severe.
During this procedure, the eye surgeon improves the drainage system of the eye using a highly focused beam of light. The patient feels no pain during the surgery, as the eye is numbed. A special lens is held to the eye and the laser beam is directed into it.
Immediately after the surgery you may experience blurry vision and some irritation of the eye. Many patients are able to resume normal activities within a day or two after the surgery. However, most doctors recommend patients not lift anything heavy, refrain for any strenuous activity, or do any significant bending for at least two weeks.
Your eye doctor may recommend incisional surgery for any of the following three conditions:
- Extremely high eye pressure
- A severely damaged optic nerve
- Failure to lower eye pressure with laser surgery
During incisional surgery, a small drainage hole is made in the sclera to allow intraocular fluid to bypass the clogged drainage canals and allow the fluid flow from the eye, helping reduce eye pressure.
Shortly after incisional surgery, patients may experience irritation, redness, and increased watering or tearing. Recovery time for incisional surgery is typically longer as compared to laser surgery. Most patients recover in two to four weeks. In some cases, however, recovery time might be longer – up to 2 months.
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