Laser iridotomy is a surgical treatment to relieve pressure in the eyes of those with closed-angle glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition that damages the eye’s optic nerve, typically due to abnormally high pressure that forms in the eye. Blind spots in vision occur as elevated pressure destroys nerve fibers that make up the optic nerve.
Pressure in the eye rises to harmful levels when a fluid called aqueous humor, which helps keep the eye healthy, cannot drain — or drains too slowly — from the front of the eye. Open-angle glaucoma, which affects 90 percent of glaucoma sufferers, causes no symptoms in its early stages. As the disease progresses, it causes loss of peripheral vision — a slow disappearance of side vision that occurs so gradually as to be difficult to notice and can produce a tunnel-like field of central vision
During laser iridotomy, an ophthalmologist uses a medical laser to create a hole on the outer rim of the iris. This hole allows aqueous fluid to flow freely between the chambers of the eye, thereby reducing eye pressure and vision loss. The ophthalmologist may recommend laser iridotomy as a preventive measure before glaucoma even occurs.
Laser iridotomy is also performed as an emergency treatment during an acute closed-angle glaucoma attack. In these cases, the iridotomy quickly reduces eye pressure and the likelihood of damage to the optic nerve. After the emergency treatment, a second iridotomy is usually performed on the other eye to prevent an attack from occurring there.
Laser iridotomy is performed in the physician's office with numbing eye drops. The entire procedure lasts about 10 minutes. Most patients do not feel any pain, although some have reported a sensation of heat in the eye being treated. A hospital stay is not required after surgery, although one or two follow-up exams will be necessary.