Laser trabeculoplasty is a surgical treatment to relieve pressure in the eyes of those with open-angle glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition that damages the eye’s optic nerve, typically due to abnormally high pressure that forms in 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 trabeculoplasty, an ophthalmologist uses a medical laser to create evenly spaced burn marks on the fluid drain of the eye. Somewhat surprisingly, these burn marks stimulate the drainage of aqueous fluid through the meshwork, reducing eye pressure and the possibility of vision loss.
Laser trabeculoplasty is often performed when open-angle glaucoma fails to respond to medication, or when treating older adults who are unable to take glaucoma medications. The procedure is usually attempted before more aggressive surgical treatments for glaucoma are performed.
Laser trabeculoplasty has been shown to lower eye pressure about 75 percent of the time. Over time, eye pressure may begin to rise again. Repeat treatments can be helpful, although the results are less reliable than the first surgery.
Laser trabeculoplasty is performed in the physician's office with numbing eye drops. The procedure itself lasts about ten minutes. There is no pain, but patients have reported a sensation of pinch in the eye being treated. A hospital stay is not required after surgery, and one or two follow-up exams will be necessary to determine if the procedure helped lower the eye pressure.