No More Eyedrops: Glaucoma Patients May Best Benefit From Laser Surgery

Good news for glaucoma sufferers-the best first treatment for the eye disease may be laser surgery. For people with the disease, this may come as a relief since sufferers to-date have been relying on the eyedrop as the initial treatment.

In a study of patients in the national Glaucoma Laser Trial (GLT), sponsored by the National Institute of Health’s Eye Institute, researchers found that laser treatment was as effective as treatment with eyedrops.

The follow-up study, which was conducted over a span of seven years, looked at laser’s effect on patients’ visual field, acuity, intraocular pressure and optic nerve. As reported in the American Journal of Opthalmology, the comparison between treatments of eyedrops and laser surgery showed virtually no difference in effectiveness between them.

Open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, affects about three million Americans. Small changes in the eye gradually interfere with the normal flow of fluids that feed tissues in the front of the eye. Because the fluids don’t drain properly, the higher pressure in the eye can damage the optic nerve and narrow the field of vision. This is a slow process, so many people are not diagnosed with glaucoma until they have lost a significant amount of vision.

Dr. Hugh Beckman of Sinai Hospital in Detroit chaired the GLT study, and concluded that, “initial treatment with laser is at least as effective as initial treatment with eyedrops.”

Before you rush to the laser surgeon, though, be forewarned that glaucoma is a long-term disease that must be controlled over a lifetime. And, while laser surgery offers many benefits, it also carries with it some side effects. Happily, these effects are temporary, and seem to be less troublesome than the longer term side effects of eyedrops.

Along with the knowledge and information available about the disease, sufferers now have one more viable defense against glaucoma.

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