Glaucoma Surgery Series: The Risks and Benefits of Glaucoma Surgery

This article explores the potential risks of glaucoma surgery and explains why the benefits outweigh risks for most advanced cases.

Glaucoma is a chronic, progressive deterioration of the optic nerve (the bundle of nerve fibers at the back of the eye that carry visual messages from the retina to the brain). It is usually caused by or worsened by pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure, or IOP) that is too high for the continued health of the nerve. The only proven treatment of glaucoma is lowering of IOP in order to prevent or to slow down the damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma treatment usually begins with medications or laser techniques, but when these have failed or are not tolerated, your ophthalmologist may suggest surgical procedures. The delicate, microscopic incisional methods include trabeculectomy with or without ExPRESS microshunt implantation, tube shunt (glaucoma drainage device) implantation, and cyclophotocoagulation. There are also newer procedures called MIGS, or minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. Each has its own special uses, advantages and disadvantages. In this article we will discuss the risks and benefits of glaucoma surgery.

Benefits Typically Outweigh Risks for Most Advanced Cases

There are risks with any type of surgery, and the risks for glaucoma surgery are discussed in this article so that you can have an open dialogue with your ophthalmologist. It is important to note, however, that glaucoma surgery is very successful at substantially slowing the progression of glaucoma and achieving the intended eye pressure. Furthermore, if glaucoma is inadequately treated, it is almost certain that vision will be lost.

Although glaucoma surgery can prevent further vision loss and on rare occasions improves vision, damage that has already occurred as a result of glaucoma is considered permanent and not yet reversible.

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