Questions to ask about glaucoma surgery

Whether to have glaucoma surgery is a joint decision between you and your doctor. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of surgery for you. The following are some questions that you may have about surgery for glaucoma.

When should I have surgery for glaucoma?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including whether you have been using medications to treat your glaucoma. Other factors to consider in making the decision will include whether the pressure in your eyes has remained high and your vision has gotten worse despite treatment with medication. Discuss all the options for treating your glaucoma with your doctor. Get a second opinion if you can.

Where should I go for surgery?

Where you should go for surgery depends on what type of surgery you need. Some procedures, such as laser trabeculoplasty, can be done in the doctor's office or without being admitted to the hospital. If you need conventional surgery, you will need the procedure done in a hospital or walk-in (ambulatory) surgical center.

What type of surgery should I have?

It is not unusual for some people to have both open- and closed-angle glaucoma and, therefore, they may require more than one kind of procedure.

Surgeries for glaucoma can be used to increase the drainage of fluid from the eye, prevent closure of the drainage angle, or decrease the amount of fluid produced by the eye. When treatment with medication fails to lower the pressure in the eyes, trabeculectomy surgery may be offered. See the Surgery section of this topic.

What kinds of anesthetic are used?

Most laser treatments for glaucoma need anesthetic that is applied to the eye (topical local anesthetic). For some surgeries, the anesthetic may instead be injected behind or around the eyeball (retrobulbar or peribulbar anesthesia). In many eye procedures done today, peribulbar anesthesia is used more often than retrobulbar anesthesia. General anesthetic, which puts you to sleep, is not often needed for eye surgery.

Injected anesthetics and general anesthetic can both have dangerous side effects, although these side effects are rare. To prevent dangerous side effects from anesthetics, topical local anesthetic is used whenever possible.

What are the risks of surgery?

The risks vary for each type of surgery or laser treatment. See the Surgery Choices section of this topic.

Will I have pain after surgery?

After most procedures for glaucoma, there is only mild discomfort. Severe pain after surgery for glaucoma may be a sign of complications.

Will I be able to stop using eyedrops for glaucoma after surgery?

Many people will need to continue using medication for glaucoma after successful surgery. However, you may be able to cut down on the number of drops or amount of medications you use for glaucoma after surgery.

How long is the surgery good for?

Some types of surgery, such as iridectomy, last for life. However, if complications develop or glaucoma worsens, additional surgery or treatment may be needed.

Last Updated: May 23, 2008

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