Swedish has the expertise and resources to provide advanced treatment for all kinds of vision problems — including glaucoma. Our surgical and laser-treatment facilities are fully equipped. And our highly skilled ophthalmic surgeons, nurses and technicians bring a high level of experience and teamwork to every surgical procedure, as well as a commitment to providing the best care possible.
Appointments & Referrals
To schedule a routine eye exam, or consult with a physician about surgery, contact a Swedish ophthalmologist.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a buildup of pressure inside the eyeball that produces gradual and irreversible vision loss. There are different kinds of glaucoma, including primary open-angle glaucoma (the most common form), angle-closure glaucoma, narrow-angle glaucoma and congenital glaucoma.
What causes glaucoma?
First, it's important to understand something about the anatomy of the eye. In a healthy eye, a clear nourishing liquid is constantly circulating around the iris and inside of the cornea, then draining back into the bloodstream via tiny holes surrounding the iris. Glaucoma occurs when these drainage holes become clogged or blocked, and the eye begins to take in more fluid than it lets out. Pressure inside the eyeball builds and causes irreversible damage to the delicate fibers in the optic nerve.
Who gets glaucoma?
Glaucoma can develop in anyone at any point in his or her life. However, it is more common in people over 45, as well as Asians and African-Americans. It is also more prevalent in people who have one or more of these risk factors:
- Family history of glaucoma
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Early heart attack
Is treatment necessary?
Yes. Early diagnosis and treatment are absolutely essential because the progressive blindness caused by glaucoma is irreversible. Treatment is necessary to lower eye pressure and prevent further damage to the optic nerve.
What are the treatment options?
Eyedrops and medications are the most common treatments for glaucoma. However, if these treatments produce side effects or become ineffective at controlling eye pressure, your ophthalmologist may recommend one of several different laser treatments or surgery, depending on the kind of glaucoma that has been diagnosed. These advanced treatments are used to either open the drainage holes or make a new drain.
What's involved in laser treatment?
During these procedures, you will be sitting down while your chin rests on a special stand in front of the laser. The procedures are completely painless.
Trabeculoplasty – Patients with chronic open-angle glaucoma are usually good candidates for a laser procedure known as a trabeculoplasty. During this procedure, your ophthalmologist will focus a green-light laser beam on the clogged drainage holes. The intense heat of the laser will shrink some areas while stretching others to allow fluid to drain more easily.
Laser iridotomy – This procedure is a nonsurgical alternative for treating narrow-angle glaucoma and the definitive treatment for angle-closure glaucoma. During the procedure, your ophthalmologist uses a laser to create an opening in the iris that clears the blocked passageway.
What's involved in surgical treatment?
The most common surgical treatment is called a trabeculectomy. It is typically used to treat open-angle glaucoma when laser surgery is not successful. During this procedure, your ophthalmologist will use a high-powered microscope and precision instruments to create a small opening in the sclera (white membrane on the back of the eye). This opening allows the fluid to drain from the eye. Patients are awake for this type of surgery, but receive numbing medications to make the procedure painless.
How safe is treatment?
There are risks with any type of surgical procedure. However, glaucoma surgery is relatively safe. And with the increasing use of antiscarring agents and various postoperative techniques, complications from the surgical treatment of glaucoma are becoming much more rare.
Laser procedures used to treat glaucoma are also considered relatively safe. In fact, they typically result in fewer side effects than the medications used to treat glaucoma. And unlike invasive surgery, laser treatment poses no threat of infection. The most common complication of laser treatment is a temporary rise in the eye's intraocular pressure.
How long can I expect the laser treatment or surgery to last?
Laser treatments for glaucoma usually take between 10 and 20 minutes. Surgery takes about an hour.
Will treatment fully restore vision?
Unfortunately, it will not. With glaucoma, the objective of treatment is to prevent further vision loss. Damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible.
How much discomfort should I expect right after treatment and in the days to follow?
If you undergo a laser procedure, you should not experience any postoperative discomfort. If your glaucoma is treated surgically, you may experience some minor discomfort in the days following your procedure.
What happens after treatment?
You'll most likely go home after a short stay in the recovery area of the Swedish Eye Center. If you had a laser procedure, your vision may be slightly blurry for a couple of hours. Once home, wait for any blurred vision to subside before resuming your normal routine.
If you had surgery to treat your glaucoma, you should plan on resting for the remainder of the day. Your ophthalmologist may advise you to avoid lifting and other strenuous activities for a few days. For the most part, however, you'll be able to resume normal daily activities almost immediately.
Will I need any follow-up visits?
Your ophthalmologist will probably want to see you within a day or so of your surgery to check your eye pressure and monitor your healing.