A laser iridotomy is used to treat closed-angle glaucoma

As talked about in a previous post, closed-angle glaucoma is a sudden increase in the pressure of the eye due to a blockage in the drainage channel for the eye. The blockage is usually causes when the iris, or colored part of the eye, shifts and covers the drainage channel, not allowing the fluid in the eye to drain. This is a very dangerous situation, known as an acute closed-angle glaucoma attack. It needs to be treated immediately. The symptoms of an acute closed-angle glaucoma attack are:

• severe ocular pain and redness
• decreased vision
• seeing colored halos
• headache
• nausea and vomiting

The procedure used to treat closed-angle glaucoma is known as a laser iridotomy. It is important for patients who are at risk for closed-angle glaucoma visit their eye doctor regularly. A patient that is at risk for closed-angle glaucoma should have a laser iridotomy before an attack occurs to prevent vision loss and possible complications. If a person does have an acute closed-angle glaucoma attack in one eye, it puts the other eye at risk for developing the same condition. Therefore, it is best to be proactive and have the surgery performed prior to an attack.

What happens in a closed-angle glaucoma laser iridotomy treatment?

The ophthalmologist performing the surgery, Dr. Annemarie Etienne, uses a laser to make a small hole in the iris. The small hole in the iris creates a new pathway for the fluid in the eye to reach the drainage channel. The new drainage hole relieves the pressure that is pushing the iris over the drainage channel and allows the iris to fall back to its normal position. This restores the balance between fluid production and drainage in the eye.

How long does laser iridotomy take?

A laser iridotomy is a very short outpatient procedure that takes around an hour to perform. The ophthalmologist performing the procedure will use eyedrops to numb the eye and a contact lens that acts as a precision guide for the laser. So the risk is very low, however, due to the numbing of the eye, it is recommended that patients have another person available to drive them home.

Any complications or risks involved in laser iridotomy to treat glaucoma?

The procedure is very low risk and pain free. The laser makes a hole that is about the size of a pinhead in the iris of the eye and that hole is covered by the upper eyelid. Complications are very rare but include:

• blurred vision
• minor bleeding
• light image streaking
• need for additional or different type of treatment
• inflammation

All risks and any questions should be talked over with your doctor. If you have glaucoma, or are at risk for developing glaucoma, please make an appointment to come in an see our glaucoma specialist today. Dr. Etienne can answer and questions you may have about treating the condition and preserving your vision.