Laser iridotomy is a surgical procedure used to treat closed-angle glaucoma.
This laser procedure is also performed in patients who are at risk for closed-angle glaucoma. As with many medical conditions, it is preferable to treat patients at risk and thereby avoid vision loss.
WHAT IS CLOSED-ANGLE GLAUCOMA?
Like other forms of glaucoma, closed-angle glaucoma has to do with pressure inside the eye. A normal eye constantly produces a certain amount of clear liquid called aqueous humor, which circulates inside the front portion of the eye. It’s function is to give nutrition to different parts of the eye. An equal amount of this fluid flows out of the eye through a very tiny drainage system called the trabecular meshwork, thus maintaining a constant level of pressure within the eye.
There are two main types of glaucoma. The most common type is open-angle glaucoma, in which fluid drains too slowly from the eye and causes a chronic rise in eye pressure. In contrast, closed-angle glaucoma causes a more sudden rise in eye pressure. In closed-angle glaucoma, the drainage angle may become partially or completely blocked when the iris (the brown part of the eye) is pushed over this area. The iris may completely block the aqueous fluid from leaving the eye, much like a stopper in a sink. In this situation, the pressure inside the eye can rise very quickly and cause an acute closed-angle glaucoma attack.
Because raised eye pressure can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss, a closed- angle glaucoma attack must be treated immediately. Even a few hours of very high eye pressure can lead to permanent vision loss.
Unfortunately, individuals at risks of developing closed-angle glaucoma often have few or no symptoms prior to the attack. Some early symptoms in people at risk for closed-angle glaucoma include episodes of blurred vision, halos, headache, mild eye pain or redness.
People who are at risk for developing closed-angle glaucoma should have a laser iridotomy. Many common medications, including over-the-counter cold medications and sleeping pills (and any other medication that can dilate the pupil), should be avoided until after the laser procedure is completed. If one eye has an attack of angle closure glaucoma, the other is at risk and will need treatment.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING LASER IRIDOTOMY?
Using a laser, a small hole is made in the iris to create a new pathway for aqueous fluid to drain from your eye. The new drainage holes allow the iris to fall back into its normal position, restoring the balance between fluid entering and leaving your eye and lowering the eye pressure.
The surgery is performed by your eye care worker on an outpatient basis, usually in his or her office. Your eye will be numbed with eyedrops. A contact lens is placed on your eye to serve as a precise guide for the laser. A hole about the size of a pinhead is made in your iris , and will be concealed from view by your upper eyelid. The actual procedure will only take a few minutes. You should plan to have someone drive you home afterwards.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS INVOLVED?
Complications following laser iridotomy are uncommon; however, some patients may experience some side effects, including:
The risks and side effects of glaucoma treatment are always balanced with the greater risk of leaving glaucoma untreated which will lead to blindness.