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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. Take this form(What is a PDF document?) with 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 things, including whether you have been using medicines to treat your glaucoma. Other things 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 medicine. Discuss with your doctor all the options for treating your glaucoma. Get a second opinion if you are not sure why or if you need surgery.

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?

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 medicine fails to lower the pressure in the eyes, trabeculectomy surgery may be offered.

If you have both open- and closed-angle glaucoma, you may need more than one kind of procedure.

What kinds of anesthetic are used?

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

What are the risks of surgery?

The risks vary for each type of surgery or laser treatment.

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 medicine for glaucoma after successful surgery. But you may be able to cut down on the number of drops or amount of medicines you use for glaucoma after surgery.

How long is the surgery good for?

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

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Current as of February 28, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 28, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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