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Laser Surgery for Glaucoma

What is it?

  • Laser surgery is a treatment to help control glaucoma (glaw-KO-muh). You may need it if your glaucoma medicines are not helping to keep your eye pressure low enough. You may also have it as a first treatment of glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease. A clear fluid flows through passages inside your eye all the time. With glaucoma, these passages get clogged or blocked. When this happens, fluid in your eye builds up and causes too much pressure inside the eye. Too much pressure against the optic nerve can lead to damage and loss of your vision (sight).
  • Laser surgery uses a tiny, powerful light beam to help your eye drain fluid more easily. By making holes or shrinking clogged areas of the eye, laser surgery can help decrease your eye pressure. Glaucoma laser surgery is usually done at a doctor's office or outpatient surgery clinic. One or both eyes may be done. You should be able to see right after the surgery. Your eyes may feel itchy or "gritty" and swollen, but these feelings should go away in 1 or 2 days. You may be sensitive to light and have slightly blurred vision as your eyes heal. It may take 3 to 4 weeks for your eye pressure to decrease as much as it should after surgery. You may need to take glaucoma medicines even after your laser surgery.
    Picture of a normal eye

Can laser surgery help the type of glaucoma I have?

Laser surgery may not work for every kind of glaucoma. Your eye doctor will do eye tests to learn about your glaucoma. Your doctor may use several kinds of treatments to control it. Treatments may include special eye drops, pills, and laser surgery. Any vision you have lost because of glaucoma will not return, even after laser surgery. The pressure decreasing results of laser surgery vary from person to person. Laser surgery may help control your eye pressure for a period of time, then wear off slowly over time. The following things affect how successful your laser surgery may be:

  • Your age.
  • How your eye is built, and the type of glaucoma you have.
  • If you have had glaucoma laser surgery before.
  • If you have other diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

What happens during laser surgery?

You will be given eye drops to numb your eyes. You will sit in a chair in front of a slit lamp. The laser machine is attached to the slit lamp. Your doctor may use a face holder to help keep your head still during surgery. Your doctor will put a special contact lens on your eye to aim the laser on the areas to be treated. During the treatment, you will see flashes of colored light. Laser surgery may be done one time, and then again at a later date. You may have one of the following types of laser surgery:

  • Laser Trabeculoplasty (truh-BEK-u-lo-plas-tee): This is usually done to treat open-angle glaucoma. Your doctor aims the laser at your trabecular (truh-BEK-u-ler) meshwork. The trabecular meshwork is the place where fluid drains out of your eye. It is located where the iris (colored part) and the cornea (clear "skin" of the eye) meet. Your doctor will point the laser at 50 to 100 spots on the trabecular meshwork. The laser opens clogged areas and helps eye fluid drain out more easily.
  • Laser Iridotomy (ear-ih-DAH-tuh-me): This is usually done to treat angle-closure glaucoma. Your doctor will give you eyedrops to constrict (make very small) your pupil. The pupil is the black dot in the middle of your eye. Your doctor will use the laser to make a tiny hole in your iris. This will allow fluid to pass from behind your iris to the trabecular meshwork. Then fluid can drain out of your eye and help decrease your eye pressure.
  • Cyclophotocoagulation (CY-klo-FO-toe-co-ag-u-LA-shun): This is usually done to treat people with severe glaucoma that cannot be controlled by medicines or surgeries. Your eye doctor aims the laser at the white part of the eye (sclera). The laser goes through the sclera to the ciliary (SIL-e-air-e) body. The ciliary body is the part of the eye that makes the eye fluid. The laser damages parts of the ciliary body so that it will make less eye fluid.


Contact the following organizations for more information about glaucoma and laser surgery:

  • Glaucoma Research Foundation
    251 Post St, Ste 600
    San Francisco , CA 94108
    Phone: 1- 415 - 986-3162
    Web Address:
  • International Glaucoma Association
    15 Highpoint Business Village
    Henwood Ashford, Kent , TN24 8DH
    Web Address:
  • The Glaucoma Foundation
    80 Maiden Lane, Ste 1206
    New York City , NY 10038
    Phone: 1- 212 - 285-0080
    Web Address:
  • Prevent Blindness America
    211 W. Wacker Dr, Ste 1700
    Chicago , IL 60606
    Phone: 1- 800 - 331-2020
    Web Address:

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.