At Southern Eye Group, we believe everyone should be able to enjoy sharp, crystal-clear vision at every stage in life, and our mission is to make that happen. As a leading eye care clinic serving patients in the surrounding areas, our eye doctors take a holistic approach to eye and vision health, placing a strong focus on preventive treatments and screenings to catch and treat problems in their earliest stages. That said, we offer treatments for a wide range of eye conditions, including multiple options for glaucoma surgery.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the US, and because it produces no symptoms or pain in its early stages, millions of glaucoma sufferers don’t even know they have it. While scientists are still working to learn more about this condition, the main known cause of glaucoma is a relative increase in intraocular pressure. In other words, an increase in the pressure level inside of the eye. This occurs due to a problem in the regulation of aqueous fluid, the fluid that fills the anterior and posterior chambers of the eye. These are the spaces that support the cornea and house the lens of the eye, respectively. Normally, the body creates aqueous fluid and circulates it throughout the eye before draining it through specialized channels at the rear of the eye. However, if the body begins to produce too much aqueous fluid or is unable to drain the fluid fast enough, intraocular pressure (IOP) rises, eventually leading to glaucoma.
Eye doctors use a variety of techniques to treat glaucoma, including:
Often, eye doctors opt to use a combination of these methods for treatment. As with most eye care procedures, our goal with glaucoma treatment is to prevent vision loss. Unfortunately, vision loss caused by glaucoma is irreversible – which makes preventive eye screenings even more important for vision health. When detected and treated early, most people with glaucoma will retain their vision, and we can often treat glaucoma using eye drops or medicine alone. However, for more advanced cases of glaucoma or cases where eye drops can’t fully control glaucoma, we may need to use glaucoma surgery.
Thanks to advancements in ophthalmology, we offer a number of options for glaucoma surgery. These modern treatments are far less invasive than those of the past. Your eye doctor will discuss your options with you and help you choose the best treatment for your unique situation.
In the past, traditional glaucoma surgery involved making an incision on the outside of the eye, using that to create a new path for fluid to drain from the eye. While effective, this results in a new drainage site on the outside of your eye, under your eyelid.
Now, however, we’re able to offer a new, more convenient option: minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, or MIGS. MIGS is performed by only creating a tiny incision in the cornea, about the same size of the incision that’s made during cataract surgery. Instead of creating a new drainage site, MIGS works by repairing the natural drainage system of the eye that is found in the “angle” between the iris and the cornea. MIGS has been proven effective in reducing IOP and preventing glaucoma. MIGS as a procedure also has fewer risks, a shorter recovery period, and less follow-up visits than traditional glaucoma surgery.
MIGS is a low-impact, effective option for improving fluid drainage and halting the progression of glaucoma, but you still may need to use glaucoma medications following the surgery. That said, MIGS reduces the amount of medication you’ll need to manage glaucoma.
While minimally invasive glaucoma surgery isn’t right for everyone, most glaucoma patients are candidates. MIGS can be an especially attractive option for patients with other conditions or factors, including:
MIGS is frequently combined with cataract surgery, although it can be performed on its own. Your eye surgeon will perform the procedure in our operating room using topical anesthesia and IV sedation to keep you comfortable. Your eye doctor will discuss your options for anesthesia beforehand to help you choose the best regimen for your specific condition.
Once we finish the surgery, we’ll prescribe special medicated eye drops to reduce inflammation and prevent infection. MIGS can cause a small amount of bleeding inside of the eye that can blur vision for a little while after the surgery, but this usually clears up quickly. Eye pressure may also fluctuate during this recovery period, but again, this will stabilize as your eye heals from the surgery.
While we prioritize MIGS for our patients whenever possible, there are some patients who still need traditional glaucoma surgery. This is normally the case for patients with severe glaucoma or ongoing vision loss despite normal eye pressures, as treating these cases requires us to create lower intraocular pressure than is possible with MIGS. Your eye surgeon will determine the best option based on the specifics of your condition and, as always, we’ll carefully talk through all procedures and options with you so you feel 100% comfortable with your treatment.
In sum, MIGS is an effective alternative to traditional glaucoma surgery that’s minimally invasive, uses a small incision, and requires less recovery time and fewer follow-up appointments than traditional surgery. Your eye doctor will work with you to determine if you’re a good candidate for MIGS and talk through which specific form of the surgery is best for you.
In addition to MIGS, we’re also excited to offer another option for minimally-invasive glaucoma treatment: Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT). SLT uses a medical laser to stimulate the eye’s natural drainage system without the need for physical surgery.
Traditionally, eye doctors have used eye drops as the first line of treatment to lower eye pressure and slow down the advancement of glaucoma. While eye drops are often effective and very convenient, they can come with drawbacks: they’re expensive, can be difficult to use, and can produce allergies and a range of other side effects.
SLT is a new glaucoma laser procedure that’s been shown to be as effective as eye drops, but produces minimal to no side effects. It’s a non-invasive eye procedure that doesn’t require sedation and is tolerated well by most patients. As an added bonus, the entire treatment takes less than 5 minutes. SLT uses a laser to stimulate the eye’s natural drainage system, increasing the flow of drainage without requiring an incision or causing any scarring.
Glaucoma is a common condition that can threaten your vision even before you realize it, but we’re proud to offer a variety of convenient, effective options for slowing or stopping the progression of glaucoma. In addition to MIGS and SLT, Southern Eye Group offers types of glaucoma surgery for more advanced cases as well. Interested in learning more about our treatments for glaucoma? Take the first step: schedule a consultation at our eye center and reclaim the healthy, clear vision you deserve!