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Learning About Laser Trabeculoplasty for Glaucoma

Cross-section of eyeball, with detail of cornea, trabecular meshwork, iris, and lens

What is laser trabeculoplasty?

Laser trabeculoplasty is a treatment for open-angle glaucoma. It uses laser light that is applied to the trabecular meshwork. The trabecular meshwork is an area made up of tiny channels where fluid drains from the eye. The energy from the laser lets fluid drain more easily from the front part of the eye, which lowers pressure in the eye.

There are two types: Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT). This causes small burns in the trabecular meshwork. It's rarely used. Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) uses a lower-power laser than ALT does and doesn't cause burns in the trabecular meshwork. SLT is now the main way doctors do laser trabeculoplasty.

Why is it done?

Laser trabeculoplasty may be used to treat glaucoma as a first treatment or along with glaucoma medicine.

How is this surgery done?

This treatment can be done at a clinic or a hospital.

The doctor puts drops in your eye to numb it. A special microscope (slit lamp) is used along with a lens (goniolens) that is placed on the eye. They guide the laser beam to the trabecular meshwork (the drainage system in the eye, where your iris meets your cornea). The doctor uses the laser to apply small amounts of energy in the meshwork.

At the end of the surgery, the doctor puts drops in your eye to help control the eye pressure.

How does it feel?

You will likely feel some pressure, but not pain, in your eye during the laser surgery.

What can you expect after laser trabeculoplasty?

You may need the doctor to check within an hour of the surgery. You will also need to see the doctor for a follow-up exam, usually within 4 to 8 weeks after your treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems (such as pain, being sensitive to light, poor vision). It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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