How My Doctor Cured My Glaucoma With Laser Iridotomy
I had glaucoma. My eye doctor did a special procedure that basically cured it. There are many different types of glaucoma, and this particular procedure can't be used for all of them. The type I had is known as pigmentary glaucoma, and I was a good candidate for the procedure.
What you'll get from this article:
- I’ll start by describing what led up to the diagnosis, and what was done at first.
- Then I’ll explain how my ophthalmologist later used a special laser procedure to get my glaucoma under control without the need for eye drops.
- Finally I’ll tell you about my post-laser period and how I’m doing now.
I’m not talking about LASIK (Laser Refractive Surgery). That’s a different procedure used for correcting near-sighted or far-sighted vision. The procedure I had is called laser iridotomy, and it is used to control the high pressure caused by glaucoma.
My Experience with Temporary Loss of Sight
I had complained to my ophthalmologist from time to time about pain in my eyes. However, he never diagnosed glaucoma because my pressure was normal every time he checked it.
This can be very misleading because, as I found out later, my pressure spiked randomly. My doctor explained to me that some people have that situation, where the pressure spikes high and then goes back to normal.
One day I suddenly lost my sight in my right eye. I ran into the bathroom and looked in the mirror to try to figure out what was happening. I closed my left eye and I couldn't see a thing with my right eye.
In less than a minute I began to see a faint reflection of myself in the mirror with my right eye. My site was coming back. The entire episode lasted just a couple of minutes.
Good. At least I wasn't blind. But what the hell just happened?
"This is not something to ignore just because I can see again," I thought to myself, so I immediately called my eye doctor. He asked if I could come right over. I did.
A Diagnosis of Glaucoma
When I got to my ophthalmologist's office, he tested my eye pressure. It was as high as 40 in my right eye. Normal eye pressure is around 16. He said, "Now we have a diagnosis. You have glaucoma."
He told me that my pressure must have been even higher an hour ago when I lost my sight. He gave me eye drops to lower my eye pressure, and he would not let me leave the office until he was able to bring my pressure down. He also prescribed the drops for me to use from that point on.
A person with glaucoma needs to continue to use medication to keep the pressure under control. If the pressure is too high for an extended period, then blood cannot get into the optic nerve, and the nerve will die.
The optic nerve dies from the outer edges first. If glaucoma is left untreated, one will notice that they are losing their site from the outer peripheral first. Then it continues to close in until one feels like they are looking through a tunnel.
This is known as tunnel vision, literally. The only part of the field of vision that's left is in the center. If one continues without treatment then they eventually can lose that too.
I was lucky. In my case blood started flowing back in within a minute.
Brain damage will occur in about four minutes without blood supplying oxygen (Source: Mayo Clinic). This is true for the optic nerves as well.
My doctor told me that if my pressure stayed high for just a little longer I might have had partial damage to my optic nerve.
My doctor gave me peripheral vision tests once a year for a few years just to be sure that I was not losing peripheral vision. I was okay because my glaucoma was caught in time. Now I had to use eye drops to keep the pressure under control.
A Permanent Alternative to Eye Drops
A year after my incident, my doctor told me about a procedure called laser iridotomy. He explained that this treatment is used for people with narrow-angle pigmentary glaucoma, which is the kind that I have.
The laser makes a small pinhole in the iris (the colored part of the eye).
This serves two purposes:
- It lets fluid leak out to avoid pressure build-up.
- It also may prevent scar formation between the iris and the cornea that can lead to further progression of glaucoma.
After the treatment I would not have to use eye drops anymore to control the pressure.
I studied about it before making the decision to go ahead with the treatment. I took home some leaflets to read, I bought a book on the subject, and I read some research on the web. After all my due diligence I felt comfortable enough to go ahead with the procedure.
How Is Laser Iridotomy Treatment Done?
My doctor scheduled me for the treatment to be done right in his office.
He spent what felt like an hour preparing me and explaining how it worked. The actual laser procedure took only a second. It was like taking a picture. My eye was held wide open. He pressed a button. It felt like a quick electric shock and it was done.
Even though the treatment was complete, he kept me there in the waiting room since he needed to check my pressure an hour later. It was fine.
I felt no pain and was able to go home after that.
Healing Period After the Laser Procedure
My doctor prescribed a medication (drops) that I had to put in my eye each day for a week just to keep it from getting infected. I was also told to be careful not to get water in my eyes while showering.
After the procedure I no longer needed to use eye drops to control the pressure. It continued to stay normal, around 16. I continue to have it checked annually, and almost 20 years later I'm still fine.
Treating the Other Eye with Laser Iridotomy Years Later
A couple of years after the first incident my doctor found the pressure in my other eye was starting to go up. He asked if I wanted to do the same laser treatment, just to be safe.
I was lucky with the right eye. If my pressure happens to spike randomly in my left eye, we may miss the diagnosis until it's too late.
I was so satisfied with the results of the first procedure that I decided to have it done with my left eye too.
On my annual ophthalmology checkups my doctor checks the pinhole that was made by the laser to be sure it's still open. If it should ever heal shut, the Laser Iridotomy could be done again.
Now, two decades later, my pressure has always been around 15 or 16, which is normal. I never needed to use eye drops anymore. It's as if I don't have glaucoma anymore.
Video Showing Procedure of Laser Iridotomy
© 2012 Glenn Stok