How Glaucoma Affects Your Eligibility for Laser Eye Surgery
It is common for prospective patients with glaucoma to ask whether they are eligible for LASIK surgery. According to the BrightFocus® Foundation’s Glaucoma Fact Sheet, as of 2019, nearly 3 million people in the United States were living with glaucoma, and 80 million people had it worldwide. The disease is most common in individuals over the age of 40, though in some cases it can be detected earlier.
What Is Glaucoma?
The simplest definition of glaucoma comes from the American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Glaucoma is a disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve.” This damage usually occurs when extra fluid builds up and increases the pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in those over the age of 60, but the prognosis of glaucoma will not be the same from person to person. There are two main types of glaucoma:
Primary open-angle glaucoma:
- Most common
- Gradual onset (eye pressure builds and damages the optic nerve over time)
- Early signs of optic nerve damage can be detected in a regular eye exam
- Considered an acute attack and a true eye emergency
- The iris of the eye blocks the eye’s drainage angle causing immediate pressure
- Symptoms include sudden blurred vision or severe eye pain, headache, and nausea
To be clear, LASIK is not a treatment for either type of glaucoma. However, laser eye surgery can still be an option for some patients with primary open-angle glaucoma.
Can You Have LASIK If You Have Glaucoma?
The biggest concern for patients with glaucoma is the health of their optic nerves. During the standard LASIK procedure, the creation of the eye flap causes a brief increase in pressure. For the majority of LASIK patients, this temporary pressure increase is not an issue. However, for those with glaucoma, any additional eye pressure is concerning.
If you have glaucoma and are interested in LASIK, your surgeon will consider the following in determining if you are a strong candidate:
- Is your glaucoma controlled or continuing to progress?
- Has there been any damage to your optic nerve?
- Do you have any other eye conditions or health issues?
If the optic nerve is not damaged and your glaucoma is stable, you may be a candidate for LASIK. An alternative is photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) surgery, which is a similar vision correction procedure that does not involve creating a flap in the eye. Both LASIK and PRK procedures are very common and regularly performed by the experienced team at LVC led by Dr. Eippert.
During your initial consultation, we will discuss your glaucoma and its progression. We invite you to make an appointment to learn more about the vision correction options available to you.
Information for this article was sourced by:
American Academy of Ophthalmology