Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty, or SLT, is an innovative and highly effective glaucoma treatment. Glaucoma is a progressive disease initiated by an elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). Left untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, resulting in gradual vision loss, without obvious symptoms. It is estimated that 2.2 million Americans have glaucoma but because glaucoma is asymptomatic, only half have been diagnosed. Glaucoma is the leading cause of permanent vision loss in the world.
What causes Glaucoma
The space between the cornea and the iris is filled with a clear fluid called aqueous humor. This fluid circulates through the eye, providing nourishment to the tissues and regulating ocular pressure to help the eye maintain its shape. Aqueous humor flows out of the eye through the Trabecular Meshwork (TM), near the edge of the iris. If the TM is blocked, restricting drainage, pressure will slowly increase inside the eye. Open angle glaucoma (OAG) occurs when there is an imbalance between fluid production and fluid drainage, resulting in increased eye pressure. Over time, the optic nerve fibers can be damaged, leading to a loss of peripheral field of vision and in late stages, central vision. It is important that glaucoma be diagnosed and treated before permanent vision loss occurs.
Vision loss from glaucoma is permanent but this can usually be prevented with early detection. Glaucoma management is generally a lifelong process that requires frequent monitoring and constant treatment. Since there is no way to determine if glaucoma is under control based on how the eye feels, patients should have yearly comprehensive eye exams in addition to an eye pressure check 2-3 times per year.
Open Angle Glaucoma Treatment
OAG treatment concentrates on lowering the pressure inside the eye to prevent damage to the optic nerve. The most common glaucoma treatments are medication (in the form of eye drops), laser therapy or surgery.
• Medical treatments
Eye drops are effective in controlling glaucoma. Some medications increase fluid drainage, while others reduce the production of aqueous fluid. To prevent side effects and ensure that you get the prescription that’s right for you, tell your doctor if you have a sulfa allergy, asthma or breathing problems. Glaucoma eye drops have to be used indefinitely.
• Surgical treatments
If non-surgical methods fail to decrease pressure, surgery may be required to create a new drainage channel. Filtration surgeries lower eye pressure by creating a larger drainage channel with a trabeculectomy procedure.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty Therapy
A highly effective treatment for glaucoma that does not rely on medication, Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) therapy employs a laser to open drainage channels and reduce eye pressure. While lasers have been used in the treatment of open-angle glaucoma for more than two decades, SLT is the most advanced FDA approved glaucoma laser. The SLT laser wavelength removes pigment cells blocking the trabecular meshwork without damaging it. Compared to other laser glaucoma treatments, Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty can then be repeated multiple times if needed.
Benefits of Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty
How Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty is performed
SLT is performed on-site at Christenbury Eye Center and only takes a few minutes. Prior to the procedure, only numbing eye drops are required and the laser application is made through a special microscope. The experience is similar to sitting up for your annual eye exam. Eye pressure may continue to decrease for days and weeks after the procedure. Your doctor may give you a prescription for anti-inflammatory eye drops. You will have to return for follow-up visits.
The Christenbury Eye Center has been providing glaucoma treatment in Charlotte NC for 25 years.
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