A sign saying "Glaucoma"

Imagine waking up one day with the fear of losing your sight. That’s what happened to John when he was diagnosed with glaucoma. Glaucoma, a severe eye condition, can lead to vision loss if not treated properly. Understanding the surgery options, risks, and benefits is crucial in making informed decisions about your eye health. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of glaucoma surgery, exploring the various procedures, preparation, post-surgery care, and potential risks, benefits, and side effects.

Key Takeaways

  • Glaucoma surgery offers benefits such as slowing progression of the disease and preserving existing vision.
  • Risks, benefits, and side effects should be considered before undergoing glaucoma surgery.
  • Combining glaucoma & cataract surgeries may provide additional advantages to patients.

Types of Glaucoma Surgery

Using a laser to treat a patient's eye.

As glaucoma progresses, surgery may become necessary to help prevent vision loss. There are three main types of glaucoma surgery: laser surgeries, incisional surgeries, and minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS).

Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice depends on the patient’s specific needs and eye condition.

Laser Surgeries

Laser surgeries are a popular option for glaucoma treatment, as they are less invasive and often performed in-office. The goal of these procedures is to improve fluid drainage and reduce eye pressure, which can slow the progression of glaucoma. Argon laser trabeculoplasty (ALT) and selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) are two common types of laser surgeries. They are generally used to treat glaucoma. These procedures use a highly concentrated beam of light to help unblock obstructed drainage channels and facilitate the drainage of fluid in the eye.

Laser surgeries, such as laser treatment, are generally associated with less post-operative discomfort than incisional surgeries. Laser trabeculoplasty is an appropriate treatment option to treat open angle glaucoma, while laser peripheral iridotomy (LPI) is suitable for those with closed-angle glaucoma. In this context, surgery for glaucoma can be effectively managed with these laser techniques.

Before deciding on the most suitable laser surgery for your condition, a discussion about the risks, benefits, and expectations with your eye specialist is indispensable.

Incisional Surgeries

Incisional surgeries are more invasive than laser surgeries and are performed in an operating room. The main goal of these procedures, including drainage implant surgery, is to create new drainage pathways or implant devices to lower eye pressure and treat glaucoma. Incisional surgeries include:

  • Trabeculectomy
  • Valve surgery
  • Canalostomy
  • Seton surgery

Trabeculectomy, also referred to as filtering surgery, involves using small instruments to excise a section of the eye wall, creating a small hole covered by conjunctiva (the layer around the eye). Another option is tube shunt surgery, where a small tube is inserted into an opening created between the cornea and sclera to reduce intraocular pressure.

Before deciding on the most appropriate incisional surgery for your specific needs, consulting with your eye specialist about the pros and cons is vital.

Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS)

Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) is a cutting-edge technology that uses tiny instruments and devices, resulting in smaller incisions and faster recovery time. MIGS offers the following benefits:

  • Safer and less invasive option for patients with early to moderate-stage glaucoma
  • Modest reduction in eye pressure
  • Faster recovery time compared to traditional glaucoma surgeries

While MIGS is generally considered safer than traditional glaucoma surgeries, it may not be as effective in achieving the low eye pressures necessary for advanced glaucoma. MIGS procedures are generally used in conjunction with cataract surgery. This is mainly for patients suffering from early to moderate stage of glaucoma..

It’s of utmost importance to consult your eye specialist to determine whether MIGS is the right option for you, considering your specific eye condition and needs.

Preparing for Glaucoma Surgery

Before undergoing glaucoma surgery, there are several steps you need to take to ensure a successful procedure and recovery. These include:

  • Consulting with an eye specialist
  • Making the necessary medication adjustments
  • Preparing for the day of surgery.

Consultation with Eye Specialist

Prior to any glaucoma surgery, you must consult with an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor, to discuss your specific needs, risks, benefits, and expectations. During the consultation, your eye specialist will:

  • Review your medical history
  • Perform a comprehensive eye examination
  • Explore treatment options
  • Recommend the most suitable surgery for your condition.

Topics to discuss during your consultation for glaucoma surgery include:

  • Success rate
  • Potential complications
  • The specialist’s experience
  • Alternative options to lower eye pressure
  • Timing and scheduling of the surgery
  • Any particular concerns or questions you may have

This consultation is a key step in ensuring the best possible outcome for your glaucoma surgery.

Medication Adjustments

Before glaucoma surgery, you may need to:

  • Adjust or discontinue certain medications
  • Discontinue certain topical ocular medications
  • Abstain from medications that can raise intraocular pressure, such as tricyclic antidepressants, decongestants, and antihistamines.

Managing blood thinners before surgery is also important, as they can increase the risk of bleeding during and after the procedure. Your eye specialist will provide specific instructions on necessary medication adjustments to ensure a safe and successful surgery.

Day of Surgery

On the day of your glaucoma surgery, it’s important to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider or surgical team. This typically includes fasting on the day of the procedure, as consuming any food or beverages beforehand can cause complications.

Arrive at the surgical center at the recommended time, wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and avoiding perfume, cologne, makeup, and jewelry. Button-down shirts or blouses are preferred. Following these guidelines will help ensure a smooth surgery and minimize the risk of complications.

Post-Surgery Recovery and Care

Following your eye specialist’s guidelines for recovery and care after glaucoma surgery is paramount. This includes attending follow-up appointments, using prescribed eye drops and an eye patch, and adhering to activity restrictions.

It is important to take these steps seriously, as they can help ensure a successful recovery and reduce

Follow-Up Appointments

Regular check-ups with your eye specialist are essential after glaucoma surgery. These follow-up appointments typically occur within the first six weeks after surgery and help monitor vision, eye pressure, and the healing process.

During these appointments, your eye specialist will perform various tests and evaluations to ensure your eye is healing properly and that the surgery was successful. It’s crucial to attend all follow-up appointments as recommended by your ophthalmologist to achieve optimal outcomes.

Eye Drops and Patch Use

After glaucoma surgery, your eye specialist may prescribe eye drops and/or an eye patch to aid in recovery and prevent complications. Eye drops can help reduce inflammation, prevent infection, and lower intraocular pressure.

Using eye drops as instructed by your doctor is crucial, which typically involves stopping the use of glaucoma drops in the operated eye and maintaining the same times and dosage for the non-operated eye. The correct use of eye drops and an eye patch is vital for a successful recovery.

Activity Restrictions

To ensure proper healing after glaucoma surgery, certain activity restrictions and lifestyle adjustments may be necessary. During the initial four to six weeks following surgery, it’s recommended to avoid strenuous activities such as:

  • ball sports
  • tennis
  • golf
  • gym workouts
  • running
  • swimming

Gentle walking, however, is usually acceptable.

In addition to limiting physical activities, you may need to make lifestyle adjustments, such as avoiding inversions in yoga, altering sleep, exercise, and diet habits, and incorporating aerobic exercise and mindfulness meditation. Following these guidelines and allowing for sufficient recovery time will help ensure the best possible outcome after your glaucoma surgery.

Risks, Benefits, and Side Effects of Glaucoma Surgery

Understanding the potential risks, benefits, and side effects involved is crucial before deciding on glaucoma surgery. This will help you make an informed decision and set realistic expectations for the outcome of the surgery.

It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of the surgery with your doctor, and to

Risks and Complications

While glaucoma surgery can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life, there are potential risks and complications to consider. These include:

  • Permanent vision loss
  • Intraocular bleeding
  • Infection
  • Low eye pressure

It’s vital to discuss these potential complications with your eye specialist before undergoing surgery and weigh the risks against the benefits of the procedure. By doing so, you’ll be better prepared to make an informed decision and minimize the likelihood of complications.


Despite the potential risks, glaucoma surgery offers several benefits to patients. The primary advantages include:

  • Slowing the progression of the disease
  • Maintaining existing vision
  • Preventing further vision loss
  • In some cases, glaucoma surgery may even improve vision.

By reducing eye pressure and enhancing fluid drainage, glaucoma surgery can help preserve the optic nerve and prevent further damage. Although surgery cannot restore vision that has already been lost, it can help prevent further vision loss and improve a patient’s quality of life.

Side Effects

As with any surgical procedure, there are potential side effects associated with glaucoma surgery. These may include temporary vision changes, discomfort, and cataract formation.

Most side effects of eye surgery include:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Tearing
  • Foreign body sensation in the eye

These side effects typically persist for a few days up to several weeks. It’s important to discuss these side effects with your eye specialist before surgery to ensure you’re fully informed and prepared for the recovery process.

Combining Glaucoma Surgery with Cataract Surgery

In some cases, it may be feasible to combine glaucoma and cataract surgeries, depending on your individual requirements and ocular conditions. Combining these surgeries offers several advantages, such as:

  • Preventing vision loss
  • Enhancing quality of life
  • Safeguarding against further glaucoma damage
  • Minimizing the necessity for multiple surgeries
  • Alleviating the need for medications post-surgery

Consider discussing the possibility of combining glaucoma and cataract surgeries with your eye specialist, taking into account your specific eye condition and needs. This can help to ensure the most effective and efficient treatment plan for your situation.


Glaucoma surgery is a crucial treatment option for many patients facing the risk of vision loss due to this severe eye condition. Understanding the various types of surgeries, the preparation and recovery process, and potential risks, benefits, and side effects can help you make an informed decision about your treatment. By working closely with your eye specialist and following their guidance, you can improve your chances of a successful surgery and a better quality of life.

Remember, the key to preserving your vision is early detection and intervention. Don’t let fear hold you back from seeking the treatment you need. By taking control of your eye health and understanding the options available to you, you can protect your sight and enjoy a brighter future.

Frequently Asked Questions

How serious is glaucoma surgery?

Glaucoma surgery has a potential to disrupt vision temporarily and, in very rare cases, can lead to permanent vision loss. Therefore, it is important to weigh the risks of this surgery carefully.

How long is recovery for glaucoma surgery?

Recovery from glaucoma surgery generally takes 3 to 6 weeks and it’s important to reserve the day after the surgery for rest. During the remainder of the recovery time, it’s recommended to avoid strenuous activity.

Is glaucoma surgery minor or major?

Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) is commonly used to treat mild to moderate glaucoma cases and has a shorter procedure time, fewer risks and side effects, and faster recovery rate compared to traditional glaucoma surgeries. Therefore, it can be considered as a minor surgery.

What surgery is done for glaucoma?

Glaucoma surgeries include trabeculectomy, tube shunt implantation, cyclophotocoagulation, and MIGS (minimally invasive glaucoma surgery).

What is a glaucoma surgeon called?

A glaucoma surgeon is an ophthalmologist, a doctor who has undergone four years of medical school and four years of residency training in Ophthalmology. They perform surgery such as trabeculectomy, tumorectomy, ALT and other treatments to manage and treat glaucoma.


  1. “Glaucoma Surgery: Risks, Benefits, and Side Effects” – Mayo Clinic Link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/glaucoma-surgery/about/pac-20384694
  2. “Glaucoma Surgery: What to Expect” – American Academy of Ophthalmology Link: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/treatments/glaucoma-surgery-what-to-expect
  3. “Glaucoma Surgery: Risks and Benefits” – WebMD Link: https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/glaucoma-surgery-risks-benefits
  4. “Types of Glaucoma Surgery and Their Benefits” – Glaucoma Research Foundation Link: https://www.glaucoma.org/treatment/types-of-glaucoma-surgery-and-their-benefits.php
  5. “Understanding Glaucoma Surgery: Risks and Complications” – American Glaucoma Society Link: https://www.americanglaucomasociety.net/patients/understanding-glaucoma-surgery-risks-and-complications
  6. “Glaucoma Surgery: Procedure, Risks, and Recovery” – Healthline Link: https://www.healthline.com/health/glaucoma-surgery
  7. “Glaucoma Surgery: Benefits, Risks, and Side Effects” – Cleveland Clinic Link: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17462-glaucoma-surgery
  8. “Glaucoma Surgery: What You Need to Know” – National Eye Institute Link: https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/glaucoma/glaucoma-surgery


Photo graph of Dr. Conlon operating with loops on.

Dr. M. Ronan Conlon started his career in the field of ophthalmology at the same time as the development of refractive eye surgery in Canada. In 1996, he brought laser technology to Canada from Germany, which allowed him to perform laser eye surgery before it was available in the United States. With the establishment of the Conlon Eye Institute, Dr. Conlon has performed more than 40,000 refractive procedures and has advanced his expertise in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery.

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