Can Patients with Glaucoma Undergo LASIK?

Glaucoma can be a devastating disease if not diagnosed and treated. Chronic glaucoma slowly destroys the nerve fibers on the retina causing a slow deterioration of the optic nerve and a progressive loss of sight. Generally glaucoma can be treated successful if diagnosed. Glaucoma treatments can include either changes in lifestyle, medications, or surgery. Glaucoma has been likened to a silent thief in that it can rob people of their eyesight before they realize it, particularly if they are not undergoing annual eye exams.

Despite the fact that glaucoma patients are being treated for their eye condition, LASIK or another laser vision correction might still be an option for patients who are also near-sighted, far-sighted or have astigmatism. Many patients with glaucoma may have been told previously by another LASIK surgeon that due to the elevated pressure within their eyes, they were not considered a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery. If the glaucoma is under good control, there might be a chance that LASIK is still an option however.

First of all, the prospect for LASIK eye surgery must undergo a complete eye examination, including a retinal exam. During the examination, the LASIK surgeon will make many critical observations and measurements to determine if LASIK is a possibility.

Glaucoma is a disease that results in a degeneration of the patient’s optic nerve. Generally this is caused by a high intra-ocular pressure though there are cases of glaucoma that exist while the pressure in the eye is considered low. One of the best indicators of glaucoma is simply viewing the optic nerve and judging its health. Imaging machines can be used to measure the thickness of the nerve fiber layer to give an indication of the health of the optic nerve as well.

Glaucoma can be treated a number of ways but generally medication is the first method. The goal is often to decrease the pressure within the eye to relieve the damage done to the optic nerve and the nerve fiber layer.

LASIK can still be an option for a patient with glaucoma, particularly if the pressure within the eye is considered to be under control. The surgeon might pick between PRK and LASIK but both are similar forms of laser vision correction. PRK generally causes less of a pressure increase during the surgery so is sometimes the favored method of laser vision correction.

Following LASIK or PRK, a glaucoma patient must be aware that future measurements of a patients eye pressure must be adjusted to determine a true reading. While this is not difficult, it is simply one extra consideration to ensure that the glaucoma treatment is still effective. Prior to LASIK a glaucoma patient might have an eye pressure of 18 mmHg. Following LASIK, the pressure might be measured to be 15 while in reality it is still 18. An experienced glaucoma specialist will be able to adjust to the measurements taken as long as the doctor is aware that the glaucoma patient had LASIK in the past.

If you are turned down for LASIK surgery because you have glaucoma, it might be advisable to visit a glaucoma specialist or another LASIK surgeon who has had experience with performing LASIK on glaucoma patients. Be very cautious. Whenever a patient has been refused LASIK by one LASIK surgeon they must be aware that they are at risk of having LASIK that is higher than other patients. This does not mean that they can’t have good results with LASIK eye surgery. It does need that appropriate caution must be taken and a high level of confidence must be obtained from a LASIK surgeon before undergoing LASIK.

Even in seemingly simple cases, complications can occur. While LASIK is never 100% guaranteed, it has provided freedom from contact lenses and glasses for millions of people. It is not recommended for everyone but glaucoma is not an absolute contraindication for LASIK.