Glaucoma continues to be a top concern relating to the eye health of people of all ages. If left untreated, it can impact your vision and cause blindness.
Yet, the rate of people losing their eyesight from glaucoma is decreasing by about 50%. This is due to new advances in medicine and technology, including glaucoma surgery.
Yet, many patients still wonder what to expect after glaucoma surgery. How invasive is it and how long will it take to recover from? Read on to learn more about this eye surgery and the recovery process.
The Risk of Developing Glaucoma Disease
Glaucoma is one of the main causes of blindness in America and effects over 2.7 million people. Even young adults with healthy lifestyles are at risk of getting the disease.
With many different types of glaucoma, it can be difficult to know if you have the disease. A few glaucoma types do show warning signs, but it’s not common to have symptoms.
It’s also possible to have different levels of glaucoma in each eye. One eye may already be at an advanced stage. While the other eye may have lower pressure with a more mild case of the disease.
Some people also have an increased risk of developing the disease. This includes people over 35 years of age, with the risk increasing as you age. Those who are Hispanic, Asian, or African American also show an increased risk.
A family history of glaucoma can also affect your outcome of getting the disease. As well as those who suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes. A previous eye injury or trauma to the eye can also result in getting glaucoma.
Glaucoma can also result from other eye conditions. This includes inflammation, cancer, or extreme nearsightedness.
How Glaucoma Surgery Can Prevent Vision Loss
Glaucoma often results from pressure on the optic nerve. This creates a build-up of fluid, causing clogging and issues with drainage. This can then lead to damage to the retina and blindness.
The scary part is that 50% of people with glaucoma are unaware that they have the disease. Most types of glaucoma don’t present any symptoms. Yet, the idea is to catch and control the disease before it results in vision loss.
Proper testing and care are important in determining whether you have the disease. This makes it crucial to have routine eye exams done by your eye doctor. They will check eye pressure and examine the optic nerve.
In some cases, you can correct the condition with eye drops or oral medicine. Yet, some patients do not respond well to medications or may experience side effects.
Some other patients experience a worsening condition. This then causes the medicine to become ineffective over time.
It’s important to note that glaucoma cannot be cured, so surgery is often needed. Surgery results are long-lasting, but not permanent. New technology and innovation in medicine have also lowered glaucoma surgery risks.
Glaucoma Surgery Preparation and Process
There are different surgery options used to help control glaucoma. The two most common are filtration surgery or laser surgery for glaucoma. Your eye doctor will discuss which is best for your condition.
Also called Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty, this is a newer approach to treatment. It begins with a numbing agent that gets dropped into the eye. This technique then uses laser technology to target certain cells in the eye.
This allows the laser to create a small incision in the eye. This helps to increase drainage and reduce pressure.
Glaucoma surgery also uses dissolvable stitches to suture the eye after surgery. This quick outpatient procedure is safe and effective for most patients. It also only takes a couple of minutes to complete.
This surgery technique works to create a new drainage channel within the eye. It involves inserting an implant to help with fluid draining and relieving pressure. This operation is a bit more involved and can take a little longer for the surgery.
What to Expect After Glaucoma Surgery
The glaucoma surgery recovery process is often described as only involving mild discomfort. Yet, your personal health and the type of surgery you have can affect your recovery time.
Both filtration surgery and glaucoma laser surgery recovery periods have similar timeframes. You can expect about a month for a full recovery.
Quicker recovery periods last about 3 weeks. While a more involved recovery may take up to 6 weeks time. Here are the 5 main things to expect during your post-op recovery process.
- Blurred Vision and Minor Discomfort
It’s common for your vision to become blurred after the procedure. This may cause poor eyesight that can last a few days or up to 6 weeks.
Yet, it is important to report any sudden loss of eyesight during this time. As this can be a sign of a complication from the surgery.
You shouldn’t experience too much discomfort or pain afterward. You also won’t likely need any over the counter pain medications. Any extreme pain should also get reported to your doctor right away.
You’ll also experience some inflammation and irritation in the eye for a few days. You may also have a slight itching feeling, which is often caused by the stitches.
Your eyes may also water or tear up more than normal during the recovery period. Swelling and redness are also common for a few days following the procedure.
- No Operating a Vehicle
Driving is not recommended while recovering from glaucoma surgery. It’s also important to have someone drive you home after surgery. This also includes having a driver for any follow-up appointments with your doctor.
During recovery, be sure to pay attention to your own comfort levels. This is how you’ll know when you feel well enough to drive again. Most patients are back to driving themselves after a week or so.
It helps to stock up groceries and household essentials before surgery. This way you can focus on recovering and not have to worry over driving to the store. You may also have to arrange for rides to work or use public transportation.
- Rest and Relaxation
During recovery, it’s best to take enough time to relax and heal. This means avoiding strenuous exercise and any heavy lifting.
You may need to take some time off work if your job involves a lot of lifting or manual labor.
Jobs that include a great deal of reading, writing, or typing may also need some time off. This is to avoid extra stress on the eyes and trying to work with blurry eyesight.
- Follow Doctor’s Orders
With any surgery, a successful recovery all depends on proper post-op care. After surgery, your doctor will have you wear a bandage or padding to protect the eyes. Be sure to keep this in place until your doctor tells you otherwise.
Eye drops will likely get recommended by your doctor. These contain anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. It’s important to take these as needed to ensure a successful recovery.
These drops will help ward off infections and make eyes less irritated. Drops may also cause your pupils to become dilated. Note that after surgery you may also still need to take glaucoma drops.
The doctor will schedule follow-up appointments to examine the eye after surgery. This is to ensure proper healing with no signs of infection. This is also to check on how the fluid is flowing if you had filtration surgery done.
You may also need to have your glasses or lenses prescription changed. Some patients will need a new prescription that is better for their eyes after surgery.
- Proper Care and Maintenance
It’s important not to rub or touch your eyes if you feel any discomfort after surgery. Doing this can cause severe damage to the eye.
You should also wash your hands with soap and warm water before using eye drops. Your doctor will also let you know when you are able to shower and clean your face.
You’ll also want to use protective eyewear during your recovery. It’s especially important to take care of your eyes during summertime. Eyewear protects from damage by the sun’s rays and particles that can irritate sensitive eyes.
You may also need to refrain from using steroids. This includes asthma inhalers and certain anti-inflammatory drugs. These can cause eye pressure to elevate and may increase the glaucoma risk.
While recovering, you’ll also want to refrain from using swimming pools and hot tubs. These can carry bacteria which can enter the eye and cause an infection.
Be sure to alert a medical professional if you experience headaches, fever, or nausea. Also, report any unusual discharge from the eye. These can all be signs of an infection.
Protecting Your Vision and Eye Health
Now you know the risks of this eye disease and what to expect after glaucoma surgery. It’s a simple and effective procedure that can help prevent vision loss.
To protect your eye health and vision, it’s important to see your eye doctor for routine exams. This can help catch and control certain eye diseases, even those without a cure.
Learn more about how Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor, and Haun can improve your vision and ocular health.