Glaucoma is a condition where fluid builds up at the front of your eye, causing large amounts of pressure resulting in optic nerve damage. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in people aged 60+ as often this condition presents gradually, so it is only noticed when patients notice a difference in vision, when it may have reached a more advanced stage. There are two ways in which glaucoma can present: 

Open-Angle Glaucoma

  • Patchy blind spots in your side (peripheral) or central vision, frequently in both eyes
  • Tunnel vision in the advanced stages

Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma

  • Severe headache
  • Eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Eye redness

Why Have Glaucoma Surgery and Am I Eligible?

If left untreated, glaucoma can eventually cause blindness; if any glaucoma symptoms present, you are likely eligible for treatment. Surgery decreases the risk of total vision loss and prevents vision worsening. In addition, your clinician may recommend a trabeculectomy to help prevent glaucoma from becoming worse. A trabeculectomy is a potential treatment option for both closed-angle and open-angle glaucoma and primary and secondary types of glaucoma.

Benefits of Glaucoma Surgery

  • Prevents further vision loss
  • Prevents blindness
  • Relives pressure to reduce pain 
  • High success rate
  • Substantially slows glaucoma progression

What Are The Risks of Glaucoma Surgery?

Usually, the benefits of glaucoma surgery outweigh the risks, but there is a very small chance that side effects can occur; these may include:

  • Vision loss
  • Bleeding in the eye
  • Infection
  • Low eye pressure (or hypotony)
  • Scarring or cataract formation

What to Expect From Glaucoma Surgery

Glaucoma surgery usually takes around one hour and is performed as an outpatient procedure. It can be performed under local or general anaesthetic as follows:

  • The ophthalmologist will create a small flap in the top of the white part of the eye (sclera) underneath the upper eyelid 
  • Underneath this flap, a pathway is created to allow fluid to drain, which lowers eye pressure. 
  • The flap is placed down against the sclera to cover the drainage pathway and the entire surgery site is covered up using the outermost covering of the eye (the conjunctiva)

Following surgery, you will likely be prescribed eye drops to help prevent excess swelling and possible infections, which will be used for several weeks. Your eye might water and be red and your vision may be slightly blurred for up to 6 weeks but should return to normal. Your clinician will discuss which activities to avoid post-operation.

How Much Does Glaucoma Surgery Cost in the UK?

  1. Privately, in the UK, surgery typically costs between £3,500 and £4,500.
  2. The NHS offers comprehensive glaucoma treatment with a waiting time of around 18 weeks. However, considering this condition is time-sensitive, it is recommended that regular check-ups are being undertaken. Due to the demands on NHS services, non-glaucoma specialists may see some glaucoma patients for their diagnosis and management. Many hospitals have outsourced glaucoma care for follow-ups outside the hospitals. Private care offers the advantage of seeing a specialist from consultation to diagnosis and treatment.
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