Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty
This handout was written to explain laser treatment for glaucoma. If you have
questions or concerns, please call the number listed at the end.
The Purpose of Glaucoma Laser Treatment
Glaucoma laser is used to lower the pressure in the eye. By lowering the eye
pressure to a safe range, we can prevent further damage to the optic nerve at the
back of the eye.
How Laser Works
The part of the eye where fluid normally drains out is a sponge-like meshwork. By
treating this meshwork with laser, we can stretch it in such a way as to enlarge its
tiny openings. This allows fluid in the eye to drain more easily. Pressure in the eye
How Effective Is Laser?
Glaucoma laser lowers pressure in about 80% of people. The effect on the tissue is
not permanent, and the average length of lower pressure is 5-8 years. Some types
of laser treatment can be repeated, and some types can only be used once.
Risks of Laser
The major risk of laser treatment is a rise in eye pressure for a short time, due to
swelling in the lasered tissue. Special drops (different from the ones used on a daily
basis) are used 1 hour before, and again immediately after, the laser treatment in
order to minimize the possibility of a rise. A very small number of people (2%)
will have a rise in pressure that requires other medicine and, very rarely, surgery.
This change in pressure should not affect your vision.
Other risks include mild redness and inflammation of the eye. This is treated with
anti-inflammatory drops for a few days after the treatment. Rarely, you might have
tiny bleeds in your eye or changes in the cornea. This will only last a short time.
Often, vision is slightly blurred for 1-2 hours after the laser because of the gel used.
Sometimes, there is slight discomfort after the treatment.
How Laser Is Done
One hour before the laser, eye drops are placed on the eye to prevent a rise in
pressure and to make the treatment easier to perform. Some people have a mild
headache for a short time these drops.
Just before the laser treatment, a drop is placed in the eye to make it numb.
A special contact lens is placed on the eye to direct the laser light to the correct
part of the eye. This lens also prevents blinking and helps to steady the eye. A
lubricating gel is used on the lens to make smooth contact with the eye.
During the treatment, pulses of light (bright flashes) are given while the contact
lens is slowly turned. You may feel stinging, but there is no real pain from the
After the treatment, the lubricating gel is washed out of the eye with rinsing
liquid. Another drop of pressure-lowering medication is given.
One hour after the laser treatment, the pressure in the eye will be checked. You
will be given a prescription for steroid eye drops to be taken 4 times a day for 5
days. Once home, all of your other glaucoma medicines should be
We’ll schedule you to come back to the clinic for a pressure check in 4-6 weeks.
It often takes weeks for the laser to have its full effect.
Most people notice some blurred vision for 1 or 2 hours after the laser. This is
mainly because of the gel still in the eye. Some people also feel a slight
discomfort in the eye. You may take Tylenol®.
University Station Eye Clinic, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
When the clinic is closed, your call will be forwarded to the hospital paging
operator. Ask for the “Eye Resident on Call”. Give the operator your name and
phone number with area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942 and ask to be transferred to the
Please call if you have any questions or concerns
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 1/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All Rights Reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4580