Is Glaucoma Treatment Surgery Safe?
If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma and contemplating surgery, it is but normal to be racked with questions and fear in your mind. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the US and majority of the cases seen by eye doctors are on the early stages of glaucoma, which is medically known as primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). Because of its benign nature, POAG is often treated by glaucoma specialist initially with eye drops. Surgery is considered only after medical therapy fails.
But with the advent of modern medical machines and technologies, glaucoma treatment surgery is now a routine and part of early intervention for all types of glaucoma, especially for POAG. Unlike the previous decades wherein persons with uncomplicated and early glaucomas had to go through a daily regimen of eye medications and hope for years that their eye pressures normalize or return to healthier levels, patients can now find immediate relief and be spared from blindness with non surgical procedures like canaloplasty, laser trabeculoplasty and sclerotomy.
How Can I Assess the Skills of a Glaucoma Surgeon?
If you decide to have glaucoma surgery, you do not want just any doctor poking your eye of course. So, how do you assess the skills of a glaucoma surgeon? Just like any great painter or master craftsman, an excellent glaucoma surgeon becomes one by years of doing a number of glaucoma surgeries.
The same principle also is true for surgeons. A glaucoma surgeon is said to have had at least 2,000 glaucoma eye surgeries tucked in his belt before he can say he has “enough experience”. An eye doctor becomes a glaucoma surgeon by apprenticing for years under a more senior or renowned glaucoma surgeon specializing in a specific kind of surgery, like say canaloplasty. Called a wet lab, the eye doctor observes several eye surgeries and operates on a number of cadaver eyes before being allowed to do supervised operations in human patients.
Hence not all glaucoma specialists can call themselves a glaucoma surgeon. Just like a golf enthusiasts who calls himself a golfer does not necessarily have the same handicap and hole-in-one, as say Tiger Woods. A sportsman earns his right to be called a master in the sport by years of experience, training and number of wins. Likewise, a glaucoma surgeon must not only have a certificate of training framed in his wall but have many successful operations over the years.
To determine the appropriate glaucoma surgery for you, it is important to know the different surgical options available. There are two schools of thought in glaucoma surgery. One is the traditional filtering surgery called trabeculectomy and more recently, the minimally invasive ones like canaloplasty and sclerotomy. Because it is a relatively novel procedure, only a few glaucoma specialists are trained enough to do them. You have to look for a qualified glaucoma surgeon who does them well, and you do not have to necessarily pick the first eye doctor your health insurance provider suggests. Moreover not all glaucoma specialists are good surgeons. Some choose to concentrate in traditional surgery or medical therapy and are uncomfortable doing non-invasive surgeries sclerotomy and canaloplasty.
However, at the end of the day, what determine the skill of a glaucoma surgeon are the countless patients who have regained their sight and have been saved from what could have been a lifetime of blindness. Through a procedure like canaloplasty, you now have the option to be medically eye-drop free for the rest of your life. You may also ask your primary physician to refer you to a good glaucoma surgeon who is trained to do non-invasive glaucoma surgeries like these.