Laser surgery is becoming an increasingly common treatment option for glaucoma. For many whose glaucoma responds to laser treatment, it’s an opportunity to avoid the hassle of remembering eyedrops and the back and forth of appointments.
For Alex Baker, who was diagnosed with glaucoma 9 years ago, laser treatment seemed like the obvious option to go for once it was recommended to him. 6 years after his first laser experience and only 1 top-up later, his eyes are better than ever and his eye pressure remains completely under control. For him, it makes life unbelievably simple.
Alex’s glaucoma diagnosis came as a complete shock. He had heard of glaucoma, but didn’t properly know what it even was. Working as a lawyer and then a real estate agent, he’d always been a busy bee and had been putting off an eye check for ages. But when he began having trouble with his vision, Alex booked himself in knowing he needed glasses.
When he did get himself checked, his optometrist was concerned about Alex’s eye pressure levels and referred him to an ophthalmologist immediately. There, he found out he did indeed have glaucoma, and while it was at a relatively early stage, he’d need to get treatment started right away.
“I was only in my late 40s, and had absolutely no idea about having glaucoma at all,” Alex recalls. “It’s quite scary to think that if I’d continued to put off my eye test, things could have turned out quite differently.”
A no-brainer to go for laser
Alex initially started on eyedrops, and alternated between a few different types before finding one that was really successful in managing his eye pressure. With 6 monthly checks and sticking to his regular drops, Alex’s glaucoma was kept right under control.
When Alex was first diagnosed, laser still wasn’t a widely available treatment option. But three years after his diagnosis, our very own Helen Danesh-Meyer suggested a new laser treatment to him that she thought would be effective. Alex had always thought remembering to constantly administer eye drops was a bit of a nuisance and liked the idea of not having to worry about that, so jumped at the opportunity to try laser surgery.
“After finding out it would be covered by my medical insurance as well, it felt so simple that it was an absolute no-brainer to go for it.”
Making life simple
Going into his laser treatment, Alex wasn’t fearful, but was cautious.
“I had heard of eye laser treatment for other conditions, so was familiar with the idea but was still a little unsure of what to even expect,” says Alex. “As much as people tell you about it, you never fully know what it’s like.”
Alex recalls his bilateral LST being so painless and easy it was almost forgettable.
“I went in on a Saturday morning, and half an hour later I was out and feeling absolutely fine. I remember my eyes feeling a little dry and tight but not at all painful.”
Alex feels immensely fortunate that the procedure was completely successful, immediately lowering his eye pressure levels and keeping them low for the next 5 years. Last year, the pressure in his right eye went up again slightly but after another quick laser session, it’s back to normal. Next year it will be time for another session on his left eye, but Alex has no hesitation at all. Not only does he not have to worry about eye drops anymore, but he only has to make time for specialist appointments once a year.
“It makes life unbelievably simple.”
Life since laser
Now that he’s got his own glaucoma under control, Alex is super conscious of getting the word out about the condition to others and getting involved in the community. He’s a regular at the Auckland Central support group, and tries his best to keep up-to-date with development in glaucoma research and what’s going on.
“It’s quite shocking that I still come across people who have never even heard of glaucoma or haven’t had their eyes checked,” he says. “I’d always had eye health at the back of my mind because of family members and their eye problems, but things could turn out quite differently for those who don’t have vision on their radar.”
And for those who’ve been newly diagnosed with glaucoma, Alex recommends a few deep breaths. “Glaucoma is something not to worry about, but to be conscious of. If you’re sticking to your treatment plan and taking medication, you’re doing the best you can to prevent any deterioration.”
“If laser is an appropriate option, then I would say to absolutely go for it,” recommends Alex. “The only downside of laser is that it doesn’t give you the amazing lashes you get with eye drops!”
While laser treatment might not be a suitable option for everyone and all types of glaucoma, your ophthalmologist will have an idea of what could work for you. Have a chat at your next appointment to discuss how your treatment is going.