News | Published October 27, 2010

New Glaucoma Laser Safely Lowers Eye Pressure

Mount Nittany Surgical Center is one of the first centers in State College, PA to offer selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), the latest treatment option for open-angle glaucoma. The SLT procedure uses cold laser light therapy to stimulate the body’s own healing response to lower intraocular pressure, which has been attributed to the progression of glaucoma. The painless treatment is administered in an outpatient Surgery Center setting, takes only minutes to perform, and can lower eye pressures as soon as an hour after treatment. SLT can be used in combination with drug therapy (eye drops), or it may be effective as a monotherapy, eliminating the need for medications altogether. Medicare and most private insurers pay for the procedure.
Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the United States and the most common among African-Americans. It is characterized by a buildup of fluid within the eye, causing intraocular pressure to increase. This pressure increase affects the optic nerve, resulting in cellular death and peripheral vision loss. In a healthy eye, fluid-containing nutrients bathe the eye and help the eyeball maintain its shape so it is continuously drained and replenished. However, in a person with glaucoma, this fluid either does not drain properly or is created in excess, resulting in pressure that, if left untreated, eventually damages the optic nerve. When this occurs, partial or total vision loss may result. Because vision loss is irreversible, early detection and treatment is critical. The only proven treatment for glaucoma is to lower intraocular pressure.

Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) works by treating only specific pigmented (melanin producing) cells in the eye, leaving all other cells intact. The SLT mechanism promotes the body’s own natural healing response, allowing fluid to move more freely out of the eye to successfully lower intraocular pressure. SLT does not cause scarring or damage to the eye and therefore is repeatable if necessary.

SLT is a quick, safe method for reducing eye pressure that can potentially eliminate the associated inconvenience, eye irritation, and expense of medications, which can be a real burden for those with limited resources. The Mount Nittany Surgical Center invested in the technology because it would allow better management of the disease. SLT does not rely on a patient accurately and consistently following a prescribed eye drop regimen to be effective. It has changed the way we manage our glaucoma patients, who are grateful to have their treatment simplified.

Research showing SLT’s clinical effectiveness in lowering intraocular pressure by 20 to 35 percent has been ongoing in the United States for five years. The patented technology was developed by Lumenis, Ltd. (Santa Clara, CA), and gained clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March 2001. Prior to the introduction of laser technologies, the ability to lower intraocular pressure could only be achieved through traditional drug therapy or surgery.
For more information, contact Mount Nittany Surgical Center at 814.234.6750 or online at surgicalcenter.mountnittany.org.

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