Laser Treatment Helps Glaucoma

John Flanagan of Clearfield was excited to see Thomas Smith, MD, ophthalmologist, June 3. After an excellent response in his first eye, he returned to have the other eye treated by a breakthrough treatment SLT -- selective laser trabeculoplasty. This treatment is helping a pressure problem for which he has been using drops for 10 years.

SLT is available for patients with open-angle glaucoma. Ophthalmologists at DuBois Regional Medical Center Ophthalmology – Thomas Smith MD, Ryan Bisbey MD, Tim Marra, DO, and John Fabre, MD – now offer this service in the DuBois office located at 529 Sunflower Drive.

To understand this breakthrough, let’s start by understanding what glaucoma is. Glaucoma is characterized by a build-up of fluid within the eye causing pressure, known as intraocular pressure, according to Smith. This pressure increase affects the optic nerve resulting in nerve fiber and cellular death and eventually the loss of peripheral, or side, vision.

The fluid is a natural part of the eye. It contains the nutrients for the eye to provide proper metabolism for function. The fluid is continuously produced and drains from the eye through a drainage area near the base of the iris, known as the trabecular meshwork.

In glaucoma, the fluid usually does not drain properly through the trabecular meshwork causing the pressure to rise. Damage to the optic nerve and the vision loss are irreversible.

Early detection and treatment is critical. Glaucoma starts without any symptoms, and it slowly causes side vision to fail. Ophthalmologists can detect this disease before vision loss with simple tests and can treat it to keep it from progressing. The usual treatment is eye drops that cause the eye to make less fluid or lower pressure by helping fluid drain from the eye.

But eye drops have disadvantages. They are an expense, they have side effects and people have difficulty getting the drops in the eyes effectively. About 90 percent of glaucoma patients forget to take or use their medications on a regular basis.

The newest option for glaucoma patients is SLT. Selective laser trabeculoplasty works by treating the specific pigmented cells in the trabecular meshwork and leaves all the other cells intact.

It is performed in the office and does not require needles, pupil dilation or eye patches. A patient sits at the machine, and the ophthalmologist sits on the other side. A patient will see flashes of bright green or red light as the laser works. It takes only a few minutes.
Afterwards, patients can return to normal activities. Unlike older laser surgeries which were harsher, SLT does not cause tissue damage.

After laser therapy, a patient may still need some eye drops but not as many, or it may eliminate the needs for medications altogether. For Flanagan, his eye pressure dropped significantly from SLT treatments, and the number of drops he needs has dropped, too. He was happy to share his story, because he knows others could benefit from the news.

SLT has been approved by the federal Food & Drug Administration since 2001. It is covered by most insurance plans and Medicare.

For more information about SLT, go to or call Penn Highlands Clearfield Ophthalmology at 814-371-2390.