What Is Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)?
SLT is one advancement over other lasers that have been used safely and effectively in the treatment of intraocular pressure (IOP) in patients with open-angle glaucoma for more than two decades. It is a safe and simple 5-minute in-office laser treatment that effectively reduces the pressure in the eye for most patients with glaucoma. Its use has allowed for an improved quality of life for thousands of patients around the world.
How Does SLT Work?
SLT works by using laser light to stimulate the body’s own healing response to lower your eye pressure. To help prepare for the eye treatment, the patient will receive eye drops prior to the procedure. The laser applications are applied through a regular physician microscope (slit lamp), similar to the one used for eye examinations, using a special wavelength and energy, that only affects pigmented (melanin-containing) cells of your eye, unlike ALT which permanently damages and scars the eye. SLT improves the flow of fluid in the eye, which in turn lowers your eye pressure.
SLT can reduce or eliminate the need to use daily glaucoma medications. Studies have shown that less than 50% of glaucoma patients actually take their medications as prescribed and many stop taking them due to the numerous side effects experienced, cost, busy lifestyle and all other daily variables and challenges we all experience. Compliance is now controlled by your physician.
Most patients, when given the option, prefer to be treated with SLT Laser therapy than be prescribed the immediate use of medications. Many individuals today also have concerns about the long-term side effects of medications or the effects of multiple medications their doctor may prescribe. Due to the abundance of medications being prescribed today, patients are challenged to properly take their medications. When discussing glaucoma therapies with your eye care professional, ask if you are a candidate for SLT Therapy.
SLT As Primary Therapy For Glaucoma
The news for using laser treatment as the primary or first type of treatment for glaucoma or ocular hypertension keeps on getting better and better. Data from the Glaucoma Laser Trial showed that the one-year success for SLT was 97%, 92% at 5 years, and 90% at 7 to 10 years. This compares favorably to medications used to lower eye pressure. The average IOP in the study was 18.1 which decreased to 12.8 among 1,983 eyes with average follow up of 917 days. Especially for patients reluctant to take eye drops, who may have difficulty taking eye drops, or who may experience side effects, the research supports that laser treatment, namely SLT, is a very good alternative for treatment of glaucoma as the first line of treatment.
SLT is also a repeatable procedure which does not cause scar tissue to form. Many glaucoma physicians consider the effect of SLT to be similar to one of the most popular glaucoma medications to treat glaucoma, namely a prostaglandin drop, which is the generic latanoprost.
Benefits of SLT Therapy
Safe: SLT is not associated with systemic side effects or the compliance and cost issues of medications.
Selective: SLT utilizes selective photothermolysis to target only specific cells, leaving surrounding tissue intact.
Smart: SLT stimulates the body’s natural mechanisms to enhance outflow of the fluid in your eye.
Sensible: Medicare and other insurances reimburse SLT therapy, minimizing out-of-pocket expenses.
Side Effects of SLT Laser Treatment
Unlike with glaucoma medications, there is no risk of allergy or systemic side-effects with SLT. Complications are rare but may include inflammation, temporary increase in eye pressure, conjunctivitis, or eye pain. Unlike older laser procedures (such as ALT), SLT does not permanently damage or scar the eye.
Does SLT Treatment Hurt?
The laser treatment does not cause a sensation. You may see a green flash of light, and feel nothing from the laser. The lens we use on your eye may cause some temporary redness or irritation.
What To Expect After SLT Laser Treatment
Your eye pressure may drop quickly a day after having SLT treatment. The doctor may also treat the eye with anti-inflammatory eye drops that will continue for a few days following the procedure. Patients have no limitations after their procedure and are able to drive home. Patients will be scheduled for a follow-up appointment to allow the physician to evaluate the results.
Will I Still Need to Continue Using My Eye Drops After Treatment?
It is well documented that Selective Laser Therapy (SLT) can reduce or eliminate your need for glaucoma medications. Results will vary depending upon the severity of the disease.