A glaucoma doctor is a medical professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that can lead to damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. Glaucoma specialists typically hold a degree in medicine (MD) or osteopathic medicine (DO) and have completed additional training in the diagnosis and management of glaucoma through a residency program followed by a glaucoma fellowship. These doctors are often referred to as ophthalmologists or glaucoma specialists.
The typical path for glaucoma surgeons is as follows: 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 1 year of internship, 3 years of ophthalmology residency and then 1 year of glaucoma fellowship. During ophthalmology residency, physicians will learn certain basic glaucoma procedures, and then in fellowship they will refine those skills as well as learn more advanced procedures. In addition to advanced surgical training in glaucoma, a glaucoma specialist is well versed in managing surgical complications that can happen after glaucoma surgery. Glaucoma surgery, depending on the type, can be complicated to not only perform, but also to manage. This is why it is important to ensure that your glaucoma specialist feels comfortable in managing your disease.
Types Of Glaucoma Surgery
A glaucoma surgeon will perform many different types of glaucoma surgery. A glaucoma surgeon during ophthalmology residency and fellowship becomes well versed in glaucoma lasers. The most common type of glaucoma laser is called SLT laser or selective laser trabeculoplasty. If laser and drops do not control pressure, there are also surgical procedures that can be done for the treatment of glaucoma.
In the past, the two major surgeries that were performed were known as trabs and tubes. Trabs was the abbreviation for a surgery known as a trabeculectomy. A tube is exactly that. It is a tube shunt that is placed in the eye to help move fluid from inside the eye and help it disperse to the ocular tissues. Both of these surgeries are meant to lower the pressure of the eye, and are considered to be “major eye surgery.
Now, there have been more advancements in the area of glaucoma surgery, and there is a category of glaucoma surgery called MIGS. MIGS stands for minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. This type of surgery is usually must faster (in the hands of a skilled surgeon) when compared to a trabeculectomy or a tube shunt. One significant difference is that the recovery is typically much faster as less of the tissue is being disrupted during MIGS. Some MIGS procedures are only approved to be performed during the time of cataract surgery. Others can be done as stand-alone procedures. Much of this decision has to do with the insurance coverage for these procedures.
You can talk to your ophthalmologist about which surgical options may be the right choice for you.
Glaucoma Specialist: Summary
A glaucoma specialist first attends 4 years of college and 4 years of medical school. Then, the physician must complete 1 year of internship, 3 years of ophthalmology residency, and finally, a 1 year fellowship in glaucoma.