&noscript=1 />

Eye Drops vs. Laser Treatment for Glaucoma

Results of the LiGHT Clinical Trial

University of California, San Francisco, UCSF Medical Center
A scale with lthe word aser therapy on one side and eye drops on the other.
Learn about the results of a recent clinical trial comparing glaucoma medications and laser therapy for primary open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension.

In newly diagnosed glaucoma or ocular hypertension that requires treatment, each person and their ophthalmologist must decide whether to start with medications or perform laser therapy first. Prior to the LiGHT study (Laser in Glaucoma and Ocular HyperTension) the field viewed both treatments as appropriate first steps, but more commonly people were started on medications first.

The Challenges Associated with Using Glaucoma Medications

Medications, however, can cause multiple issues. Glaucoma drops commonly have side effects that affect vision, eye comfort, and sometimes the rest of the body. Furthermore, the effectiveness of glaucoma drops is highly dependent on the person’s ability to use them with great consistency and routine, and they are taken for one’s entire life. Finally, glaucoma medications can be expensive as they are a recurring cost, which is sometimes inconsistent, as drug shortages and complex pricing structures are passed along to the consumer.

The LiGHT Clinical Trial

Who was Enrolled in the  LiGHT Trial?

The LiGHT trial enrolled 718 people with primary open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension, with 50 percent randomly selected to undergo selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), and 50 percent randomly selected to receive glaucoma eye drops.

What Were the Results of the LiGHT Trial?

At three years, 74 percent of the people who had SLT did not require additional eye drops to maintain their target eye pressures. In addition, those who had undergone SLT were more likely to be within their target eye pressure at clinic visits compared to people who were treated with eye drops, although both groups did well (greater than 90 percent of visits with eye pressures were within the target range). No person who had undergone SLT first required additional glaucoma surgery during the duration of the study, whereas 11 people on eye drops required additional glaucoma surgery to achieve target eye pressure.

What do the LiGHT Trial Results Suggest for Glaucoma Treatment?

Overall, the LiGHT study suggests that laser therapy is an appropriate choice as the first treatment for newly diagnosed glaucoma or ocular hypertension. For many people, it can free them from having to use eye drops, which can have a positive impact on quality of life (although the study did not find any differences in measured quality of life between the laser vs. eye drop groups).

Certainly, a single 15-minute laser treatment done in the office that is pain-free can be a very attractive choice, especially since the LiGHT study did show that it was just as effective, or even more effective, than, glaucoma eye drops. However, it is important to understand that laser therapy is not a cure for glaucoma, and the eye pressure lowering effect can wear off over time. The good news is that laser treatments can be repeated, although the LiGHT study did not examine this possibility.

The LiGHT study provides strong evidence that laser therapy can be a first-line treatment for people with glaucoma and ocular hypertension, bypassing the need to start with eye drops first.



  • Lancet. 2019 Mar 8. pii: S0140-6736(18)32213-X. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32213-X. [Epub ahead of print] Selective laser trabeculoplasty versus eye drops for first-line treatment of ocular hypertension and glaucoma (LiGHT): a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Gazzard G1, Konstantakopoulou E2, Garway-Heath D2, Garg A2, Vickerstaff V3, Hunter R4, Ambler G5, Bunce C6, Wormald R7, Nathwani N8, Barton K2, Rubin G9, Buszewicz M4; LiGHT Trial Study Group.
This content was first posted on: June 17, 2019

The information provided here is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and should not in any way substitute for personalized advice of a qualified healthcare professional; it is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product, therapy, or resources mentioned or listed in this article. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. Also, although we make every effort to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the posted information reflects the most up-to-date research.

These articles do not imply an endorsement of BrightFocus by the author or their institution, nor do they imply an endorsement of the institution or author by BrightFocus.

Some of the content may be adapted from other sources, which will be clearly identified within the article.

More Like This

  • Woman holding her right eye in discomfort

    Common Causes of Eye Pain

    Learn about the nerve that is involved in many causes of eye pain and discomfort.

    December 18, 2020
  • Accessible Voting Machine

    Making an Accessible Voting Plan

    As the 2020 election is quickly approaching on Tuesday, November 3rd, now is a great time to make your voting plan. In addition to reviewing the dates, deadlines, locations, and requirements for in-person or absentee voting in your state, for people with disabilities and impairments, it’s also important to know what your options are for accessible voting.

    October 14, 2020
Don't miss out.
Receive research updates, inspiring stories, and expert advice
Please enter your first name.
Please enter your last name.
Keep me informed about: *
Please select at least one.
You must select at least one disease category.