Lasers produce a highly concentrated beam of light that can focus energy on a precise location. Laser light that can pass through the cornea, lens, and vitreous without causing harm makes it an ideal tool for treating conditions of the retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye responsible for producing visual impulses for the brain).
During a retinal laser treatment, the retinal tissue is damaged by the light energy it absorbs. As the tissue heals, the scar that ensues can help to correct the underlying retinal issue. Such scars can be used to seal off retinal tears, close leaking blood vessels, or break down abnormal tissue or blood vessels. Therefore, retinal laser treatments can be used to address a number of retinal diseases and disorders including:
The Laser Treatment Process
Retinal laser treatment is an in-office procedure. Prior to the laser treatment, the pupil will be dilated and the eye numbed with eye drops. An anesthetic injection may occasionally be needed.
The laser energy can be directed into your eye through a slit lamp microscope attached to a table or via an indirect ophthalmoscope worn on the head. The laser’s energy is focused using different lenses to produce the desired effect. During treatment, you may see flashes of light.
Laser Treatment Recovery
The majority of patients will have minimal pain following the procedure, but moderate to severe pain can occur with certain laser procedures. The intense light will make your vision dim for 20-30 minutes after the treatment and your vision may be blurry for up to 1 or 2 weeks. You will want to have a driver for the day of the procedure.
It takes about 14 days for the treated tissue to develop into a scar and it might be months before it can be determined if the treatment was effective. You may need to undergo more than one laser treatment to achieve therapeutic results.
Are There Any Risks With Laser Surgery?
Typical of any surgery, retinal laser treatment has risks associated with it. Some risks include loss of peripheral vision and increased difficulty differentiating colors (color vision) or difficulty seeing at night (night vision). Your doctor can discuss the risks with you in more detail.
Other Treatment Options
In some situations, cryopexy may be an alternative to laser surgery. In cryopexy, extreme cold is used to create scar tissue, close retinal tears, wall off areas of retinal detachment, or seal leaking blood vessels. A laser, however, is much more frequently used for these procedures.
Laser Surgery at Dean McGee Eye Institute
The Dean McGee Eye Institute has been at the forefront of eye care for 45 years. As the only nationally-ranked eye institute in the state, we have the expert knowledge, precise techniques, and advanced surgical technology to provide our patients with superior outcomes.
If you or a loved one require laser treatment for a retinal condition, please call 405.271.1092 or 800.787.9014 to make an appointment with one of our vitreoretinal specialists. We want to help you achieve your best vision.