Laser photocoagulation may be performed to seal damaged or abnormal blood vessels and prevent them from leaking. This diabetic retinopathy treatment does not restore lost vision, but it can prevent further deterioration, which is why early diabetic retinopathy diagnosis through routine eye exams is imperative.
There are two ways laser photocoagulation can be performed, depending on the condition of the eye and the type of macular edema present. In the case of focal macular edema, where the blood vessels are leaking from specific points within the eye, the doctor will use the laser to seal the blood vessels. In the case of diffuse macular edema, where the leaking is more widespread, the doctor will perform a grid laser photocoagulation treatment over a general area.
The Laser Photocoagulation Procedure
Your forehead and chin will first be placed in a slit lamp. This device is a microscope which uses a line of light, or a slit, to assist your doctor in clearly viewing the portions of the eye which will be operated on. Next, your doctor will place a specially designed contact lens over your cornea. This will help the laser focus on the retina. You may see flashes of bright light throughout the procedure.
Laser photocoagulation is an outpatient procedure. You will be able to go home afterward, but you will need to arrange for transportation, as you will not be able to drive immediately following surgery. In fact, for about 24 hours after your procedure, your vision may be hazy or blurry.
Because laser photocoagulation involves tiny burns to seal the capillaries, small spots may appear in your field of vision after the procedure. These small spots generally fade and disappear with time. If your vision was blurry prior to the laser photocoagulation procedure, you may not completely recover clear vision.
Even when the laser photocoagulation procedure successfully repairs the leaking blood vessels, new leaks may occur. For this reason, it is imperative that diabetic retinopathy patients control their blood sugar and have frequent eye examinations from a qualified ophthalmologist.
Laser Photocoagulation Recovery
Laser photocoagulation is an outpatient procedure, and patients can go home as soon as the procedure is completed. Full recovery from laser photocoagulation may take several weeks. Your vision may be blurry for about 24 hours after the surgery, but this initial blurriness should clear up.
Laser photocoagulation will not restore vision that has been lost to diabetic retinopathy, however it does treat macular edema, which helps to slow the progression of the disease.
Patients should be careful to follow their doctor's instructions closely and keep all follow-up appointments in order to ensure the best recovery. Patients must also control their blood sugar in order to keep their eyes healthy for as long as possible after laser photocoagulation.
Laser Photocoagulation Complications
Because laser photocoagulation seals leaking blood vessels by cauterizing them, this procedure can potentially damage the surrounding healthy tissue. Often, patients will have dark spots within their vision field for some time after the surgery, but these spots should gradually fade.
Laser photocoagulation can cause some permanent vision loss, but patients will still retain more vision with the surgery than without it.
Although laser photocoagulation will slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy, it will not restore vision that has already been lost to the disease, and it is not a cure. Patients may require additional treatments.
Laser Photocoagulation Results
Laser photocoagulation has a high rate of success. Laser photocoagulation is not meant to cure diabetic retinopathy, nor will it restore lost vision. Laser photocoagulation is meant to seal leaking blood vessels and slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy. The earlier the disease is caught and treated, the better your chances for success with laser photocoagulation.
In order to get an early diabetic retinopathy diagnosis, all diabetics should have a thorough eye exam by a qualified ophthalmologist every year. Diabetic women who are pregnant should have their eyes examined every trimester.
Blood glucose maintenance is extremely important in controlling diabetic retinopathy. In order to maintain positive results after laser coagulation, patients should check their blood sugar often.
Contact a Doctor
If you would like more information about the laser photocoagulation procedure, contact an ophthalmologist in your area today.