Ophthalmic laser therapy is a branch of ophthalmology in which a laser is used as a surgical instrument. This device emits a concentrated high-intensity light beam as an electric current flows through a particular substance, such as gas, which can be focused very precisely on the retina to treat the desired area selectively while leaving the surrounding tissues intact.
When light energy is focused on the eye tissues, it is converted into thermal energy. It raises the tissues' temperature, causing tissue proteins' breakdown and coagulative necrosis or cell death.
With laser therapy, retinal and choroidal diseases can be treated with maximum sterility and precision, and laser can be used to treat glaucoma and secondary cataracts.
When is laser therapy used?
In the treatment of retinal diseases:
- to block retinal tears,
- in the treatment of retinal vein occlusion or obstruction,
- in the treatment of retinal vasculitis (an inflammatory disease of the blood vessels),
- in the treatment of central serous chorioretinopathy (fluid build-up under the retina),
- in the treatment of macular degeneration,
- in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy or maculopathy (changes in the retina caused by diabetes),
- as well as other retinal diseases and various formations.
In glaucoma therapy:
- selective laser trabeculoplasty - in the case of primary open-angle glaucoma,
- laser peripheral iridotomy - in case of narrow-angle glaucoma, acute glaucoma.
For the treatment of secondary cataracts:
- YAG laser capsulotomy - used in patients who have already had cataract surgery and are experiencing lens capsule fibrosis or thickening of the lens bag.
The main advantages of laser therapy:
- laser light does not pose a risk of infection to the eye, which can occur surgically,
- laser surgery is performed on an outpatient basis,
- it ensures maximum work accuracy and control possibilities.
Duration and effectiveness of the procedure
- Laser therapy usually lasts 15 to 30 minutes. However, in some cases, or if the patient finds it difficult to sit still, the procedure may take longer.
- Laser therapy may need to be repeated, evaluated and prescribed by a doctor during a follow-up visit.
The effectiveness of laser therapy is determined by the ophthalmologist during the control visit - both after the clinical picture and by performing additional examinations.
- Whether a patient will feel improvement depends on the condition being treated. Some diseases do not affect patients, but the laser, in its work, eliminates the possible consequences that could otherwise have caused severe vision damage in the future. For example, if the patient has no previous complaints, but during the visit, the ophthalmologist has detected a rupture of the retina. The patient will not feel its laser blockage. In turn, laser therapy will significantly improve vision and quality of life for patients with complaints such as lightning, flies, blurred vision and other symptoms.
- In the case of a patient with diabetes mellitus and diabetic retinopathy, laser therapy aims to prevent further negative changes. If the visual impairment has already occurred, the laser procedure will not reverse it but will only delay the disease's further progression. It should be noted that there are also cases, such as in patients with central serous chorioretinopathy, when the patient may have improved vision after laser therapy.
- Patients who undergo a lens capsule dissection shortly after the procedure will have their vision re-examined and assessed to see if the procedure has the desired effect. The patient's vision should improve in the absence of other eye conditions.
- In turn, for patients with glaucoma, the laser is performed to reduce intraocular pressure to come to the control visit to assess whether additional treatment is also needed after the laser procedure. The patient will not feel any improvement in such cases but will be able to follow the changes in pressure dynamics.
Particular caution should be exercised in patients with other severe eye conditions or extreme general medical conditions. However, only the ophthalmologist can decide whether it would be better to postpone laser therapy or choose another treatment.
- Patients should continue to take all of the above medications, as usual, both for eye and general health, when entering laser therapy.
- Laser therapy does not require special preparation - before the planned procedure. The patient can safely eat and drink.