Retinal Laser Treatment

Lasers were first used to treat eye diseases in the early 1970's and have become the standard of care for previously untreatable disorders. For many patients, a laser treatment can preserve or prevent vision loss if given in a timely fashion. The pure, highly concentrated beam of light energy from a laser can be precisely focused on the retinal, selectively treating the desired area while leaving the surrounding tissues untouched.

Often patients do not know they have retinal conditions because their eyes may look and feel normal even while there is hemorrhaging and fluid leakage in the back of the eye. A patient’s sight may also be normal for a while despite the presence of potentially blinding eye problems. The only way to tell if a retinal treatment is necessary is to have a careful, dilated retinal examination, often followed by special testing including OCT scanning and fluorescein angiography (a photographic test that evaluates the eye's circulation). At NY Vision Group, lasers are commonly used to treat the following eye conditions: diabetic retinopathy; retinal vein occlusions; retinal breaks and detachments and other retinal vascular disorders.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy | New York Vision Group Diabetes causes circulation problems throughout the body, including the eyes, nerves, and kidneys. The retinal blood vessels are usually like pipes, bringing blood into and out of the back of the eye. In diabetes, however, the vessels are damaged and may leak fluid, causing the retina to swell (diabetic macular edema). Vision is affected when the swelling involves the central vision area. Laser surgery can seal the leaks, thereby preventing further vision loss. In addition, some patients will have new retinal blood vessels grow to replace some which have closed from the diabetes (proliferative diabetic retinopathy). These new blood vessels can cause blindness from bleeding and scarring. Laser treatment can often prevent severe vision loss by making these new vessels disappear. In the United States alone, there are approximately 16 million people with diabetes, and around half have some form of diabetic eye disease, including retinopathy. Nearly 1 million have the advanced form of retinopathy, which may lead to permanent blindness. Consequently it is imperative for diabetics to have regular eye exams.

Retinal Vein Occlusions

The small blood vessels that drain blood from the retina (retinal veins) can sometimes become blocked as part of the aging process. This is more common in patients with diabetes or high blood pressure. A retinal vein occlusion can cause the retina to swell with fluid and blood, blurring central and peripheral vision. Other times, new blood vessels may grow and cause pain with very high pressure inside the eye (neovascular glaucoma). Laser treatment can help reduce this swelling or cause the new blood vessels to disappear.

Retinal Tears and Detachment

Retinal Tears  | | New York Vision Group | Retinal DetachmentThe retina lines the back of the eye like wallpaper. A retinal tear can occur as part of an aging phenomenon, or following cataract surgery or eye injury. Often, patients will see cobweb-like floaters or light flashes when a retinal tear develops. Liquid that normally fills the central portion of the eye (the vitreous) can leak beneath the tear, lifting the retina away from the eye wall. This is called a retinal detachment, which can cause blindness if left untreated. Laser surgery around retinal tears is often able to weld the retina to the underlying eye wall. This can prevent or limit retinal detachment.

Other Retinal Vascular Disorders

CRVO, BRVO, and retinal macroaneruysms are among multiple retinal vascular disorders that in certain instances are treated with laser. The laser can help repair damage and prevent blindness and, along with other modalities, remains a useful adjunct in managing retinal disease.

How Do the Laser Treatments Work?

There are no special preparations before eye laser treatment. Patient should eat normally and take their regularly prescribed medications before surgery. Retinal laser surgery is typically performed in our Queens state-of-the-art offices. Eye drops will be given to dilate the pupil and numb the eye. The treatment is performed while you are seated in a chair, similar to the one used for regular eye examinations. You will remain awake and comfortable. Treatment is usually painless. The laser treatment usually takes less than 30 minutes to complete, and you can go home immediately following surgery.

Restrictions and Side Effects

There are virtually no restrictions following retinal laser surgery, and you should be able to resume your normal activities and work schedule the following day. Most patients notice no vision changes following their laser surgery, although there may be some temporary blurring for several weeks to months. In addition, depending on the condition being treated, some may notice a permanent blind spot or decrease in peripheral and night vision. It will take several weeks to months before we can tell whether the laser treatment has been successful and patients may need more than one treatment to control their eye problem and prevent further loss of vision. Prior to the treatment, your doctor at NY Vision Group will discuss the risks, benefits and alternatives of the procedure so you can decide if it is right for you.