What is Retinal Laser Photocoagulation?

Most people are only vaguely familiar with the various tests and treatments that may be performed on the eyes. For many, nothing more than an annual vision exam takes place until they encounter a problem such as one of the various eye diseases. In our Minnesota offices, we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and conditions that affect the retina. Retinal laser photocoagulation is a technique that may be advisable in several scenarios.

Retinal laser photocoagulation is a procedure that is performed in the office using a local anesthetic to numb the eyes. The laser device emits light that gets absorbed into a local area of ocular tissue, where it causes the formation of scar tissue. The scar tissue can seal a retinal tear to keep the retina from detaching. The technique can also destroy or seal leaking blood vessels to preserve sight and protect the integrity of the retina. In this instance, photocoagulation may also slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye.

Some of the common conditions for which retinal laser photocoagulation may be used include retinal tears, macular edema, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vein occlusion. The benefit of undergoing this procedure is that the risk of further vision loss is decreased.

What Is Retinal Photocoagulation Like?

We understand that the necessity for any eye procedure can feel unnerving. Retinal procedures are performed after the eye has been numbed with eye drops or another type of local anesthesia. Eye drops to dilate the pupil are also administered. Because dilation takes time to wear off, patients need to have a loved one bring them to their appointment and drive them home. Once the procedure begins, it is typically over within 15 to 20 minutes. A contact lens may be inserted over the front of the eye. This can help focus the laser. The doctor directs the point of light from the laser to targeted areas. Here, tissue sustains minor burns; not enough to affect vision but enough stimulate the formation of necessary scar tissue.

During the procedure, slight pinprick sensations may be felt as laser light touches tissue at the back of the eye. Bright flashes of light may also be noticed. Because only local anesthesia is used, patients can talk with their doctor throughout their procedure and let them know if they become uncomfortable.

After retinal laser photocoagulation, vision will be slightly blurry and the eyes will be extra sensitive until the pupils return to normal. The treated eye may feel mildly sore for a few days. For a short time, certain activities may need to be avoided, such as strenuous exercise. Thorough post-treatment care instructions are provided to facilitate optimal healing.

We proudly provide retinal care to patients in areas including St. Paul, Duluth, Minneapolis, Oakdale, and more. To locate a retina specialist near you, call (800) VRS-2500.

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