At Retina Associates of Utah, we will determine the proper technique for your specific condition. Eligible patients may even receive novel investigational treatments available through our clinical trials.
Laser photocoagulation is a quick and safe technique in which a retinal specialist uses a focused, high-energy laser to break down blood vessel damage or seal leaking blood vessels. Typically, recovery time is minimal and the effects are long-lasting.
Also referred to as focal laser therapy or surgery, laser photocoagulation is often used on the peripheral retina, responsible for side and night vision. Depending on the area being treated, it can be used for such conditions as:
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Diabetic macular edema
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Choroidal neovascularization
- Retinal tears
- Some tumors
Generally, a retinal specialist administers photocoagulation in the office. The entire procedure takes about 15 minutes, with no special preparation needed. Your eye is numbed with topical eye drops, or you may receive anesthetic injections under your eyelid and behind your eye to reduce any discomfort.
During treatment, a bright light is shown in the eye. You may experience bright flashes of light, but there shouldn’t be any pain. You may sit upright with your head placed in a special device, or you’ll lie back in the treatment chair. Some mild discomfort is common, but tell your doctor about any pain.
Afterward, your vision may be dark, pink, or purple. It may be blurry for the rest of the day or in the days that follow, and a slight black eye may remain for several days. You may notice spots to the side of your central vision, which typically disappear. This procedure does not remove floaters, but they become less noticeable over time. Other side effects may include:
- A temporary mild ache of the eye or around it
- Decreased color or peripheral vision
- Decreased contrast sensitivity
- Loss of some vision
- Double vision
- Droopy eyelid
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a laser technique used to close abnormal leaking blood vessels in the retina and choroid (a spongy, pigmented vascular tissue that supplies oxygenated blood to the outer retina).
Besides closing blood vessels, PDT reduces damage to healthy retinal tissue, treats severe vein occlusions, and controls macular edema (swelling in the retina’s center), preventing further vision loss. Generally, PDT treats conditions involving abnormal blood vessel growth, such as wet AMD.
The PDT procedure involves three steps:
- A light-activated drug, known as Visudyne, is injected into your bloodstream.
- It travels through the body to the abnormal retinal blood vessels.
- A painless low-energy laser activates the drug.
Multiple PDT treatments may be required, as the abnormal blood vessels often return. The retinal specialist may also use PDT in conjunction with other therapies, like injectable medications.
Following PDT, avoid direct sunlight or bright indoor light for five days, as your light sensitivity may increase. If you go outside, protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses with 100% UV protection and hats. Your vision will also be blurry.
A form of freezing therapy, cryopexy involves applying a freezing probe against the outside of the eye. Cryopexy is commonly used to treat retinal tears or as part of a larger treatment procedure for retinal detachments.
You will be given topical anesthesia to numb you. Then, a cryopexy probe is placed on your sclera, which is the white part of the eye. Next, the probe’s tip is used to freeze the retina from the outside of the eye. The intense cold forms chorioretinal scar tissue, effectively sealing tears and helping to stabilize and secure the detached retina.
Once cryopexy is completed, you may have temporary discomfort and eye redness, which should gradually improve. Over the next few days and weeks, you can expect the treated areas to heal.
A common, simple, and less-invasive treatment for retinal detachment, pneumatic retinopexy involves injecting a gas bubble into the eye. It differs from other retinal detachment procedures in that it is usually performed within an office setting. It may also have a slightly lower risk of complications in specific scenarios.
A gas bubble is injected into the affected eye’s vitreous cavity to plug the retinal break until the retina reattaches. The torn retina is closed, and new fluid is produced to fill the healing eye. This procedure is often performed in conjunction with other treatments, like laser photocoagulation or cryotherapy.
Generally, it takes about three weeks to recover from the procedure. Once completed, plan to have someone take you home. You'll need to maintain a specific head position for 8 hours or more to ensure the gas bubble is supporting the healing retina, and you cannot lie on your back. Typically, the bubble increases in size for a few days, and then it shrinks over the following weeks.
Follow your eye doctor’s instructions about proper eye care to help reduce complication risks. You may need to take eye drops with antibiotics to help prevent infection. You’ll also have to avoid air travel afterward, but your doctor will let you know when you can fly again.
Regular follow-up ophthalmologic appointments will be needed to determine if the procedure is effective. If you have decreasing vision or increasing pain or swelling around your eye, tell your doctor immediately. If pneumatic retinopexy doesn’t work, surgery may be needed. Among the more common risks are:
- Proliferative vitreoretinopathy
- Persistent or recurrent retinal detachment
- Trapped gas in your eye
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At Retina Associates of Utah, we will quickly determine the proper diagnosis and treatment options for your unique needs. We invite you to contact us for an appointment.