Laser treatment is a leading and effective treatment option used to slow or even stop the progression of vitreoretinal conditions and prevent blindness. This technique uses a focused light ray to target tissue precisely. At Retina Consultants of Charleston, we utilize laser technology to treat conditions affecting the retina, macula, vitreous, and optic nerve. Among these are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, and retinal tears and holes.
Within our practice, we generally use a thermal laser. Among its uses are sealing retinal tears, destroying abnormal blood vessels, stopping leaking capillaries, and managing tumor development and macular edema (swelling). As with your regular eye ophthalmologic examination, the laser is built in or attached to a slit lamp microscope.
We anesthetize your eye with special eye drops, and a protective contact gel on a mirrored lens is placed on your eye. This is used to direct the laser light into your eye and onto the specific retinal areas requiring treatment. The treatment is painless, but should you experience any pain or discomfort, let the doctor know, and we’ll provide you with mild pain medication.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves a laser that activates medications given to help stop abnormal blood vessel growth, such as with wet AMD. PDT can be used to close damaged vessels, reduce damage to healthy retina tissue, and treat severe vein occlusions. PDT can also control swelling in the center of your retina, known as macular edema, preventing further vision decline.
How Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) Works
With PDT, a light-activated drug, Visudyne, is injected into the bloodstream, where it travels throughout the body to the abnormal retinal blood vessels. A painless low-energy laser is used to activate the drug. You may require multiple treatment courses, as the abnormal blood vessels often return. Depending on your condition, your ophthalmologist may use PDT in conjunction with other medical and laser therapies, such as injectable medications.
Following PDT, you’ll need to avoid direct sunlight or bright indoor light for five days to avoid potential photosensitivity reactions associated with Visudyne. If you do go outside, protect all parts of your skin and eyes by wearing protective clothing, hats, and dark sunglasses; ultraviolet sunscreens aren’t effective protection. You may also experience such side effects as:
- Swelling at or near the area of skin treated
- Discoloration of your skin
- Scales, crusts, or blisters on the treated skin
- Itching, stinging, or burning
- Skin infections
Panretinal photocoagulation (PRP), also known as focal laser therapy or surgery, is a quick, safe and effective laser treatment. It’s typically applied to the peripheral (or side) retina, which is responsible for both side and night vision. Your ophthalmologist uses a high-energy laser beam to break down blood vessel damage or seal leaking blood vessels. PRP is utilized to help stabilize or control complications of existing retinal conditions.
PRP treats neovascularization, which is abnormal blood vessel growth within the eye. If untreated, this can lead to severe and permanent vision loss or even blindness. PRP minimizes neovascularization risks, especially in patients who suffer from diabetic retinopathy and retinal vein occlusion complications. Additionally, PRP can treat lattice degeneration, depending on your progression, and the weakened retinal location.
How Does Panretinal Photocoagulation (PRP) Work?
A retinal specialist generally administers PRP in a special treatment room, and it takes about 15 minutes. No special preparation is needed before the procedure. Your eye is numbed with topical eye drops, which may burn slightly and briefly. You may also require an anesthetic injection under your eyelid and behind your eye to reduce any discomfort. There may be temporary double vision during and afterward, and your vision may briefly become blurry or go dark, which is normal.
A special contact lens is placed onto the eye, or gentle pressure may be applied to your eye. 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 be sitting upright with your head placed into a special device, or you’ll lie back in the treatment chair. Generally, you may feel some mild discomfort, like an ache, but alert your doctor if there is pain.
What To Expect After PRP
Once completed, your vision will normally be dark, or things may look pink or purple. Your vision may remain blurry for the rest of the day, and possibly for a few days, and you may have a slight black eye for several days. It may be necessary to wear an eye patch overnight over the treated eye, which you can remove at home the next morning. Your eye may ache for 1-2 days, but over-the-counter pain medication can help.
You should know that PRP will not make your vision better. It simply reduces the risk of severe vision loss from retinal disease. And PRP will not remove any eye floaters, although they naturally become less annoying over time. Most commonly, you may observe spots in your vision, usually just off to the side of your central vision. Typically, these spots should go away, but rarely, they may remain. Other side effects may include:
- A temporary mild ache of the eye or around it
- Decreased color, or peripheral (or side) vision
- Decreased contrast sensitivity, the ability to distinguish sharp lines
- Temporary light flashes in your vision
- Loss of some of your vision
- Double vision
- Droopy eyelid
In general, PRP is considered one of the safest laser eye techniques. But additional treatment may be required over your lifetime. The procedure’s effects may take several months to become evident. Your doctor will schedule follow-up evaluations to monitor your response.
Schedule a Consultation for Retinal Laser Treatment in South Carolina
Laser treatment is a safe, effective treatment for multiple vitreoretinal conditions. At Retina Consultants of Charleston, we have the skill and experience in performing different treatments. Please contact us for an appointment today.