Diabetic retinopathy laser surgery is an in-office treatment that involves making tiny burns in the eye with a beam of light. While it does not correct vision loss that has already occurred, it can prevent further vision deterioration.
Each treatment session takes 20–40 minutes, and several visits may be necessary. After each session, a person may experience discomfort, blurred vision, and increased sensitivity to light.
Diabetic retinopathy affects approximately
Keep reading to learn more about diabetic retinopathy laser surgery, including what to expect, aftercare, recovery, and possible complications.
Before discussing laser surgery, a person needs to consider the effects of the condition on the retina.
The retina is a structure in the back of the eye that turns light into signals, which the brain interprets as images.
When a person’s blood sugar stays high, over time, it can harm the blood vessels in the retina and lead to diabetic retinopathy.
In the early stage — known as nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy — blood vessels in the retina can weaken and leak, causing swelling.
As the condition progresses, it
Laser treatment, known as photocoagulation,
Laser treatment is a procedure rather than an operation. Unlike surgery, it does not require general anesthesia — medications that put someone in an unconscious state — or making an incision.
A person may receive the treatment in their eye doctor’s office. They will be awake and seated with their chin in a strap.
Typically, the procedure takes 20–40 minutes.
A person may require
- Discomfort: The discomfort a person feels during the treatment may linger for a while, but taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help.
- Blurred vision: An individual will need someone to drive them home.
- Increased sensitivity to light: Wearing sunglasses until the eyes adjust may help.
Potential complications include:
- seeing floaters, or spots floating in the eye
- seeing the pattern of the laser in the back of the eye — an effect that may last several months
- experiencing reduced night or peripheral vision, which may make it necessary for someone to stop driving
- bleeding into the eye
- having a permanent, small blind spot in the center of the eye
As the laser treatment will not correct vision loss that is already present, an individual may wish to find a low vision rehabilitation clinic to explore their options.
Eye professionals may recommend the below
- eyeglasses or contact lenses
If such measures cannot correct vision loss, special devices, and training may enable someone to make the most of their remaining vision.
- eating a nutritious diet
- engaging in regular exercise
- following instructions in taking insulin and other diabetes medications
- managing any coexisting conditions, for example, high blood pressure or cholesterol
Diabetic retinopathy laser surgery is an in-office treatment rather than an operation. Instead of using general anesthesia and an incision, as in most surgeries, it involves numbing drops and making tiny burns in the eye with beams of light.
The treatment makes blood vessels shrink and stop leaking. This reduces swelling and protects against further vision loss.
After the treatment, it may take several days for the side effects to completely disappear. However, complications, such as bleeding into the eye and seeing floaters, are possible.
If an individual has vision loss before the treatment, they may benefit from going to a low vision rehabilitation clinic.