Laser treatment is performed for many retinal conditions. And while each type of laser treatment is different, there are several common features. Retinal laser treatments are usually performed as an outpatient procedure in the office. The actual laser treatment itself takes only about 15 minutes, but the entire office visit may last two hours or longer due to preparation time and post-treatment care. More time also may be required for dilation of the eye.
Most retinal laser treatments involve only mild discomfort. Depending on the type of treatment, different anesthetics are used. Many treatments require only anesthetic eye drops, which numb the eye. Some laser treatments, however, involve greater discomfort, and occasionally an anesthetic injection is required. If an injection is required, the patient goes home with a patch over the eye. The injection is administered in the eyelid next to the eye – not into the eye itself. Your doctor’s decision about whether to use an anesthetic injection will depend on several factors, including how extensive the treatment will be.
Before the procedure, a contact lens is placed on the eye, but with anesthetic medication, you won’t feel it. The lens comes off after treatment. During the actual laser procedure, the doctor uses a very bright light to see the area of the retina being treated. As a result, the vision will be blurry for several hours afterward. Depending on the type of laser treatment performed, it may take several hours or several days for the vision to return to its pre-laser levels.
After laser treatment, the eye may feel scratchy or irritated for several hours. Some eye discomfort and a headache are also common. Check with your eye doctor to see what pain medications are acceptable. Most patients don’t need anything stronger than Tylenol. After treatment, we recommend that patients relax for the rest of the day and avoid driving or returning to work. Most patients are able to return to their normal activities the following day.
Laser treatments for macular degeneration are done with the infusion of a light-sensitive drug and the use of a cold laser. The laser used for this procedure has a special wave length, which only affects the drug and spares all surrounding tissue. The use of this laser is restricted to certain types of macular degeneration. Your physician at Illinois Retina Associates will let you know if you are eligible for the use of this laser.