Laser for Diabetes

When someone develops serious diabetic eye disease, either significant swelling of the retina or the growth of abnormal blood vessels, often a laser treatment is recommended. Please remember that each individual circumstance requires a unique approach. A skilled diabetic eye doctor will help you understand your specific condition and your specific options.

Clinically Significant Macular Degeneration Laser (Focal Laser)

When someone develops edema or swelling of the retina that meets a certain criteria, called Clinically Significant Macular Edema, a laser treatment is used to try to reduce or eliminate the swelling. A large study called the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study or ETDRS showed that people who develop Clinically Significant Macular Edema and had laser treatment saved their vision better than those that did not have the laser treatment.

It is important to remember that the goal of the laser treatment for Clinically Significant Macular Edema is not to improve the vision but to preserve the vision in the eye.

As always, before any procedure, discuss it in detail with your doctor. Make sure you understand the benefits, alternatives to the procedure and their risks, what will happen without treatment, and the risks of the procedure. Make sure you get answers to your questions to help you make an informed decision.

The Procedure

The actual procedure usually involves the following: the person is taken to the laser room, a drop of a numbing eye drop is placed in the eye, and the person is positioned in a machine called a slit lamp that is similar to the machine in the exam room that requires you to put your chin in a chin rest and your forehead against a plastic bar while light is shined in your eye. Then a contact lens is placed on the eye. This contact lens does not hurt but can feel a little strange around your eyelids and this contact lens is removed immediately after the treatment.

The light in the eye is bright and you may see a small red light. Do not look at the red light but instead look where the surgeon tells you. The surgeon positions the laser, focuses it, and aims it very carefully. The treatment usually involves short flashes of light and no pain. The number of flashes depends on the extent of the swelling and the treatment time will also vary accordingly, usually in the 10 to 50 flashes range and 5 to 15 minutes range.

Once the treatment has been completed, the contact lens is removed. The eye may feel a little sticky due to eye ointment that was needed on the contact lens. Do not rub the eye. The vision may also be poor due to the bright lights. The sticky feeling and the vision trouble usually resolve after several minutes.

Follow up with your doctor is extremely important.

Abnormal Blood Vessel Laser (Pan Retinal Photocoagulation)

When someone develops abnormal blood vessels or proliferative diabetic retinopathy that meets a certain criteria called high-risk proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a laser treatment is used to try to reduce or eliminate the abnormal blood vessels. Depending on the circumstances, laser treatment may be indicated at a different point in the disease process. An experienced diabetic eye disease doctor can help discuss your particular options.

A large study called the Diabetes Retinopathy Study or ETDRS showed that people who develop high-risk proliferative diabetic retinopathy and had laser treatment preserved their vision better than those that did not have the laser treatment.

It is important to remember that the goal of the laser treatment for high-risk proliferative diabetic retinopathy, as in the case of Clinically Significant Macular Edema, is not to improve the vision but to preserve the vision in the eye.

As always, before any procedure, discuss it in detail with your doctor. Make sure you understand the benefits, alternatives to the procedure and their risks, what will happen without treatment, and the risks of the procedure. Make sure you get answers to your questions to help you make an informed decision.

The Procedure

The actual procedure usually involves the following: the person is taken to the laser room, a drop of a numbing eye drop is placed in the eye, and the person is positioned in a machine called a slit lamp that is similar to the machine in the exam room that requires you to put your chin in a chin rest and your forehead against a plastic bar while light is shined in your eye. Then a contact lens is placed on the eye. This contact lens does not hurt but can feel a little strange around your eyelids and this contact lens is removed immediately after the treatment.

The light in the eye is bright and you may see a small red light. Do not look at the red light but instead look where the surgeon tells you. The surgeon positions the laser, focuses it, and aims it very carefully. The treatment usually involves short flashes of light. The total treatment is usually divided into two or more sessions. The number of flashes is usually in the 600 to 800 range and takes 15 to 30 minutes for treatment.

Most people do not have pain. Some people, especially during the second treatment, may feel a little discomfort or develop a headache. Let your laser surgeon know if you have significant discomfort, there are ways to reduce the discomfort.

Once the treatment has been completed, the contact lens is removed. The eye may feel a little sticky due to eye ointment that was needed on the contact lens. Do not rub the eye. The vision may also be poor due to the bright lights. The sticky feeling and the vision trouble usually resolve after several minutes.

Follow up with your doctor is extremely important.

For more information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 315 464-5252.