Patients Guide to Lasers in Modern Eye Care
Lasers use a complex system of crystals, gases,
lenses, mirrors, and mechanisms for focusing and cooling to produce an
extremely intense, uniform beam of light of a single color or wavelength. The
energy of this beam can be focused very precisely on diseased eye
Because some colors of laser light have more effect on certain
eye tissue than others, different lasers are used to treat different eye
- Lasers used at St.John's Surgery Center include:
· the SLT laser, used in treatment of open-angle glaucoma
· the YAG laser, used for treatment of the lens capsule following
cataract surgery and diseases of the vitreous.
Modern lasers are miracles of
control. The laser beam can be focused on a spot as small as one-millionth of a
meter, the power controlled to one-thousandth of a watt, and the exposure time
set to one-billionth of a second.
The laser has replaced conventional
surgical techniques for many procedures because laser surgery can often be
performed with little or no pain, without anesthesia or hospitalization, and at
a lower cost.
Because lasers eliminate the need to make a physical
incision in the eye, the incidence of infection and other complications after
surgery is greatly reduced.
LASERS AND CATARACTS
Cataracts are a gradual clouding
of the eyes natural lens. Although lasers are not used in the removal of
cataracts themselves, they can be an important tool in treating a condition
related to cataract surgery.
In modern eye surgery techniques, the
cloudy cataract is removed from the eyes lens capsule, leaving the lens
capsule membrane in place to hold the new artificial lens implant.
some patients, the remaining lens capsule membrane can become cloudy a short
time after the cataract surgery and vision is blurred once again. In these
cases, a YAG laser is used to open this membrane. After a YAG laser treatment,
vision is usually restored almost immediately.
LASERS AND GLAUCOMA
Glaucoma is an abnormally high
fluid pressure within the eye. As pressure builds, it can pinch
both the optic nerve and the blood vessels which nourish the retina. The result
is usually a slow loss of peripheral, or side vision, and eventual
Chronic glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages.
Detected by a simple test in our office, it is the leading preventable cause of
blindness in the U.S. today.
In most cases, the traditional treatment
for glaucoma includes eyedrops and tablets, both of which must be taken in
precise amounts on a regular schedule to control fluid pressure. If this fails,
treatment using the SLT laser may be tried before resorting to conventional
surgery to open drainage channels within the eye. During SLT laser treatment,
specific cells in the eye are stimulated to activate increased fluid drainage
thereby reducing pressure inside the eye.
LASERS AND ACUTE GLAUCOMA
In the relatively rare
instances of acute glaucoma, immediate treatment is required. Argon lasers will
often be used to open a fluid channel directly in the iris to reduce pressure
and avoid more extensive surgery.
LASERS AND RETINAL TEARS
The retina is at the back of
the eye, virtually inaccessible to conventional surgery. In some people, the
retina can tear and become partially detached from the back wall of the
Although retinal detachment in advanced stages usually requires
major surgery, doctors using an Argon laser can fuse smaller tears in place and
help prevent further detachment.
LASERS AND DIABETES
It is not uncommon for a diabetic
to have blood vessels under the retina which begin to leak. The Argon laser is
often used to seal them closed.
LASERS AND MACULAR DEGENERATION
As the body ages,
weak blood vessels may leak and scar the central retina. Called macular
degeneration, this condition prevents the patient from seeing objects straight
ahead, leaving him or her with only peripheral vision.
Eight in ten
patients suffer from a slow-progressing form of the disease which cannot be
treated by lasers. If detected in time, however, the other 20 percent with
fast-progressing macular degeneration may benefit from laser
LASER SURGERY AND LASER THERAPY
Some laser procedures
may correctly be called surgery; a one-time treatment of a specific condition.
Other procedures are more like therapy and may require repeated sessions to
accomplish a particular goal. If you have questions, your doctor at St.John's
Surgery Center will be more than happy to answer them.
Unlike conventional surgery, for a laser treatment you will be
seated in an upright position, leaning slightly forward with your chin and
forehead resting on a chin-rest. Youll be asked to hold your head steady
and try not to blink. Anesthesia, if required, will probably be in the form of
Although the laser generally produces little or no pain, you
may experience discomfort similar to looking at the headlights of an oncoming
car at night.
After surgery, your eyes may be somewhat scratchy or
sensitive to light, but these symptoms seldom last more than a day or
Lasers have been one of the most
revolutionary medical tools in history. With them, surgeons may operate on
diseased eye tissue without disturbing neighboring healthy cells. The eye is
left untouched except by a beam of energy.
Once a science fiction
miracle, today lasers at St John's Surgery Center are a practical tool used in
the effort to maintain and restore good vision.