Laser treatment for retinal diseases

Leo Sheck
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You can find a printable pdf copy of this information sheet here.

Laser is commonly used in the treatment of many retinal disorder. Laser is a coherent light source, and this means that the light is of a single wavelength and is able to be focused onto a tight spot. Combined with appropriate optics, this allows the laser light to be precisely placed on the retina with the desired treatment result.

The principle of laser treatment in the retina is photocoagulation. Here, the laser power is taken up by the pigment in the retina and cause a very localised increase in temperature, which produces the treatment effect. Dr Leo Sheck uses the Ellex Integre Pro in Retina Specialists to provide laser treatment, as this machine can consistently produce a uniform treatment effect.

Conditions treated by retinal laser

Diabetic retinopathy

In proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the gold standard treatment is by placing uniformly spaced laser spots in the peripheral retina, a procedure called panretinal photocoagulation. Laser can also be used to treat swelling at the macula from diabetic eye disease (diabetic macular oedema).

Retinal vein occlusion

Laser treatment is generally used if there is abnormal peripheral new blood vessels associated with retinal vein occlusion to prevent traction and bleeding.

Retinal tear

See here for information on floaters and flashing lights.

Laser spots are placed to surround and isolate a high risk retinal tear to prevent it from progressing to a retinal detachment. This treatment is highly effective and reduces the risk of detachment by around 90%.

laser treatment for retinal tear

Central serous chorioretinopathy

Judicious placed low energy laser spot at the site of leakage can be used to hasten recovery in central serous chorioretinopathy.

How is laser treatment performed

This is a simple and painless office based procedure. Dr Sheck is highly experienced in providing laser treatment, and he will ensure you are comfortable at every stage of the procedure. Anaesthetic drops are placed in the eye, and Dr Sheck will gently place a lens on the eye so he can see the treatment zone clearly while you are sitting in front of the microscope. It is important that you keep both eyes open during the entire procedure. He may also ask you to look in a certain direction to help with visualisation.

You will notice some bright lights as the laser is performed. Most patients report no pain, but some may notice a mild headache.

Recovery from retinal laser

As there is no wound being created, there is no specific precaution after retinal laser. You will notice some pink and purple light after the laser, and these will fade over 1-2 hours. If you have a retinal tear, you will be asked to refrain from heavy lifting or acceleration / deceleration activity for 2 weeks.

Potential risks

Retinal laser is a very safe procedure, and the potential risks are small. There are situations that the initial laser treatment is inadequate, and further treatment required. Bleeding from the retina, formation of abnormal blood vessels at the laser site, or preretinal scarring are uncommon. Accidental damage of the macula from laser has been reported but this is very unlikely if you are cooperative during the procedure.

Dr Sheck has performed many laser procedures and safety is paramount in his practice. He will only recommend laser treatment if the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

About Dr Leo Sheck

Dr Sheck is a RANZCO-qualified, internationally trained ophthalmologist. He combined his initial training in New Zealand with a two-year advanced fellowship in Moorfield Eye Hospital, London. He also holds a Doctorate in Ocular Genetics from the University of Auckland and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Cambridge. He specialises in medical retina diseases (injection therapy), cataract surgery, ocular genetics, uveitis and electrodiagnostics.