Diabetic Laser Treatments
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common type of diabetic eye disease and the leading cause of blindness in the United States. This condition is caused by blood vessel changes within the retina that lead to swelling and leaking of fluid. It can also cause the growth of abnormal new blood vessels on the surface of the retina. The fluid can also leak into the center of the macula and cause swelling and blurred vision, a condition known as macular edema. The risk of developing macular edema increases as diabetic retinopathy progresses.
Laser Treatment of Diabetic Eye Conditions
While diabetic laser treatments are considered safe for most patients, there are certain risks associated with any surgical procedure. For advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, laser treatment is often effective in shrinking the abnormal blood vessels through more than a thousand laser burns in the area of the retina. This procedure, known as scatter laser treatment, usually requires two or more sessions in order to fully remove the blood vessels.
Macular edema can also be treated through a laser procedure, called focal laser treatment. This method places hundreds of laser burns in the area of retinal leakage to reduce the amount of fluid in the retina and typically only requires one session.
Laser treatments can be performed in the doctor's office. Anesthetic eye drops will be used to minimize pain during the procedure. Patients may experience blurry vision for the remainder of the day, and should rest at home. It is important for patients to realize that these procedures cannot cure diabetic eye conditions, but rather help reduce vision loss and slow the progression for patients with more advanced cases.