Cryotherapy treatment for eyes


Cryotherapy is a freezing treatment that can be used to treat a number of retinal problems. These conditions include: retinal detachments and tears, neovascularization (abnormal blood vessel growth), intraocular tumors (retinoblastoma), and retinal ischemia (parts of the retina do not get an adequate amount of oxygen). Cryotherapy works by freezing the layers of the eye and forming an adhesive scar to seal the retina in place against the wall of the eye. The effect is similar to laser treatment in that we are trying to seal off the problem area. This procedure may be chosen instead of a laser treatment when sections of the retina are already detached from the back of the eye since laser treatment can only be used in sections of the retina that have not yet become detached.  

Cryotherapy can be performed in the office by your doctor and takes about 10 to 15 minutes. There are no special preparations and you should eat normally and take your regular medicines as prescribed. First the doctor will administer a topical anesthetic to numb the surface of the eye. A numbing injection is then given just beneath the skin-like covering of the eye to further reduce pain and irritation for the remainder of the procedure. After your eye is numb, the doctor will place a metal probe to the outer surface of the eye. The cryopexy probe becomes very cold with the help of compressed gas (nitrous oxide) as the doctor applies the freezing treatment to the problem area. This freezing will form a scar that adheres the retina back in place by bringing it into contact with the surrounding tissue. In the case of small tumors, this freezing technique can be used to destroy the cells of the tumor. 

You will remain awake and comfortable during the procedure. Most patients experience mild pressure on the eye during the treatment application. Less common are feelings of cold or slight pain similar to a brain freeze or ice cream headache. After the procedure you can expect some mild irritation and redness on the surface of the eye. Cold compresses can be applied to the eyelid following the procedure to reduce this discomfort. Your vision may be slightly blurry and should return to normal within a few days. Healing takes 1-2 weeks, so you should avoid any strenuous activities following the procedure to prevent further complications.  

With any surgery, there is a chance of a complication. Risks for this procedure are uncommon but include: infections, retinal bleeding, retinal detachment recurrence, and damage to other structures of the eye. You should call us at (616) 954-2020 if you have any of the following symptoms after the procedure: 

  • Increased pain not helped by Tylenol or Acetaminophen 
  • Change in vision 
  • Redness or swelling around the eye that is worsening 
  • Any other symptoms that worry you