Laser for Retinal Tear

A detached retina is a serious eye condition that usually leads to blindness unless treated. Occurring in 1 in 10,000 people, retinal detachments happen when vitreous fluid inside the eye travels through a tear or hole in the retina where it separates from the wall of the eye. Retinal detachments are most often caused by a posterior vitreous detachment. This normal aging change can sometimes cause adhesion and traction that pulls on the retina and causes a tear or hole as the gel-like substance changes consistency.  

Thankfully, retinal tears and holes, areas of lattice degeneration, and shallow retinal detachments can be treated by laser. A laser retinopexy is a procedure in which a green thermal laser is used to make a scar tissue as a barrier surrounding the tear or break in the retina. This functions much like a tack weld to break the adhesion on the retina and prevent fluid from getting behind it and the retina from detaching. This laser only uses several hundred milliwatts of power to apply laser for 0.1 to 0.2 seconds at a time to microscopic areas of the retina. 

Laser can be performed in the office by your doctor and takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes. There are no special preparations and you should eat normally and take your regular medicines as prescribed. Once your eye is dilated, the doctor will administer a topical anesthetic to numb the surface of the eye. The doctor then focuses the laser through a special lens and applies treatment. They may need to use a special contact lens on your eye to direct the light more accurately. You will notice a very bright light as the doctor is applying treatment. You will be awake, and most people only have mild discomfort, if any. People have described the laser as an ice cream headache, stabbing, sharp, or aching painsor just very bright light with no pain at all. It is important that you keep your head still during the procedure.  

After the procedure your vision will be dazzled from the bright lights and things may appear blurry for several hours. You may experience some mild irritation and redness on the surface of the eye and possibly a headache. Things should return to normal the following day. A cold compress to the eyelid or artificial tears can be helpful in reducing the post procedure discomfortThe scar tissue from the laser takes about 5 days to fully form, so you will need to return for an exam in a week to make sure that the laser is sufficient. 

While generally a safe procedure, complications from laser retinopexy can occur. Damage to other structures of the eye, retinal bleeding, epiretinal membrane formation, and the formation of new retinal breaks. Laser treatment considerably reduces the risk or retinal detachments but does not eliminate the risk. Call us at (616) 954-2020 if you have any of the following symptoms after the procedure: 

  • New floaters 
  • Flashing lights in vision 
  • A decrease in vision (like a curtain or veil coming across vision) 
  • Any other symptoms that worry you