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Laser treatment after cataract surgery (YAG laser)

Laser treatment may be needed in up to 50% of patients in the first five years after cataract surgery.

The lens capsule which contained your own lens is left in the eye at the time of cataract surgery in order to support the plastic lens that is inserted in its place. The capsule is usually completely clear like polythene but months and even years after cataract surgery, it can become cloudy and can impair the vision. The treatment of choice for this problem is a laser capsulotomy. A laser is directed at the capsule and a small cut is made with the laser to open it and allow clear passage of light to the back of the eye. This usually improves the cloudiness and improves the vision.

What can I expect at the time of treatment ?

The treatment is performed in the outpatient department and takes a few minutes. Your doctor will insert some anaesthetic drops into the eye. These may sting for a few seconds. A contact lens is then placed on the eye and this allows the doctor to focus the laser beam on the capsule. You will then hear some clicks and beeps of the machine when the laser fires but you will not feel any pain. Usually about 20 or 30 shots are needed to open the capsule. From your point of view it is important to try to keep still during the procedure.

After the procedure, the doctor may put some drops into the eye and you are then free to go home. It is important not to drive to and from the hospital for this appointment because your vision may be affected by the drops and, for a short time, by the treatment. Your eye may feel numb for about 15 minutes but you may also feel as though the contact lens is still in place. Your doctor will have removed the contact lens and your eye will feel comfortable after an hour or so.

What are the side effects ?

Side effects are rare. A transient rise in pressure within the eye may occur but you may have been given drops to counteract this. Very occasionally the eye becomes inflamed after the procedure requiring treatment with eyedrops. If the eye becomes red and painful after this laser treatment you should contact the eye department without delay. It is possible that the vision becomes worse after the procedure. Rarely the retina can become waterlogged after laser capsulotomy. This may occur for no apparent reason but there are some patients who are at greater risk of this complication. If you are one of these patients, your doctor will discuss the risks of treatment beforehand. Retinal detachment is a potential complication but is very rare.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please ask your eye doctor.


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