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Argon laser treatment

Argon laser is used to prevent leakage of fluid from blood vessels at the back of the eye (the retina) or to destroy part of the retina that is encouraging the development of abnormal blood vessels in the eye. These problems may be associated with diabetes or may be caused by other conditions affecting the blood vessels on the retina. Occasionally, argon laser is used to lower the pressure in the eye in glaucoma.

Focal laser treatment

This is used to reduce leakage of fluid from leaky blood vessels in the retina. Here the laser is being used as a welding tool. If the leaking area is targeted, the improvement in symptoms may take a few weeks to be noticed and you may require more than one treatment. If the leaking areas are too close to the central part of the vision, the risks of reduced vision caused by the treatment may outweigh the potential benefits.

Pan retinal laser treatment

This is used to destroy parts of the retina which are producing substances which encourage the development of abnormal blood vessels on the retina or iris. The problem with the abnormal blood vessels is that they are prone to bleed, causing potentially devastating visual complications. The treatment takes longer than focal treatment because more laser burns are applied to the retina (sometimes more than1000).

What can I expect at the time of treatment?

You will have some drops put into the eye to enlarge the pupil. Your vision for reading may become temporarily worse after these drops. You will then have some local anaesthetic drops put into the eye which may sting for a few seconds. The doctor will ask you to sit at the laser machine and to put your chin on the rest. A contact lens will be placed on the eye to allow the doctor to focus the laser on the retina. You will then hear some clicks of the machine firing and see some bright flashes of light. Pain is unusual during the procedure but with extended treatments you may experience a brief sharp pain. Very occasionally, a local anaesthetic injection has to be given to numb the eye if the procedure is painful. It is important to keep the eye as still as possible, to keep the eyes open and not to squeeze the eyes closed. Your doctor will be able to help you with this by using the contact lens.

What side effects can I expect after treatment?

Your vision may be blurred for a few hours after the procedure partly because the pupil will remain dilated for this time and partly because of the bright light that has been shone into the eye. Occasionally the eye feels tender after the procedure. Feel free to take a simple painkiller such as paracetamol for this. Please see below for further details about your vison after the treatment.

What will happen to my vision after argon laser treatment?

Your vision may gradually improve over a few weeks, it may stay the same and rarely it may get worse. Argon laser treatment is sometimes used to improve vision, for example, if there is leakage of fluid into the retina. This does not always work due to persistent leakage and further treatment may be required. The improvement may take weeks for you to notice. If the treatment has been used to prevent bleeding from abnormal blood vessels, you are unlikely to notice any change in your vision unless you are unfortunate enough to have complications from the abnormal vessels themselves in which case your vision may get worse.

Could the vision be worse after treatment?

It is unlikely, but your vision may get worse for the following reasons:

  1. The progression of your condition gets worse despite treatment. For example, if you have diabetic retinopathy, the laser treatment may not halt progression the eye condition.
  2. You have required extensive treatment to a large are of the retina, usually on multiple treatments which has destroyed much of your retina in an attempt to prevent blinding complications. This reduces the amount you can see in the edges of your vision and may even affect your ability to drive. Occasionally the most sensitive part of your retina is affected by treatment to the outer retina reducing your vision.
  3. The laser treatment has damaged the most sensitive part of your retina. If the eye moves suddenly as a laser shot is applied close to the retina, the shot may fall on the most sensitive part, the fovea. This can be visually devastating and for this reason it is very important to keep the eye as still as possible during treatment.
  4. The most sensitive part of the retina may occasionally be indirectly damaged by the treatment. Applying large amounts of laser burns can sometimes cause scarring of the most sensitive area (the macula)
  5. You have a bleed during the procedure. This is a very rare complication of treatment and usually resolves.

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


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