Modern lasers are miracles of control. The laser beam can be focused on a spot as small as one-millionth of a meter, the power controlled to one-thousandth of a watt, and the exposure time set to one-billionth of a second.
The laser has replaced conventional surgical techniques for many procedures because laser surgery can often be performed with little or no pain, without anesthesia or hospitalization, and at a lower cost.
Lasers eliminate the need to make a physical incision in the eye; the incidence of infection and other complications after surgery is greatly reduced.
Lasers and Cataracts
A YAG laser is often used to open a clouded capsule after cataract surgery. This is a very common cause of visual reduction after cataract surgery, occuring in 30-50% of patients within one year of cataract surgery.
Lasers and Retinal Tears
The retina is at the back of the eye, virtually inaccessible to conventional surgery. In some people, the retina can tear and become partially detached from the back wall of the eye.
Although retinal detachment in advanced stages usually requires major surgery, using an Argon laser can fuse smaller tears in place and help prevent further detachment.
Lasers and Diabetes
It is not uncommon for a diabetic to have blood vessels in the retina which begin to leak. The Argon laser is sometimes used to seal them closed. Also, diabetics may grow new blood vessels on the surface of the retina, which may bleed or cause scarring. Argon laser treatment can reduce their growth or cause them to regress, reducing the risk of visual loss.
Lasers and Macular Degeneration
As the body ages, weak blood vessels may leak and scar the central retina. Called macular degeneration, this condition prevents the patient from seeing objects straight ahead, leaving him or her with only peripheral vision.
Lasers and Glaucoma
In the relatively rare instances of acute glaucoma, immediate treatment is required. Argon or YAG lasers will often be used to open a fluid channel directly in the iris to reduce pressure and avoid more extensive surgery. Argon or SLT lasers are also used in chronic glaucoma. Several different types of lasers are used to treat and enlarge the normal fluid drainage channels of the eye, reducing the intraocular pressure.