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Diabetic Retinopathy: Having Laser Treatment

You have diabetic retinopathy, a condition that occurs when diabetes damages blood vessels in the rear of the eye. It can lead to vision loss or blindness. But a treatment called laser photocoagulation may help slow or stop the disease.

What Is Laser Photocoagulation?

Laser photocoagulation is a treatment that uses a laser (high-energy light source) to repair damaged capillaries. A laser beam is focused on the retina. The heat from the laser beam seals weak capillaries. New capillary growth is also slowed or stopped with the procedure. Laser photocoagulation is done using one or more of the types of laser treatments listed below.

Types of Laser Treatment

The type of treatment you receive depends on the extent and location of damaged capillaries. Treatment may take from a few minutes to a half hour or so. You may need more than one treatment session or type of treatment. Treatments include the following:

  • Panretinal treatment reduces growth of new capillaries throughout the retina (the inside lining of the eye).

  • Grid treatment treats swelling in different areas of the macula (a spot in the middle of the retina responsible for clear vision).

  • Focal treatment seals up tiny bulges in capillaries near the fovea (the area inside the macula where the sharpest, clearest images are produced).

Preparing for Laser Treatment

Tell your doctor about all medications, herbal remedies, and supplements you take. This includes aspirin, ibuprofen, ginkgo, Coumadin (warfarin), or other blood thinners. Be sure to have an adult family member or friend drive you home after surgery. You should also bring dark sunglasses to wear on the way home.

During Laser Treatment

Laser treatment may be done at the doctor's office, hospital, or eye center. You'll be awake during the procedure. First, the doctor uses eyedrops to widen (dilate) your pupil. He or she then holds a special contact lens against your eye while the laser beam treats the eye.

Following Laser Treatment

You may be given an eye patch to wear for a few days. Ask your doctor how long you need to avoid lifting, exercising, or swimming. Also, ask when you can drive and return to work.

Controlling Pain

Laser treatment may cause pain. You'll be given medication to control this pain. If the discomfort continues, tell your doctor.

Risks and Complications of Laser Treatment

  • Pain in or around the eye

  • Bleeding in the retina

  • Watery eyes

  • Dilated pupils

  • Mild headache

  • Double or blurry vision

  • Seeing spots

  • Problems with glare

  • Loss of night or side (peripheral) vision

When to Call Your Doctor

If you have sudden pain or notice decreasing vision after surgery, call your eye doctor right away.

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We see patients from the downtown Seattle, Belltown and South Lake Union areas of Seattle in King County, WA.

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Dr. Feiten was born and raised in Wisconsin, attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for her undergraduate studies. She graduated from Pacific University with her Doctor of Optometry degree in 1987. She practiced in Kentucky for seven years, receiving the Young OD of the Year Award in 1994.

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2101 4th Avenue, Suite 1360
Seattle, WA 98121
Fax: 206.623.1759
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