When we discuss the need for a laser procedure to treat patients’ eyes, they usually have the thought of getting rid of their glasses or contacts. Sometimes this is the case, but in other instances the lasers are used to treat diabetic eye bleeding, lower eye pressure from glaucoma, or remove a film behind a lens after cataract surgery.
Lasik surgery is the procedure used to eliminate the need for glasses and contacts. It is a purely elective procedure that can cost several thousand dollars. Since it is elective and considered cosmetic, insurance doesn’t cover the procedure. It is a remarkably accurate procedure with astounding results when performed on appropriate candidates. Once called the “flap-and-zap”, the procedure involves making a flap on the front surface of the eye, lifting the flap, then a very specialized laser reshapes the curvature of the eye to change the power. Current technology has made the creation of the flap much more precise since lasers can make the flap instead of mechanical gears and blades.
There are occasions when patients with diabetes need to have laser surgery. Diabetics can have leaky blood vessels in the retina that cause accumulation of fluid in the part of the eye that allows clear central vision. If the leakage affects this area, or a larger area in other parts of the retina, a laser can be used to stop the bleeding and reduce the swelling.
Certain types of glaucoma are now effectively treated with lasers. Specifically, selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) works by increasing the fluid outflow from the drainage structure inside the eye. Lowering eye pressure by SLT has a similar effect to an eye drop.
Lastly, patients who had cataract surgery often need a laser procedure to remove a film behind the artificial lens placed at the time of surgery. When this film is dense enough to cause vision problems, a YAG laser procedure can be performed safely and effectively to improve vision.
As we can see, there are several types of laser surgeries used to treat eye conditions. Make sure you ask your eye doctor to explain the type of laser treatment needed, and always ask about the risks and benefits before having surgery.