Laser Photocoagulation for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
What is laser photocoagulation for AMD?
Laser photocoagulation is a type of
laser surgery for the eyes. It's done to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD can lead to vision loss.
The retina is the layer of cells in
the back of your eye. It changes light into electrical signals. Your retina then sends
these signals to your brain. AMD affects your macula. The macula is the sensitive,
central part of your retina. This area is responsible for the detailed vision in the
middle of your visual field. AMD harms your macula. Blood vessels may grow
under your macula. This causes blood and fluid to leak under it. This excess blood
and fluid can lead to vision loss.
Before the surgery, you are given
an anesthetic eye drop. An eye care provider then uses a special lens to focus an
intense beam of light. This creates burns in small areas of the macula. This seals off
the leaky blood vessels. This can help prevent more vision loss.
Why might I need laser photocoagulation for AMD?
Laser photocoagulation is one type
of treatment for AMD. AMD is a common cause of severe vision loss in older adults. In
rare cases, it can result in total blindness. AMD affects the macula. So you may still
have your side (peripheral) vision. But you may have a slow or sudden loss of central
There are 2 types of AMD: dry and
wet. Abnormal blood vessel growth only occurs in the wet type. Laser photocoagulation
treatment is advised only for the wet type. Laser photocoagulation is only an optional
treatment for some people with wet AMD. Your eye care provider might advise the
procedure if your abnormal blood vessels are grouped tightly together. The procedure is
less helpful if you have scattered vessels. It is also less helpful if they are in the
central part of the macula. Your eye care provider may be more likely to advise the
procedure if your vision loss comes on suddenly instead of slowly.
Laser photocoagulation doesn’t
always bring back vision that you already have lost. But it may slow down the
progression of damage to your central vision.
Other treatment options for AMD
include medicines that decrease abnormal blood vessel growth. Your eye care provider may
advise using medicines and laser photocoagulation. Talk with your provider about the
risks and benefits of all of your treatment options.
What are the risks of laser photocoagulation for AMD?
During laser photocoagulation,
the eye care provider burns part of the macula. This often causes some added vision
loss. You might have a blind spot where the laser makes a scar. In some cases, this
vision loss might be worse than the possible vision loss from not treating the eye. This
is something to think about when deciding to have the surgery.
The procedure has some other possible risks as well. These include:
Accidental treatment of the central macula, which causes a worse blind spot
Bleeding into the eye
Damage to the retina from the laser
scar, right away or years later
There is also a risk that the abnormal blood vessels might grow back. If this happens, you might need to repeat the treatment.
Your risks may differ based on your
age, general health, and the type of AMD you have. Ask your eye care provider which
risks apply most to you.
How do I get ready for laser photocoagulation for AMD?
Ask your eye care provider what you
need to do to get ready for laser photocoagulation. Ask your eye care provider if you
need to stop taking any medicines before the procedure.
Your eye care provider may want to
use special tools to shine a light in your eye and check the back of your eye. You will
need to have your pupils dilated (enlarged) for this eye exam. You may need other
special tests to get even more information about your eye.
Before the procedure, eye drops
will be used to dilate your pupil. It will stay dilated for a few hours after the
What happens during laser photocoagulation for AMD?
This is an outpatient procedure
done in an eye care provider’s office or eye clinic. This means you will go home
afterward. During a typical procedure:
You may be given a medicine to help
you relax. The eye care provider will use anesthetic eye drops and shots (injections)
to make sure you don’t feel anything.
Your provider will put a special type
of contact lens on the surface of the affected eye. This lens helps focus a beam of
laser light on the retina using something called a slit lamp.
The eye care provider uses the laser
to seal off the abnormal blood vessels under the macula.
Your eye may be covered for a little
while after the procedure.
What happens after laser photocoagulation for AMD?
Ask your eye care provider about
what to expect after your surgery. You will be able to go home the same day. Plan to
have someone go home with you after the procedure.
Be sure to follow your eye care
provider’s instructions about eye care and medicine. Your eye may be a little sore after
the procedure. But you should be able to take over-the-counter pain medicines as
directed. You may need to wear an eye patch or dark glasses for a day or so. Ask your
provider if you should not do any certain activities as you recover.
You will need close follow-up care
with your eye care provider. He or she will watch you for complications. The provider
will continue to manage your treatment for AMD. Tell your provider right away if you
have reduced vision. Or if you have more eye redness, swelling, or pain.
Your vision may be blurry after the
surgery. Remember that the surgery does often cause an area of new vision loss. But in
the long term it may help stop your vision from getting worse.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
The name of the test or procedure
The reason you are having the test or procedure
What results to expect and what they mean
The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
What the possible side effects or complications are
When and where you are to have the test or procedure
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
When and how will you get the results
Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure
Online Medical Reviewer:
Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer:
Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed:
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