Lasers Used in the Eye

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There are many types of laser eye surgery.  There are many areas within ophthalmology which use laser surgery to treat eye disease…more than just laser vision correction.  While laser vision correction is probably the most “famous,” lasers are used in many parts of the eye.  

Here are various areas of the eye where laser eye surgery can be performed. 

Refractive Surgery

This is probably the most popular use of the laser for obvious reasons.  Laser vision correction uses the excimer and/or the femtosecond laser to reshape the cornea to reduce the need for contact lenses or glasses.  

Reshaping the cornea has dramatic effects on the refraction of the eye.  Myopia (nearsightedness) is commonly treated with laser vision correction, but high amounts of astigmatism, corneal scars and near-sightedness can be treated as well.

Cataract Surgery

The femtosecond laser has been approved for laser cataract surgery.  The femtosecond can be used to reduce astigmatism and reliably perform some of the integral parts of cataract surgery.  The accuracy of the laser is used to make the opening incision in the cornea, in the opening of the capsule surrounding the cataract and aids in liquefying the cataract material itself.

While modern cataract surgery can boast excellent results, laser cataract surgery might possibly enhance these outcomes.  There is usually an extra surcharge.

After Cataract

A common occurrence after any kind of cataract surgery is opacification of the posterior capsule.  The intraocular lens is placed within a clear capsule which often clouds with time. A Yag laser is used to open up or clear the capsule.

Glaucoma

There are several lasers used to treat certain types of glaucoma.

Open angle glaucoma patients may be treat with ALT (argon laser trabeculoplasty) or SLT (selective laser trabeculoplasty).  The argon or diode laser is used for ALT and the Nd:YAG laser can be used for SLT. The lasers treat the trabecular meshwork which is located at the base of the iris.  The trabecular meshwork regulates the internal drainage of fluid in the eye.

In both cases, these are treatments to lower the intraocular pressure when medications have failed.  

Patients with narrow angle glaucoma often are cured by creating a small hole in the iris called an iridectomy.  The iridectomy is usually created in the office with a YAG laser.

Retinal Diseases

The argon or diode laser is used in a variety of ways to treat problems of the retina.  Diabetic retinopathy, retinal vascular diseases and retinal tears are commonly treated with either of these lasers.

The YAG laser may be used to treat vitreous opacities.

Micropulse lasers are relatively new and can also be used to treat open angle glaucoma and various retinal diseases with less destruction of tissue.  

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