How Laser Photocoagulation Can Reduce the Risk of Vision Loss Caused by Diabetic Retinopathy

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 2 in 5 people with diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that causes blindness. Anyone with any type of diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, including children and adults with types 1 or 2 diabetes and pregnant women who have gestational diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes, in fact, are at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy and should undergo a dilated eye exam as soon as they’re diagnosed.

The longer you ignore the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, the more vision problems you could develop, including permanent vision loss. The expert ophthalmologists at Retina Specialists — with locations in Dallas, DeSoto, Plano, Mesquite, and Waxahachie, Texas — treat diabetic retinopathy at all stages, to stop vision degradation and blindness. One of the most effective treatments for diabetic retinopathy — including late stages of the disease — is laser photocoagulation.

How laser photocoagulation prevents vision loss

Your retina is the tissue in the back of your eye that translates light into images. When you have diabetic retinopathy, the tiny blood vessels in your retina swell, leak fluid, and bleed. Without treatment, your retina scars and even detaches, and you may start to grow abnormal blood vessels in your eyes. 

Your ophthalmologist may recommend laser photocoagulation therapy to stop your blood vessels from leaking and to destroy abnormal vessels. Your doctor may use a technique called focal photocoagulation, in which he directs the laser energy to a small number of blood vessels in a concentrated area, sealing them off with heat so they can’t leak blood or fluid anymore. If you have a more severe form of diabetic retinopathy, he uses a technique called scatter photocoagulation, in which he burns away hundreds of abnormal blood vessels to stop them from growing.

By stopping the damaged vessels from bleeding and leaking into your retina, laser photocoagulation prevents your disease from progressing. Depending on the extent of your disease, the burns from the laser may cause some vision loss, but far less than would occur if your disease went untreated. Laser photocoagulation prevents complications of diabetic retinopathy, such as:

Rarely, laser photocoagulation reverses some vision loss that’s already occurred. However, in most cases, laser photocoagulation is a preventive therapy that stops your diabetic retinopathy from progressing to total blindness.

An easy, quick in-office procedure

Our expert ophthalmologists perform laser photocoagulation at the Retina Specialists office nearest you. We first administer a local anesthetic to your eye so that you’re comfortable throughout the procedure. Then, we dilate your pupil with eye drops. 

The entire procedure usually takes less than an hour. You may see some flashes of light or feel a slight stinging sensation when the laser seals off abnormal vessels. However, you shouldn’t feel any pain.

After your procedure, be sure to wear dark sunglasses until your pupils have returned to their normal size. You must also have someone drive you home. Your eyes may feel a little sore for a few days.

Manage your diabetes, too

After your laser photocoagulation treatment, work with your medical team to control your diabetes so that you don’t develop a new case of diabetic retinopathy. The lifestyle measures you adopt to lower your blood glucose also protect your eyes, including:

Continue to get your eyes examined regularly to keep them healthy.

Stay alert to symptoms of diabetic retinopathy

Even if you don’t yet have diabetic retinopathy, if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you should see your ophthalmologist regularly for an eye exam. High levels of circulating glucose endanger the tiny vessels in your eyes. Contact us immediately if you notice symptoms such as:

When your diabetic retinopathy is caught early enough, you may respond to less invasive forms of treatment, including medications that block the proteins that cause abnormal blood-vessel growth. 

If you have diabetes or diabetic retinopathy, set up a comprehensive eye exam today by calling our helpful staff at an office near you.

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