There are more lasers used in the field of ophthalmology than in any other medical specialty. As an ophthalmologist, I am often asked by patients, “Will my surgery be done with a laser or with conventional surgery?”
The eye is uniquely suited for treatment with a laser because we can deliver the laser light into the eye through the clear cornea and lens to treat the inside of the eye. By focusing the laser on the surface or inside the eye, we can treat various conditions.
Not all types of surgery can be done with a laser. There are some surgeries that are best performed with conventional surgery and others that are well suited for laser surgery.
Lasers are used to deliver light energy in a very precise way. Lasers produce light of only one wavelength rather than light that includes all the colors of the spectrum, such as sunlight. Lasers can emit visible light (for example, green or red) or invisible light (infrared or ultraviolet light).
There are two main ways that lasers are used: to cut or vaporize tissue, and to heat tissue. There are a number of eye conditions that can be treated with laser surgery.
Lasers that cut or vaporize tissue can be used to reshape the cornea, the clear outer layer of the eye, in surgeries such as LASIK and other forms of laser vision correction. By reshaping the cornea, we focus light rays on the retina to achieve better vision without glasses or contact lenses.
Cataract surgery involves removing a cloudy natural lens and implanting an artificial implant lens. In cataract surgery, the ophthalmologist can perform some of the steps with a laser and some of the steps manually. Lasers can be used for several of the important steps in cataract surgery - creating the incisions, adjusting astigmatism, opening the membrane that surrounds the cataract lens and breaking up the cataract into softer, smaller pieces. Manual surgery is then used to remove the lens pieces and implant the artificial lens.
Correction Of Blurred Vision After Cataract Surgery
Months or years after cataract surgery, a cloudy membrane can develop behind the implant lens, making vision blurry. A laser can be used create a clear opening in this membrane to improve vision.
Glaucoma is a condition that can lead to vision loss from pressure in the eye, causing damage to the optic nerve. There are a number of laser procedures that can be performed for glaucoma. Some decrease pressure in the eye by opening the outflow channels in the eye. Other lasers are used to create a microscopic hole in the iris to allow fluid in the eye to flow from the back to the front of the eye.
The retina is a thin layer of nerves that line the back of the eye and function to send visual images to the brain. Some retinal lasers can be used to seal a retinal break or small retinal detachment in a technique that works like spot welding. Lasers can also be used to close leaking retinal blood vessels in conditions such as diabetes and macular degeneration.
If you have a condition that might be treated with a laser, your ophthalmologist can discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with you. Even with the use of these high tech tools, the skill of your ophthalmologist is what matters most.
Dr. Allan Rutzen is an ophthalmologist who specializes in medical and surgical conditions that are in the front of the eye. He has particular expertise in cataract surgery. If you have any questions or if you would like an eye examination, call Rutzen Eye Specialists & Laser Center at 410-975-0090 for an appointment. His office is located in Severna Park at 489 Ritchie Highway, Suite 200. Visit www.rutzeneye.com for more information.