Laser photocoagulation is the preferred type of laser surgery for the eyes, used to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a condition that can reduce vision and potentially lead to loss of sight over the years.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration affects the macula of the eye, which is the part of the retina responsible for detailed vision in the middle part of your field of vision. Blood vessels can grow underneath the macula, causing leakage of blood and fluid in the retina, leading to sight loss.
Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
It is always wise to have regular checkups and appointments with an optician or ophthalmologist. However, there are some signs and symptoms of macular degeneration to look out for:
- A reduction in central vision
- Distortion of straight lines in your field of vision
- The need for brighter lighting
- Difficulty adapting to low lights
- Trouble recognising faces
- Retinal damage
Am I Eligible for Macular Degeneration Surgery?
Commonly this treatment is recommended for ‘wet’ age-related macular degeneration, as it is more severe and will rapidly degenerate eyesight if not treated. In addition, patients may not be eligible if the abnormal blood vessels affecting the eye are growing close to the fovea. Patients are more likely to qualify if abnormal blood vessels are at the back of the eye and in the retina or the drainage system within the eyeball.
What are The Benefits of Laser Photocoagulation Surgery for AMD?
When performed successfully, this surgery can shrink or destroy abnormal structures in the retina or be used to cause scarring to halt the progression of AMD intentionally. This surgery also comes with fairly minimal complications compared to other forms of eye surgery, which are always delicate and intricate procedures.
What Are The Risks of Laser Photocoagulation Surgery for AMD?
Risks associated with this treatment are minimal, but risks to consider include:
- During laser photocoagulation, the clinician burns part of the macula. This can cause some additional vision loss in rare cases
- You may have a blind spot where the laser makes a scar. In some cases, this vision loss might be worse than the possible slight loss from not treating the eye
- Accidental treatment of the central macula, which causes worse blind spots
- Bleeding in the eye
- Damage to the retina from the laser scar, potentially years later
- Abnormal blood vessels may regrow. If this happens, you may need to repeat the treatment
What to Expect From Laser Photocoagulation Surgery for AMD
This procedure can be done as an outpatient procedure and there is a shorter convalescence for patients than other forms of surgery. During a typical procedure:
- A sedative may be administered to help patients relax. The ophthalmologist will likely use numbing eye drops and injections
- A form of contact lens is inserted into the affected eye; this lens allows focus a beam of laser light on the retina using a slit lamp
- The surgeon uses a laser to seal off the abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula, eradicating any debris and causing necessary scarring if required
- Your eye may be covered temporarily
How much Does Laser Photocoagulation AMD Surgery Cost in the UK?
- This surgery typically costs £1,600 – £3,250 per eye when performed privately in the UK, but may cost more, depending on the specific case.
- Age-related macular degeneration can be treated on the NHS, but as a non-urgent treatment, waiting times are long.