What is a Laser?
The term “laser” is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. More simply put, a laser is a concentrated beam of light in which the energy produced can be used to successfully treat many types of eye diseases. Depending on the material used in the laser, the beam produced will have a specific color and energy, which can be used to burn or reshape certain parts of the eye. Different eye diseases will require different types of lasers to be treated.
How Does laser Eye Surgery Work?
There are two different types of lasers used to treat eye diseases: thermal and photodisruptive lasers.
Thermal lasers are made up of either argon or krypton. The concentrated light in a thermal laser is converted to heat when it reaches the eye. This heat is used to:
- Seal blood vessels that are bleeding or leaking fluids
- Destroy abnormal tissue (ex. a tumor)
- Seal a torn or detached retina to the back of the eye
- Open up the eye’s blocked filtration system in glaucoma
- Create a hole in the iris to aid in fluid drainage in narrow-angle glaucoma
Photodisruptive lasers can be one of two types – YAG and excimer. Like a knife, photodisruptive lasers can cut or sculpt the tissue within the eye. This type of laser beam is used to:
- Cut thin membranes within the eye that are blocking vision
- Change the shape of the eyes surface
Laser surgery offers the ophthalmologist great precision and control in treating the affected area. There is no risk of infection from the laser light. It is a procedure that can be done as an outpatient setting, meaning you can go home shortly after treatment.
Eye Conditions Treated With Laser Surgery
Laser eye surgery can be used to treat refractive errors, diseases of the retina, glaucoma, and post-cataract surgery.
The cornea needs to be a certain shape in order for an image to pass through the eye and be detected clearly. Glasses or contact lens can provide the specific shape and thickness required for an eye to see. Another way of fixing a refractive problem is through laser treatment. Procedures such as photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) and laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) use an excimer laser to reshape the cornea, eliminating or reducing the need for glasses or contacts.