Laser Therapy for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Image of an eye with age-related macular degeneration

Laser Therapy May Reduce Vision Loss Caused by Wet AMD

We rely on good central vision for so many things, from reading to driving to recognizing faces. Unfortunately, your central vision may be in jeopardy if you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although there are no treatments for the dry form of the disease, laser therapy may be helpful if you have the wet form of AMD.

What Is AMD?

AMD affects the macula, the center area of the retina responsible for central and color vision. Two kinds of AMD, wet and dry, can cause changes in your vision.

Macular cells thin and fatty deposits called drusen form on the retina if you have the dry form of the disease. The wet form of AMD occurs when fluids and blood leak from abnormal blood vessels that grow in the macula. The blood or fluid collects under the macula and distorts your vision.

If you have the wet form of AMD, you may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Blurred central vision
  • A blank spot in the center of your vision
  • Straight lines that appear bent or wavy
  • Faded colors
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty reading, watching TV, driving or avoiding obstacles when you walk

AMD can affect one or both eyes and may occur very suddenly. Prompt treatment of your symptoms can help you avoid or reduce vision loss. Call your eye doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms listed above.

If you have the wet form of AMD, your ophthalmologist may recommend laser therapy to stop the leaks. No matter what type of laser therapy you have, you'll receive a sedative and anesthetic eye drops or injections to ensure that you remain comfortable and pain-free during the procedure. You can leave your eye doctor's office shortly after receiving laser therapy, although you'll need to ask a friend or family member to drive you home.

Laser Photocoagulation Therapy

Laser photocoagulation therapy can be helpful in treating leaky blood vessels, particularly if the vessels are located close to each other. During the treatment, short pulses of laser light are aimed at the abnormal blood vessels. The heat generated by the pulses seals the leaky areas instantly.

Eye drops are used to dilate your pupil before the procedure begins. Enlarging the size of the pupil gives your doctor the best view of your macula.

A special mirrored contact lens will be placed on your eye after your pupil is dilated. The mirror helps your eye doctor aim the laser beam precisely. You'll see short bursts of light as the laser is aimed at your macula.

You'll need to visit your ophthalmologist for periodic checkups after your treatment. Additional treatments may be needed if some vessels start to leak again.

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy combines laser therapy with medication to close and destroy leaky blood vessels. The process starts with the intravenous injection of Visudyne, a drug that's sensitive to light. Visudyne travels from the blood vessel in your arm to the abnormal vessels in your macula.

After the medication reaches your eyes, your doctor shines a laser beam in your eye. Unlike the laser used in photocoagulation therapy, this laser uses cold instead of heat to produce results.

The laser beam activates the medication, which creates blood clots that close the abnormal veins. You may need additional photodynamic therapy if the vessels begin to leak in the future.

Laser therapy offers a safe, effective way to preserve your vision if you have wet AMD. Contact us if you would like to find out if laser treatment is a good option for your eye condition.

Sources:

American Academy of Ophthalmology: How Is AMD Diagnosed and Treated?

Mayo Clinic: Wet Macular Degeneration

AllAboutVision: Macular Degeneration Treatment

American Macular Degeneration Foundation: Wet Macular Degeneration

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