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Having Laser Photocoagulation for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Laser photocoagulation is a type of laser surgery for the eyes. It is done to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a condition that can lead to loss of eyesight. Laser photocoagulation uses a laser to seal off abnormal blood vessels in your eye. Laser photocoagulation can’t restore eyesight that you already have lost. But it may slow down the damage to your central vision.

What to tell your healthcare provider

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen. It also includes vitamins, herbs, and other supplements. And tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • Have had any recent changes in your health, such as an infection or fever

  • Are sensitive or allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, or anesthesia (local and general)

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

Tests before your surgery

You may need some exams before your surgery. Your doctor may use special tools to shine a light in your eye and look at the back of your eye. You may need to have your eyes dilated for this eye exam. You may have imaging tests such as:

  • Fluorescein dye retinal angiography, which uses a special dye and camera to look at the blood flow of the retina and choroid

  • Optical coherence tomography, which uses light waves to take images of the retina

  • Fundus autofluorescence, which uses fluorescent pigments make images of the retina

Getting ready for your surgery

Talk with your healthcare provider how to get ready for your surgery. You may need to stop taking some medicines before the procedure, such as blood thinners and aspirin. If you smoke, you may need to stop before your surgery. Smoking can delay healing. Talk with your healthcare provider if you need help to stop smoking.

Also, make sure to:

  • Ask a family member or friend to take you home from the hospital. You cannot drive yourself.

  • Not eat or drink after midnight the night before your surgery

  • Follow all other instructions from your healthcare provider

You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully. Ask questions if something is not clear.

On the day of your surgery

It is most often done as an outpatient surgery in a doctor’s office or eye clinic. During a typical surgery:

  • You will likely be awake during the surgery. You may be given a medicine to help you relax. The doctor may use anesthetic eye drops and injections to make sure you don’t feel anything.

  • Less commonly some people get anesthesia that puts them to sleep. If this is the case, you will sleep deeply through the surgery and won’t remember it afterward.

  • Eye drops will be used to dilate your pupil. It will stay dilated for several hours after the surgery. A special type of contact lens will be put into the affected eye. This is after you have had numbing drops placed on the eye. This lens helps focus a beam of laser light on the retina using a tool called a slit lamp.

  • The doctor uses the laser to seal off the abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula.

  • Your eye may be covered with a bandage or patch.

After your surgery

Ask your doctor about what you should expect after your surgery. You should be able to go home the same day. Plan to have someone go home with you after the surgery.

Recovering at home

Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions about eye care and medicines. Your eye may be a little sore after the surgery, but you should be able to take over-the-counter pain medicines. You may need to wear an eye patch or dark glasses for a day or so. Ask your healthcare provider if you should avoid certain activities as you recover.

Your eyesight may be blurry for a short while after the surgery. Remember that the surgery does often cause an area of new eyesight loss. But in the long term it may help prevent your eyesight from getting worse.

Follow-up care

You will need close follow-up care with your doctor. He or she will check you for problems and manage your treatment for AMD.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • Decreased eyesight

  • Eye redness or swelling that gets worse

  • Eye pain that doesn’t get better, or gets worse

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