The importance of eye health is never more obvious than when a medical issue arises that affects a person’s vision, such as diabetes. Left untreated, this condition can damage the blood vessels in the eyes. This leads to a serious eye problem called “diabetic retinopathy”. It can result in the partial loss of vision or even complete blindness. But while there is no cure for diabetic retinopathy, doctors can prevent it from worsening if they are able to stop the damaged blood vessels from completely detaching the retina.
And one medical procedure that they use to do this is pan-retinal photocoagulation. Pan-retinal photocoagulation has some serious side effects to it though. So it is important that anyone who is at risk for an eye disease that has to be treated with this procedure read on to find out more about what it is. We’ll discuss the symptoms and causes of the eye diseases that it treats, and what happens to the eyes when this procedure is used.
What Is Pan-retinal Photocoagulation?
Pan-retinal photocoagulation is a laser treatment that destroys the damaged blood vessels in the eye. To use it, a trained physician has to have very steady hands and good vision. Otherwise, the healthy blood vessels might be damaged in the process too. The main objection of the laser treatment is to only burn the damaged blood vessels enough to destroy any of them that are causing the retina to leak or pull away.
Sometimes, a doctor might have to direct the laser to make thousands of tiny gray dots across the blood vessels. They can only be seen when a special dye is injected into the arm and viewed with a reflective light.
When Is Pan-retinal Photocoagulation Recommended?
To access whether or not a person needs this treatment, an eye doctor will have to look for specific symptoms. These include eye pain, blurry vision, seeing floating spots, and trouble differentiating between colors even when no color blindness was present before. But the most serious symptom of all that they need to know about is the sudden formation of a dark spot within the vision field; this can be a sign that the retina has started to pull away.
What Does Treatment with the Panretinal Photocoagulation Procedure Entail?
The panretinal photocoagulation treatment begins with a special dye being injected into the arm. The dye travels to the eyes from the force of the heart pushing it throughout the body.
A doctor will then shine a special light into the eyes. The eyes are held open with an ocular device so they can see the retinas and damaged blood vessels around them. After this, the laser is focused for a short duration on each of the damaged blood vessels that are putting pressure on the retinas or causing vitreous fluid to leak out.
Sometimes, the procedure causing a pinching sensation, so anesthesia may be used. But more often than not, it isn’t needed.
Are There Any Side Effects From the Laser Treatment Itself?
The pan-retinal photocoagulation treatment can cause some serious symptoms after it is done. The most worrisome of them all is an immediate loss of vision that takes time to return. Even if a person previously had near-perfect vision prior to the treatment process, it won’t be that way after it is done.
It should be mentioned, of course, that it is rare for anyone who needs this treatment to have perfect vision. More often than not, it has already been damaged by the condition. Since most people need more than one panretinal photocoagulation treatment, each one can have a devastating impact on their vision.
But there are other dangerous symptoms that can happen too, such as:
- Damage to other parts of the eye, such as the cornea, lens, or pupil.
- Hemorrhaging of the vitreous fluid.
- Uncontrollable bleeding from the eye.
- Permanent vision loss.
- Pain and redness.
- Blocked blood vessels.
What Causes Patients to Require Pan-retinal Photocoagulation?
As mentioned above, the main cause of an eye disease that requires the treatment of panretinal photocoagulation is diabetes. This is because this condition damages the eye’s blood vessels over time. But it can also be caused for the following three other reasons:
People who are over 50 years old have a higher risk of damaged blood vessels. This is because their blood vessels and arteries begin to be less flexible at this point. The elderly also have a greater risk of increased inflammation and infections that can impact the eyes since the immune system naturally lowers with age too.
High Blood Pressure
Besides damaging the arteries and heart, high blood pressure has a devastating impact on the blood vessels of the eye. This can lead to restricted blood flow to the retina, swollen retina, and extra pressure on the optic nerve. This condition is called “hypertensive retinopathy” by eye doctors.
A young, healthy person may develop eye problems that require panretinal photocoagulation if they suffer any kind of physical trauma that damages some of the blood vessels in their eyes. For example, a car accident that results in an airbag deploying sharply across a person’s face and eye could cause dangerous swelling, bleeding, and tears of the retina that have to be quickly corrected.
As you can see, while the panretinal photocoagulation procedure is an important type of treatment for preventing further damage to the retina and vision, it has a lot of serious side effects, especially if it isn’t done correctly. That is why it is crucial that it only be used under the direct care of a licensed physician who has been trained extensively in how to perform it accurately for the best possible results.
It is also important to mention that the panretinal photocoagulation procedure may sometimes have to be repeated several times. And the more often that it is done, the more likely a person will have lasting damage to their vision.
So anyone who has damaged blood vessels in their eyes should be prepared to work closely with their optometrist to obtain special glasses to help them see well enough to function afterwards.