Laser Photocoagulation Surgery
Accounts of Personal Experiences
Laser photocoagulation is an outpatient treatment wherein blood vessels are cauterized by the heat from a fine-point laser beam. This treatment also destroys healthy surrounding tissue and is only performed on about 5% of all cases with this type of MD.
4/6/99: I had my first laser the day I was diagnosed with Wet MD in the right eye, Dry MD in the left. Needless to say it was all very frightening, as I did not know a thing about lasers or MD. No explanation of the procedure was given other than I had to have it immediately. All I could think of was a “hot” laser burning the inside of my eye.
After receiving double duty dilating and anesthetic drops in my right eye, I was told to sit extremely still while looking through this ophthalmoscopic machine. The surgeon, seated on the other side of this apparatus tells you to look straight ahead with eyes open as wide as possible. A strong intense white light is beamed into the eye, which turns green for a few seconds when heat is applied. The whole procedure takes about 10-15 minutes, and there is no pain involved. The surroundings look dark and hazy, out of this eye, for about 30 minutes afterwards. You also soon realize that you have lost a bit of your central vision. The treated eye is runny and aches for about 24 hours afterwards. I was told to return in two weeks time.
4/20/99: More dilating drops, more flourescein angiograms, more blinding white lights, more hours of sitting around hospital corridors. Then came the news of how the first laser had failed, and neo-vascularization had set in again.
I was steeling myself for more laser when the surgeon replied, “There will be no more hot shots. The affected blood vessels are too close to the center of the macula. Go home, adapt, and come back again in two weeks time.”
Adapt indeed! Flashing lights, red images floating about in my right eye, severe cross-eyed vision distorted the world I had known. The next days brought further loss of vision, as though cross-eyed, objects and people changed their shapes. Everything and everybody suddenly looked different, and I could not even begin to cope. I kept asking myself, “Where is the real me who functioned so well before this catastrophe?”
5/4/99: Two weeks later, I limped back to the menacing man with his big white blinding machine. After the usual rounds of endless tests I was told, “We will have to laser again.” There no longer seemed to be any concern about the center of the macula. I was warned that the race was on to hopefully prevent profound loss of vision. More confused than ever, I submitted to what proved to be a rather painful laser surgery which lasted about 30 minutes. I was not told before hand that it would hurt, and the surgeon just simply warned me as we went along. Apparently this was normal with a leakage as severe as mine. My eye ached quite badly for a couple of days afterwards because of the intensity of the heat applied with the laser. I was told to return in two weeks time.
5/18/99: The second laser had worked, and there was no additional neo-vascularization in my right eye. Needless to say, I am now left legally blind in one eye but have retained peripheral vision. My left Dry MD eye is also supposed to turn Wet at some point, but only time will tell. Each day that I can see is a blessing, and I hope to have many more “seeing days” in the weeks and months ahead.