YAG laser capsulotomy
YAG laser capsulotomy is the recommended treatment for posterior capsule opacification (PCO).
PCO is a condition that can develop as a complication of cataract surgery. It happens when a cloudy membrane, resembling scar tissue, forms in the eye’s natural lens capsule.
Up to about one in five patients may develop PCO in the weeks, months or even years after their cataract operation. The artificial lens implant remains clear. But light cannot reach the retina very well if the supporting capsule has thickened and become opaque.
Over time, PCO can get worse. It presents symptoms much like the original cataract, though its cause is different.
The good news is that we can easily treat the condition in our clinic with Nd:YAG laser capsulotomy. It is a painless, low risk and quick procedure that normally takes a few minutes to complete.
If you have PCO in both eyes, you can have them treated at the same time, so there is no need to schedule a second procedure at a later date.
What is YAG laser capsulotomy?
This treatment for PCO uses a low-energy laser. The name YAG comes from Nd:YAG, which means neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet. It refers to the type of crystal used to generate the laser beam.
The main benefit of this technology is that its light energy passes through the cornea at the front of the eye without cutting it. This eliminates the risk of infection after the procedure. When focused on the lens capsule, the YAG laser can make very delicate cuts. The treatment opens up a small gap in the lens capsule, enabling light to pass through once more.
Nd:YAG lasers are safe and have been used in ophthalmology for decades. They are also used widely in cancer treatment, hair removal, cosmetic surgery, and manufacturing.
What happens during YAG laser capsulotomy treatment?
At your appointment we will check your vision and intraocular pressure (a measure of the fluid pressure in your eye).
We then add eye drops to dilate your pupil and make sure there are no problems at the back of your eye. It takes about 30 minutes for the drops to take effect.
For some patients we may need to use a contact lens to keep the eye in the right position. We provide anaesthetising eye drops to reduce discomfort while this takes place.
You will need to sit and place your head on a headrest by the Nd:YAG laser machine. The procedure is painless. You will just need to make sure you keep your head and eye completely still when the ophthalmologist operates the machine.
The laser cuts a small circular section out from the back of the affected lens capsule. We ensure that enough of the capsule remains to keep supporting your intraocular lens implant.
You won’t be able to see the laser light but there is a bright light used to assist focusing. The laser procedure only takes about five to ten minutes.
Are there any side effects with YAG laser capsulotomy?
A YAG capsulotomy for PCO is generally considered to be very low risk, and serious complications are extremely rare.
You may feel a slight soreness if, during treatment, we stabilised your eye with a contact lens. This should pass quickly.
A small amount of ‘floaters’ (clumps of cells in the fluid inside the eye) after the treatment is normal and harmless. These usually disappear gradually.
Some people may experience a brief increase in intraocular (eye fluid) pressure after laser treatment for PCO. Having pre-existing conditions such as glaucoma can make this problem worse. This is because the eye pressure is already elevated.
If this applies to you, the ophthalmologist will check your eye pressure shortly after laser treatment. We will normally prescribe medication to lower your eye pressure if it has risen.
In rare cases (fewer than one in 100 patients), laser treatment for PCO can lead to a detached retina. But it may not occur until some weeks or months after the procedure. Very short-sighted patients are more likely to experience this problem. The symptoms of a detached retina include:
- A very noticeable and sudden increase in floaters
- You see flashing light effects
- What looks like a moving shadow or ‘dark curtain’ affects your vision.
Ophthalmologists can fix retinal detachment with surgery but this should happen as soon as possible.
How long is the recovery period?
Nearly everyone with PCO who undergoes a YAG laser posterior capsulotomy experiences an excellent and permanent improvement to their vision.
The drops that dilate your pupils can take a few hours to wear off, leading to blurred eyesight for a little while after treatment. So, please do not drive yourself home after the procedure.
As there are no cuts to the surface of the eye or stitches used, you can usually resume your normal activities almost right away.
If you have not developed any other problems in your eye after your original cataract surgery, your vision should return to normal very soon. If you used glasses before the PCO developed, you will need to wear them again.
Contact us without delay if you think that your sight has become worse, or if you experience redness or severe pain in your eye.
Book an appointment
YAG laser capsulotomy is now available at Oculase.
This safe, high-quality procedure can significantly improve vision for anyone experiencing posterior capsule opacification.
Talk to our friendly team to book a personalised consultation with our consultant ophthalmologist, Mr Tariq Ayoub.