If you’ve had cataract surgery, you most likely haven’t had any vision issues since then. However, about 20 percent of those who have undergone cataract surgery develop a condition called posterior capsular opacification (PCO), which clouds your vision. If you have PCO, there is an option to treat it: a procedure called YAG laser capsulotomy. In this blog, we’ll talk about what PCO and YAG laser capsulotomy are, why you might need this procedure, and what you can expect from the surgery.
What is PCO?
During cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist removes the cataract but leaves a thin membrane, or capsule, to hold an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) in place. Occasionally, the back (posterior) of this lens capsule will become cloudy and opaque over time, impairing your vision. PCO is rare, but it can happen when the lens’ epithelial cells (the cornea’s outer layer of cells) have grown on the capsule.
What is YAG laser capsulotomy?
YAG stands for yttrium aluminum garnet, a crystal used in solid-state ophthalmology lasers. Invented in 1964, the YAG laser is a safe, painless laser procedure that eliminates the cloudiness that may occur after cataract surgery due to PCO. Using very low energy levels, the YAG laser delicately cuts through the lens capsule without any risk of damage to the other parts of your eye. This procedure will reduce glare and help restore your vision to its pre-cataract state.
Am I a candidate for this procedure?
Deciding to have YAG laser capsulotomy is a very similar process to deciding whether you need cataract surgery. If your vision loss from PCO is affecting your work and lifestyle, or if your vision is even worse than before your cataract surgery, you may be a candidate for this procedure. Other signs that you might need YAG laser capsulotomy include:
- Glare caused by bright lights
- Failing a vision test when trying to get your driver’s license
- Double vision
- A significant difference in vision between your two eyes
- Another vision-threatening eye disease
If you think you are a candidate for YAG laser capsulotomy, call us today to schedule an appointment.
What can I expect from YAG laser capsulotomy?
During your appointment, one of our ophthalmologists will sit down with you and discuss whether YAG laser capsulotomy is right for you. If you are a candidate, it will be an outpatient procedure, so while you might have to take the day off from work, no fasting or other special preparations are necessary. Make sure that you have a friend or family member drive you to and from the surgery, since your vision will still be slightly impaired just after your procedure.
To begin the YAG laser capsulotomy, the doctor will dilate your pupil with eye drops, then provide numbing anaesthetic drops for a painless procedure–all you have to do is remain still for about 20 minutes. Then, the laser will vaporize the central portion of the cloudy posterior capsule (caused by the PCO) without making an incision, creating a clear path for light to reach your retina. This will clear up the cloudiness you’ve been having and restore your vision.
You might have to wait an hour or two after the surgery so that the ophthalmologist can check your eye pressure. He or she will most likely recommend anti-inflammatory eyedrops after the surgery, but your vision should improve within a day of your YAG laser capsulotomy. You still should not drive or bike for the rest of the day, as the dilating drops might take a while to wear off and your vision might still be blurry. Be sure to call your doctor if your vision worsens or doesn’t improve after a few days.
Are there any risks?
After your YAG laser capsulotomy, you might have floaters: tiny specks, spots, and cobwebs that drift aimlessly in your field of vision. Floaters are annoying, but most are completely harmless and go away on their own within a few weeks. Increased eye pressure may also occur, but your ophthalmologist can treat this with drops or tablets. Your risk of a detached retina increases slightly following this procedure but this is very rare. Overall, YAG laser capsulotomy is an extremely safe procedure.
YAG laser capsulotomy restores your vision safely, painlessly, and quickly so that you can see clearly and get back to your daily routine. If you have any questions about YAG laser capsulotomy and would like to schedule an appointment to talk about the procedure, please contact us.
At Williamson Eye Institute, we are dedicated to assisting our patients with their vision and eye-related needs throughout the years. To find out more about our services, visit our website or call our office to schedule a personal consultation. You can also find us on Facebook or LinkedIn.