Alert

COVID-19 Updates


*Vaccine availability and appointments* | Additional COVID-19 resources.

Please be aware that mask-wearing is required at all UNC Health facilities.

Laser Photocoagulation for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Surgery Overview

The main treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) is injections of medicines into the eye. But in some cases, doctors recommend laser surgery.

Retinal laser photocoagulation is a type of laser surgery that uses an intense beam of light to burn small areas of the retina. The burns form scar tissue that seals the blood vessels. By sealing the leaky blood vessels, laser photocoagulation slows down central vision loss.

Laser surgery may be done in a doctor's office or eye clinic using a local anesthetic that affects only the eye area. The surgery itself is painless.

What To Expect

Laser photocoagulation does not involve a hospital stay. You will need someone to pick you up at the doctor's office or clinic. Your pupils will be widened (dilated) for the surgery. And they will remain dilated for several hours. Wear sunglasses to keep bright light out of your eyes while they are dilated.

Your vision may be blurry. And your eye may hurt a little for a day or two after the surgery.

Why It Is Done

Most of the time the treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) is anti-VEGF medicines that are injected into the eye. Laser treatment is not usually recommended. But for certain cases of wet AMD, laser photocoagulation may be recommended.

How Well It Works

Laser surgery will not restore vision that has already been lost because of macular degeneration. But it can sometimes slow down or delay further damage to a person's central vision. Even repeated treatment is not usually effective over the long term in preventing some loss of central vision.

Risks

The most serious drawback to laser surgery is that the laser may damage some of the nerve cells in the macula. This causes some vision loss.

Credits

Current as of: April 29, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Christopher J. Rudnisky MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.