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YAG laser treatment is used to correct posterior capsule opacification (PCO) which appears in around 20% of cases after surgery to remove a cataract.
YAG laser treatment (also known as laser capsulotomy) removes posterior capsule opacification using a procedure known as laser capsulotomy. The benefit of laser capsulotomy treatment is that vision will be restored to what it was after the initial cataract surgery.
Cataracts can be successfully treated with surgery, which replaces your cloudy lens with a clear, artificial one. In a small number of cases, part of the capsule left within the eye to support the new lens after the operation can become cloudy. This is called posterior capsule opacification.
Your eye is shaped like a ball, with clear tissue at the front called the cornea. Light entering your eye through the cornea is focused by the lens onto the retina. The cornea does most of the work, while the lens ‘fine-tunes’ the focus.
The shape of your lens constantly changes to help you see things clearly in the distance and close up; this is called ‘accommodation of vision’. As you get older, your lens becomes less able to change its shape to focus properly. When this happens, most people can see clearly in the distance, but they aren’t as good at seeing things close up.
The lens of your eye can be affected by a cataract. When a cataract develops, it changes the way these cells are arranged, causing the lens to become cloudy instead of clear. This results in less light passing through the lens and a reduction in the quality of your vision.
If you’ve had surgery for cataracts or laser treatment, then some of the remaining tissue can itself become cloudy and require treatment. It’s not known why this occurs, or why it affects some people but not others.
Posterior capsule opacification will only occur after you’ve had cataract eye surgery, and then only in a relatively small number of cases. Symptoms are similar to initial cataracts, with your vision becoming increasingly blurry over time.
Your GP or Optometrist (Optician) should be able to diagnose posterior capsule opacification after discussing your symptoms and a short examination. You may be referred for YAG laser treatment.
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The YAG laser uses a highly concentrated beam of light to make a hole in the centre of the membrane, so restoring the vision to how it was following the initial cataract surgery.
The operation is usually carried out as day surgery so you’ll be able to return home on the day of the operation, although you won’t be able to drive yourself.
Drops will be put in your eye to enlarge the pupil and numb the eye to prevent any discomfort. When these have taken effect, you’ll be seated at a microscope, similar to the type the doctor uses to check your eyes.
During the procedure you can blink as normal with your other eye. You may see bright flashes of light and you’ll hear clicking noises while the laser is being used, but you won’t experience any pain.
The YAG laser treatment will take around five minutes.
Immediately following YAG laser treatment you may feel dazzled for a few hours while the drops to dilate your pupils wear off. This can blur your vision so you won’t be able to drive for the rest of the day.
We’ll discuss your aftercare and any follow-up appointments with you before you leave hospital. You may be given some eye-drops to take.
For up to eight weeks after treatment you may notice small black specks (floaters) in the vision of the treated eye; these should gradually decrease and disappear over this period.