What is the capsule?
During cataract surgery, the opacified natural lens of the eye (the cataract) is removed, and replaced with an intraocular lens implant. This implant is placed in the natural bag of the eye, the “capsule”, which holds the lens implant in place.
Why am I having YAG capsulotomy laser?
The lens implant will never become cloudy. However, in a small proportion of patients following cataract surgery, the capsule holding the lens implant may become opaque or “frosty” over time. This is called Posterior Capsular Opacification or PCO, and can occur anytime from a few weeks to a few years after cataract surgery. Patients will experience a gradual and constant blurring or haziness to their vision over time, which is not corrected with spectacles.
PCO is not preventable, but is very treatable with YAG laser capsulotomy. In this treatment, the YAG laser beam is precisely focused at the plane of the opacified posterior capsular material, and the heat of the laser is used to create a clear hole in the centre of this cloudy bag. This will restore clear vision to the eye. The treatment is permanent, as the capsule will not become opaque again.
How is YAG laser capsulotomy performed?
It is a safe, fast and painless procedure, usually completed within a few minutes.
After vision and eye pressure are checked, your pupils will be dilated with eye drops. You will be seated comfortably in front of the YAG machine with your chin resting on the chin rest. A special contact lens may or may not be used. If it is used, anaesthetic eye drops will be administered prior. The lens will be placed on the eye to keep the eye open and focused during the laser therapy (this will depend on the particular doctor performing the procedure).
During the therapy, you may see sparkling lights, but will not feel any pain. When the laser is completed, the contact lens (if used) is removed. Vision will be blurred for a few minutes, but will then rapidly improve. Patients will often notice an improvement in their vision within a few hours.
What are the risks?
YAG laser capsulotomy is generally considered a very safe procedure. However, in a small proportion of patients, the laser may disturb the retina leading to a retinal detachment, causing the eye pressure to go up or blurred vision due to cysts at the back of the eye. These would all require further treatment.
After the laser has been performed, you should seek help immediately if you notice:
- Flashes of light in the eye
- A shadow like a curtain coming across your vision
- Vision becoming more blurred
- Eye pain.
What happens after the laser?
Your vision will be rechecked 10 minutes after the completion of the laser. You may experience “floaters” in your vision, which may appear as black or translucent spots/dots in your vision. These usually disappear within a few days after the laser. You will then be reviewed by the doctor 3 – 4 weeks after the completion of the laser to ensure that your vision has improved and that the pressure in the eye has not risen.