Laser eye treatment (YAG laser capsulotomy)

Understanding Laser eye treatment (YAG laser capsulotomy)

YAG laser capsulotomy is a specialised laser treatment to improve your sight after cataract surgery.

A cataract gives a cloudy appearance in the lens at the front of the eye. This can cause visual impairment.

Cataracts are usually a result of ageing. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed from the lens capsule and replaced with an artificial, foldable lens implant to improve vision. In a small number of cases, the lens capsule in the eye can thicken after cataract surgery, reducing the amount of light that can pass through the lens to the retina. 

This can cause your sight to become cloudy or blurry and you may have a raised sensitivity to bright lights in particular.

Should this occur, YAG laser capsulotomy can be carried out to restore clearer vision.

A laser beam is used to create a small hole in the lens capsule, which allows light to pass through it again, leading to an improvement in your sight.

What is YAG laser capsulotomy?

A laser is a high-energy beam of light. A YAG laser is named after the synthetic crystal used in it (yttrium-aluminium-garnet). YAG laser capsulotomy is carried out in the ophthalmology department of St Joseph’s Hospital by one of our experienced eye consultants (ophthalmologists).

One they have explained the procedure to you, and you have asked any questions you have, they will put some eye drops into your eye to help enlarge the pupil.

This allows the doctor to see more clearly into your eye when positioning the laser. You will also be given an anaesthetic eye drop to numb the front of your eye, so that you don’t feel any pain during the procedure.

A special mirrored lens (a bit like a regular contact lens) will be placed onto the surface of your eye. This allows the doctor to see the lens capsule more clearly and helps to ensure the laser is directed at the correct point on the eye.

Once the laser is positioned in the correct place, it is shone directly into the eye to create a small hole in the lens capsule. The laser itself is invisible, but a bright light will be shone into your eye to highlight the capsule for the doctor.  

Please note that although consultations for this treatment are available at St Joseph's Hospital, the treatment itself will take place elsewhere. 

YAG laser capsulotomy normally takes about 20 minutes to carry out and you will be able to return home the same day, once everything has been thoroughly checked by the surgical team at St Joseph’s.

In particular, they will measure your eye pressure about an hour after the procedure as well as checking the hole in the capsule to ensure everything looks as it should.

You may experience blurry vision for a short time after the procedure, so we recommend you get a lift back home. You should not drive too soon after the operation as it can take a few days for your vision to fully benefit from the procedure.

Your surgeon will be able to give you specific guidance about when you can start to drive again.  

If you are given medication it is important you continue to use them until told by your doctor to stop.

Should you have any queries or concerns at any stage, you should contact our ophthalmology team for help.   

Complications after YAG laser capsulectomy are rare, but as with any eye procedure, you should be aware of any sudden or unexpected changes to your vision. In particular, you should contact us if:

  • You experience pain that is not improved by painkillers such as paracetamol,
  • Your sight become noticeably worse,
  • You see flashing lights in your eye.

Common complications of YAG laser capsulotomy include:

  • The pressure in your eye rising for a period of time, this can be treated by eye drops or medication,
  • An increase in the number of ‘floaters’ in your eye.

Less common complications include:

  • Inflammation in the eye,
  • Damage to the retina,
  • A build-up of fluid in the part of your eye responsible for central vision, the macula. This is referred to as macular oedema and can cause the centre of your vision to become blurry or distorted.  

The above risks are intended as guidelines only and are not exhaustive.

We always recommend that you talk with your consultant about potential risks and complications before you decide to have any eye surgery.

Should you have any concerns at any stage after the YAG laser capsulotomy, please contact us for advice. 

Should you require YAG laser capsulotomy to restore the vision in your eye following cataract surgery, the consultant-led ophthalmology team at St Joseph’s Hospital is at the forefront of ophthalmic care in the UK.

Contact us today to book your appointment with one of our experienced eye consultants.

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