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What is focal photocoagulation for diabetic retinopathy?

Jeffrey S. Heier, MD
Ophthalmology
Focal photocoagulation, a laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy, enables an ophthalmologist to identify individual blood vessels and seal them off with the laser. This method is often used to treat macular edema (blurring of central vision). The doctor uses a laser to make 20 to 50 tiny burns to seal the leaking blood vessels, which slows the leakage and promotes fluid resorption -- effectively reducing the amount of fluid in the retina (the innermost layer of the eye). Local anesthetics prevent any discomfort during the procedure, and the surgery is usually completed in a single session. If macular edema affects both eyes, only one is operated on at a time. A second session -- usually a week or so later -- will be needed for the second eye. The procedure can cut the risk of further vision loss in half, and in a small number of people, it actually restores vision.

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