What are the side effects of laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy?

A patient visited my clinic last week and told me about her recent trip to Norway to see the Northern Lights. She had spent about £2500 for her trip and eagerly awaited the spectacle that evening. After a two hour wait, everyone around started to gasp with joy at the natural light show nature had put on.

She kept looking and looking but saw nothing. No magical aura. No supernatural phenomenon. Nothing spectacular at all.

She mentioned it to me in passing after I had examined her eyes for her diabetic retinopathy. I had successfully treated her a year ago with a treatment called pan-retinal photocoagulation laser (PRP laser) and she was responding to treatment well.

She had previously developed proliferative diabetic retinopathy. New fragile blood vessels had grown in her retina. This could have led to bleeding in the back of the eye and a chance of reduced vision. Her laser treatment had been carefully applied to her peripheral retina with her central retina spared. This will preserve her more useful vision like reading, recognising faces and watching TV etc.

This type of laser treatment has been used for many years. It is highly effective in reducing the high risk of blindness in proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

I explained to her that her previous laser treatment for proliferative diabetic retinopathy had led to a reduction in her night vision. She had been unable to see the Northern Lights properly on her trip because she had reduced night vision or nyctalopia.

‘Oh well,’ she replied. “The Northern Lights still look great on my camera”. She showed me and I agreed.

If you would like any more information on diabetic retinopathy and laser treatment, please feel free to call me on 020 7305 5063 and we can chat some more.