Question: What is photocoagulation, when is it used to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and what are the risks/benefits?
Answer: Laser photocoagulation is a treatment where we use laser light to meld or coagulate the layers of the retina. In macular degeneration, we use it specifically to treat the wet or abnormal blood vessels. We actually use it quite rarely these days because we have other treatments. When we use it in macular degeneration, though, we focus the laser light on the abnormal blood vessels and create a melted or a white lesion in the retina to shut down the abnormal blood vessels in the retina and create a controlled scar.
The risks, you can probably start to guess, are that we're damaging retina every time we start to use coagulation, so we only use it when the blood vessels are away from the very center of the macula and we're trying to control them in a very localized region. But even when you do that patients may note that a little area where they can't see where the laser treatment's been performed. So it's usually something that the patients will be aware of after it is done.