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Quora: Can retina damage from a 200mw laser heal?

Posted on July 5, 2012 · Posted in Eye Health, Technology

I don’t have any spots in my vision, but I do have a general reduction in visual acuity. The laser was refracted through frosty ice so there was no large point source, but likely lots of small point sources. I have seen an eye doctor and they didn’t find any visible damage, but I’ll be going back in a week to check for any scar tissue that may have developed. Can damage like this heal, or is it always permanent?

The fact that the laser was refracted as you mentioned is obviously good news as a tight beam at that power would unquestionably be bad news.  The answer to the question, however, is difficult without knowing the clinical findings.  You mentioned there was no “visible damage” on examination, but I’m wondering what specific testing was done.

As you likely know, the risk here is to the macula and fovea where our central visual acuity comes from.  Damage to the photoreceptors in this area can lead to permanent reductions in visual acuity, but it really depends on the extent of the damage.

A valuable tool can be a diagnostic instrument called an OCT (optical coherence tomographer).  The OCT provides a cross-sectional image of the different layers of the retina and can reveal damage not appreciated on physical exam.  The instrument is so versatile that it can image the interface between the inner and outer segments of the photoreceptors.  Any absence or disruption of this interface provides evidence of damage.

Long story short, it’s a hard question to answer.  Literature suggests acuity can improve, but the prospect of improvement needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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