YAG capsulotomy is a laser technique used to improve vision vision following cataract surgery. It is a very common and safe laser procedure. In approximately 1 in 10 patients, the artificial lens placed into the eye during cataract surgery will become hazy at a later date. This is usually due to remaining lens cells growing up the back part of the lens, which in turns leads to cloudiness. This can be likened to frost on a windscreen. This condition is called “posterior capsule opacification” and can lead to visual loss, though this is generally totally reversible.
The main symptom of posterior capsule opacification is blurring of vision, which will often be generalised, and may cause colours to become less distinct. This can occur at any point following surgery, though is rare in the immediate post operative phase. It is most common at around 2 years following surgery. Some people liken posterior capsule opacification to the feeling of the cataract coming back, though this is not actually the case.
The treatment of posterior capsule opacification depends upon the extent to which you are affected. If symptoms are only minor, and do not interfere with day to day activities then it is likely that no treatment is required.
If, however, you are experiencing significant symptoms then we may recommend a treatment called YAG capsulotomy. This is a quick outpatient procedure aimed at clearing the back part of the lens with the aim of improving vision. This can be done by sitting at a machine much like the microscope used to examine your eyes in clinic. In order to focus the light onto the posterior capsule, a small contact lens is used. The procedure itself is completely painless and takes around 5 minutes to complete.
The risks of undergoing YAG capsulotomy relate to the fact that the laser creates energy within the eye. It is possible that the pressure can increase within the eye, in which case you may require drops immediately after the laser. Much less commonly, the laser energy can induce swelling in the back of the eye (cystoid macular oedema), or even a retinal detachment. Such complications are thankfully rare.