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"What is the difference between cryotherapy and laser treatment for retinal tears?"


I was just diagnosed with a small retinal tear and am trying to understand which option (cryotherapy or laser therapy) is the best. What is the difference and what are their costs and benefits?


Retinal tears, small defects in the retina, are quite common in older adults as the back of the eye deteriorates with age. The often needs to be treated by 'tacking down' the retina around the area of the tear; this is because the risk of a retinal tear progressing to a full-blown retinal detachment is not insignificant. Cryotherapy is a form of treatment in which a very cold probe is applied to the outside of the eye, freezing through the outside layers of the eye to reach the retina.

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In laser therapy, on the other hand, a bright laser light is beamed into the eye through a special contact lens, tacking down the retina by creating small burns in the area of the tear. Both procedures are safe and well tolerated. However, there has been a trend away from cryotherapy, because the risk of certain complications is slightly higher. However, there are many cases in which your eye surgeon may want to use cryotherapy anyway. For example, tears that are toward the front of the eye cannot easily be repaired by laser treatment, and laser treatment is also very difficult when there are big cataracts or other things obstructing view of the retina through the pupil. Talk to your ophthalmologist about which treatment is right for you.

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