Diseases and disorders of the retina are the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the United States. If you have been diagnosed with a retinal disorder, you may be a candidate for cryotherapy. Cryotherapy uses extremely low temperatures to seal the retina to the back wall of the eye by forming a scar. This scar, which takes approximately one week to heal, forms a bond which seals the retina around the retinal tear and prevents a detachment.

If implemented early, cryotherapy as a treatment is extremely effective. In the most advanced cases where the retina has already detached, cryotherapy has an extremely high success rate in repairing the retina. Often, the goal of cryotherapy is to prevent further retinal detachment or deterioration. 

Preparing for Cryotherapy

Prior to the procedure, your surgeon will review your medical history and request a list of your prescribed medications. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications for a few days before surgery.

What Happens During Cryotherapy?

You will receive local anesthesia to numb your eye for the cryotherapy procedure.

After the anesthesia has taken effect, your surgeon will use a specialized probe cooled by nitrous oxide against your eye. Ice and water crystals will permeate your eye, thaw quickly and destroy damaged retinal cells. Scar tissue immediately begins to form and healing takes place within about two weeks. If you have a retinal detachment, several freezing treatments may be necessary to join the retina to optic tissues again.

What Happens After Cryotherapy?

After the surgery is complete, you will be taken into a recovery room for a short period of observation. This is an outpatient procedure, so you go home the same day
Patients who undergo cryotherapy may experience none, some or all of these temporary side effects:

  • Dry eyes
  • Redness
  • Halos, starbursts and glares when looking directly at lights
  • Changes in vision clarity

What Are the Results of Cryotherapy?

Early treatment is key to the effectiveness of cryotherapy, and the procedure almost always improves vision quality. In retinal detachments, the retina can be repaired and reattached in 90 percent of cases. Some patients may need additional cryotherapy procedures when there is extensive retinal damage. Cryotherapy has proven to be very beneficial in preventing retinal detachment in patients with Coats’ disease and in some cases has improved vision.