The first case of light being used in corrective eye surgery was in 1946, when ophthalmologist Gerd Meyer-Schwickerath used the focused light of a xenon lamp to successfully perform a retinal coagulation. Since the invention of the first functional laser in 1960 by Theodore Maiman, non-invasive eye surgery has made huge leaps. Today's ophthalmological lasers are immensely precise and powerful, thanks in large part to the guidance of computer software programs like Wavefront. The following are 5 of the most common types of lasers used in ophthalmology.
During LASIK eye surgery, a flap is cut out of the outermost layer of the cornea using a microkeratome blade, which is essentially a hyper-precise vibrating shaver. The femtosecond laser, however, makes it possible to perform all-laser eye surgeries but supplanting the microkeratome blade. The femtosecond laser uses ultrashort-pulse lasers to cut the cornea flap.
Nd: YAG laser
A solid-state laser and one very commonly used in several different medical fields, the Nd: YAG laser has a usual frequency of 1064 mm and is commonly used in peripheral iridotomy procedures and cataract surgery. Photocoagulation can be done with YAG lasers that have a 532 mm wavelength.
Krypton lasers get their name from the fact that their creation requires the use of krypton ions as gain mediums. Macular degeneration, a disease that often afflicts the elderly and which results in damaged retinas and the loss of central vision, is often treated using Krypton lasers.
The argon laser was discovered by laser technology innovator William R. Bennett in the 1960's. Argon lasers can be emitted at several different wavelengths in the ultraviolet spectrum. They are often used in phototherapy, in panretinal photocoagulation to treat diabetic retinopathy, and in the treatment of open-angle glaucoma.
These are by far the most common lasers in use in the field of ophthalmology today. Rather than burn through matter, excimer lasers create enough energy to break apart molecular bonds in the eye's tissue. Excimer lasers can be very precise and can remove extremely thin layers of tissue without affecting the remaining tissue.
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