Laser eye surgery is the most commonly performed elective surgery in the world—but is it worth the expense? Live to 100 examines the advantages and disadvantages of the procedure so that you can make an informed choice
Procedures that correct common vision problems are known as refractive surgeries. They can reduce a patient’s dependency on glasses or contact lenses and can improve quality of life. Generally, the process consists of reshaping the cornea at the front of the eye by using an excimer laser to correct focusing problems. Different techniques are applied to correct short sightedness or farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. Reshaping is achieved by either cutting the cornea using specialist surgical instruments or by means of a laser. An alternative to cutting is to create a flap under which the laser is then focused on the eye.
Whilst being an innovative option for vision correction, it isn’t suitable for everybody and there are a number of conditions that may mean you are ineligible; blepharitis, increased internal eye pressure, optic nerve damage, glaucoma and in some cases, diabetes. It is best to go for a free consultation beforehand to find out if laser eye surgery is a suitable option for you.
Although laser eye surgery is often represented as a simple procedure, it is still invasive and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Many patients go into their consultation with the misconception that they are guaranteed perfect vision as soon as they step out the door. In fact the effectiveness of the treatment can really vary from patient to patient. Like all surgeries, there are disadvantages and risks to be considered:
Dry eyes—one of the most common after effects of the surgery is the feeling of dry eyes. Dryness can be relieved with eye drops or gels and will usually subside in a matter of weeks or months.
Visual disturbances—some patients have also experienced visual disturbances after the procedure; this can involve hazed vision and uncomfortable glare from lights. This is usually temporary and will resolve itself, however, on extremely rare occasions these symptoms may not completely disappear.
Loss of best corrected vision—there have been rare cases where patients have lost some lines of best corrected vision. This means that if a patient were able to read the 20/20 line with their contacts or glasses before the procedure, they may not be able to read the same 20/20 line after. The loss of best corrected vision can be caused by irregularities on the surface of the eye or even scarring.
Infection—like any surgery there is a possibility of infection occurring. To avoid any complications it is important to attend any follow up appointments to monitor your recovery progress and to take all medication as instructed by your physician.
Costly upfront fee—the overall cost of laser eye surgery is significantly higher than paying for lenses as you go and many people are put off by the lump sum they have to pay. However it has been calculated that after one to two decades the surgery pays for itself and evens out cost-wise.
See also: Considering Laser Eye Surgery
Permanent results—once you undergo laser eye surgery the results will last the test of time; this is particularly attractive for those who have been using daily contacts that require constant changing.
Quick procedure—the surgery itself can take between 20-30 minutes which means you can be in and out of the clinic promptly, allowing you to recover in the comfort of your own home.
Short recovery time—as well as the procedure itself being quick, this also tends to be true for the recovery time. While it can depend on the patient, recovery can be as soon as 24 hours later. Many people often return to work within a day or two and will find that their vision gradually improves as the days pass.
Little pain involved—laser eye surgery is associated with very little pain. Although the process of handling the eyes may have some people feeling squeamish, steps are put in place to make sure the patient feels nothing more than a little discomfort during the treatment.
Adjustments can be made—although the effects of the surgery are permanent, adjustments can be made to further correct vision.
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