Could you begin by simply telling us what Laser eye surgery is?
Laser eye surgery involves using a laser to change the shape of the transparent layer at the front of the eye known as the cornea. It’s commonly used to correct vision in people who are long or short-sighted, have astigmatism, or have reading vision problems—as an alternative to wearing contact lenses or glasses. While contacts and spectacles work by bending the light that enters the eye to enable you to focus sharply, laser eye surgery changes the shape of the eye itself, so that light hits the retina in the correct place.
What different kinds of laser eye surgery are there available?
LASIK is the most popular type of laser eye surgery. A flap is made in the cornea using a blade or a laser. An excimer laser is then used to reshape the cornea before the flap is put back.
PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) is a similar technique but this time the top layer of the eye, the epithelium, is removed in order to reach the cornea underneath.
LASEK is similar to PRK but avoids removing the whole epithelium by peeling back a small section.
What factors will dictate whether or not I am eligible for laser eye surgery?
Today, most people can undergo laser eye surgery. There are some exceptions:
- You must be over 18
- Pregnant women should wait until after the birth of their baby
- You’ll need a stable prescription for 2 years (Note: small changes in a prescription are fine, but large changes are not)
- Uncontrolled epilepsy, diabetes and other chronic conditions may mean laser eye surgery is unsuitable for you – but ask your surgeon before ruling it out
What are the risks of having laser eye surgery?
Laser eye surgery is very safe but, like any procedure, it does carry some risk. Most potential side-effects are minor. Importantly, the risk is reduced if your procedure is carried out by an experienced, specialist surgeon. Find out as much as you can about the skill and calibre of the surgeon you are considering before making your choice.
- Dry eye is a common side-effect. This can be treated with eye drops and usually clears up within weeks
- Eye infections are a rare complication – but bladeless surgery minimises the risk
- Some patients may experience temporary problems including blurry eyesight, glare and starbursts. These improve as the eye heals
- Very rarely, there may be a complication with the flap made during the LASIK procedure. If necessary, this can be corrected with follow-up surgery.
- People with a very thin cornea may not be suited to LASIK because it’s unsafe to create a flap
- LASIK may not be effective for those with very high prescriptions, but they may be able to opt for an advanced form of treatment called bioptics.
How long does the procedure normally take, will both eyes be done at the same time?
Laser eye surgery is a very quick procedure, and it can be completed in as little as 5 minutes per eye, providing you are treated by a highly skilled surgeon. Both eyes can usually be treated on the same day, one after the other.
After surgery, you’ll need to stay in a recovery room for around 90 minutes before being taken home by a friend or family member. So, in total, you’ll be at the clinic for around 2 hours
How long will it take before I see the results?
This will vary, depending on the type of eye surgery you are having, the condition and prescription of your eyes and the speed of your recovery. However, you won’t need to wait long.
Many LASIK patients see an immediate improvement as soon as surgery has taken place, while others will notice the change in their vision after 24 hours.