What you want to know about laser eye surgery - part 2

Written by: Mr Bruce Allan
Published:
Edited by: Bronwen Griffiths

Laser eye surgery is a range of techniques that corrects sight problems, including short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism. Get more information on laser eye surgery from expert ophthalmologist, Mr Bruce Allan in this two part series. This second part explains the results of laser eye surgery, the potential risks and any possible side-effects.

Will I ever need glasses after surgery?

Laser eye surgery normally provides good distance vision for life. But some patients find themselves needing spectacles again after a natural shift in their focus. Where this occurs, repeat LVC treatment is usually possible.

Although distance vision should remain good, everyone with normal distance vision needs reading glasses once they reach their mid-forties. This is because the natural lens in the eye, which provides a flexible focus (accommodation) in younger people, stiffens up with age.  

 

What are the risks?

The best way to understand risk in laser eye surgery is to consider the two ends of the spectrum: what is the worst situation I could find myself in after surgery; and what is the most likely problem that I might run into?

Corneal transplantation is required in approximately 1 in 5000 cases. It normally works well when necessary. So there is no real risk of blindness as a result of LVC.

Revision surgery is commonly required for the best results in LVC. This may be to intercept a problem with healing, or to adjust the final visual focus. Revision treatments all feel similar to the original LVC procedure, and work is normally possible from the following day.

LVC is not risk free, but neither is contact lens wear, which is the main functional alternative for many patients who would otherwise require glasses. Approximately 1 in 3000 contact lens wearers each year will develop a serious corneal infection. So, you probably do not have to wear contact lenses for long to exceed the risk of having LVC performed.

 

What are the side effects?

Temporary red marks are common after any form of eye surgery. These are caused by minor leaks of blood beneath the mucous membrane covering the white of the eye. They are painless and clear in 3-4 weeks.

Eye surface discomfort is also normal in the first few weeks after any form of eye surgery. But permanent discomfort resulting from LVC is rare.  Most patients, and contact lens wearers in particular, report better eye comfort by 6 months after surgery than they had before.

Most patients also notice some light scatter in the first few weeks after treatment, and this may affect night driving. Problems that persist after 3-6 months are unusual with modern laser systems, and can normally be treated effectively. 

 

If you are interested in laser eye surgery, make an appointment with a specialist.

By Mr Bruce Allan
Ophthalmology

Mr Bruce Allan is one of the most experienced and trusted laser eye surgeons in the UK, and a leading opinion in ICL implantation, corneal transplantation and cataract surgery. He qualified from Cambridge in 1985, and was appointed to the consultant staff at Moorfields in 1998 after advanced specialist training in the UK, South Africa and Australia. He has led the Refractive Surgery Service at Moorfields since 2012, spearheading the development of a state-of-the-art refractive surgery facility there. 

Mr Allan's professional activities include TV radio and press comment on developments in eye surgery, and expert advice for NICE and the MHRA. He has published widely in international peer reviewed journals and is invited all over the world to speak on current research interests including enhanced accuracy in laser eye surgery, DMEK for Fuchs' dystrophy, and new treatments for keratoconus. He is currently an EUCornea Board Member, and chair of the influential Royal College of Ophthalmologists Refractive Surgery Standards Working Group. 

Refractive surgery embraces laser and implant based techniques to correct short sight (myopia), hyperopia (long sight), astigmatism (irregular focus), and presbyopia (loss of reading vision). Mr Allan has a strong reputation for clear and balanced advice regarding treatment, and works hard to ensure that his results are in the front rank both nationally and internationally. 

He lives in North London with his wife, consultant psychiatrist Dr Teresa Borrell, and their three daughters. He is a keen football fan and sailor.

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