What is laser eye surgery?
Laser eye surgery, also known as refractive surgery or laser vision correction, is a procedure which involves reshaping the cornea using a laser.
The cornea is the clear “window” at the front of the eye and is responsible for focussing light that enters your eye.
Why is it done?
Laser eye surgery is generally performed to correct your vision if you see things out of focus, meaning you will be less dependent on glasses or contact lenses.
Laser eye surgery can correct common problems such as:
If you have a strong form of astigmatism, laser eye surgery may not be suitable for you and you may require lens surgery instead.
To be eligible for laser surgery you generally need to be over the age of 18 have a steady prescription (one which has not changed in the last two years). Your lens must be clear and you must have a normal, healthy eye.
What does it involve?
The main types of laser eye surgery are:
- LASIK (laser in situ keatomileusis) – this involves opening a thin flap on the surface of the cornea then reshaping the cornea underneath
- Surface laser treatments (including LASEK and PRK) – a less common treatment which involves removing the skin of the cornea, reshaping the cornea underneath, then allowing the skin to grow back. This treatment option is better if you have a thin or “flatter” cornea.
- SMILE (small incision lenticule extraction) – this is a more recently developed form of laser eye surgery which involves only a very small incision on the surface of the eye, reducing the chances of dry eyes after surgery.
All laser eye surgery procedures are quick, taking about 15 minutes to complete.
How do you prepare for laser eye surgery?
Before the procedure it’s important to:
- find someone who can take you home afterwards – you won’t be able to drive home following treatment
- avoid drinking alcohol – this can dry out your eyes
- avoid using hair spray, perfume, or aftershave – as this can also contain alcohol and dry out your eyes
- remove any make-up you are wearing – this can interfere with the procedure
- wear comfortable clothing
- arrange local accommodation if you are travelling far for surgery
After surgery there is a chance of developing the following complications:
- mild discomfort in the first few weeks after surgery
- temporary red marks in the whites of your eyes
- “night vision” – scattering of light, which can affect driving at night
In addition to this, a number of patients may need to go back to the clinic for more surgery. Usually there is no extra charge.
Alternatives to this treatment
If you have a high prescription, you may be more suitable for lens replacement surgery.