Laser eye surgery alters the shape of the cornea to improve vision. It is a permanent corrective procedure, but ageing makes the eye change, so people who had laser eye surgery in their 20s and 30s may have to use reading glasses in the later stages of their life. Laser eye surgery has some risks, like other eye procedures, so it’s essential to consult your eye doctor for medical advice before opting for the procedure. However, laser eye surgery risks are few and rarely occur.
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What types of laser surgery are available?
Laser eye surgery procedures and technology have improved over the last few decades. The first laser eye surgery technique that was introduced, radial keratotomy, involved making radial slits in the eye’s front surface to alter the shape and improve vision; however, it caused prolonged glare.
Within the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, a new type of laser became available. It involved removing a thin layer of the cornea, changing how light bent as it enters the eye to give a sharper focus. This procedure is commonly called photorefractive keratectomy or PRK.
Due to the removal of the surface cells in the eye, patients who had PRK experienced pain after the surgery.
Later on, LASIK (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis), also called ‘flap n zap’, was introduced. This procedure involved cutting a thin flap from the eye’s front surface with a laser, that could be replaced after the surgery, minimising the discomfort experienced by patients and improving vision immediately.
What is LASIK?
PRK was the first successful laser eye correction procedure. Although it is still available, only a few people undergo the process. Most people now opt for LASIK because it offers immediate results and causes less pain.
However, both PRK and LASIK offer similar results. It is believed that PRK enables faster nerve regeneration than LASIK leading to less complications during the healing period. PRK is usually a more suitable option for people with thin cornea.
How do intraocular lenses improve vision?
Eye surgeons can surgically insert artificial lenses in the eye to improve vision. You can have the artificial lens inserted in front of your iris, leaving the natural eye lens behind the iris. The eye surgeon may also remove the natural lens then replace it with an artificial one of a different shape.
Intraocular lens procedure is usually a better treatment for people with higher refractive errors and older patients. When you have a consultation, the eye surgeon can inform you of the most suitable treatment options.
Is laser surgery painful?
Before the procedure, the surgeon will administer eye drops which serve as a local anaesthetic to help ease pain during the procedure. During the LASIK procedure, you may feel pressure when the surgeon cuts a flap in the cornea. You may also experience irritation or discomfort within the first 24 hours after the procedure.
In PRK, the irritation may last for about one week or more until the cornea surface heals. Your surgeon will prescribe eye drops that will ease the pain during the healing period.
How does laser eye surgery improve prescription?
When light enters the eye, it needs to reach a point in the retina, at the back of the eye, for a clear vision. The light gets refracted (bent) by the cornea (the clear surface in front of the eye) and the crystalline lens.
If you have hyperopia or myopia, the light entering your eye will not reflect on the right point, so laser surgery aims to change your corneal curvature to change how light bends in your eye. This makes the light entering your eyes focus on the right point.
Is laser surgery suitable for astigmatism?
Many people have some degrees of astigmatism, a vision problem where the eye is shaped like a rugby ball instead of a round shape. LASIK can correct astigmatism, and lasers can reshape the cornea, but this procedure has some limitations.
If you have astigmatism of less than 3.00 dioptres (D), a LASIK procedure can correct it, but higher levels of astigmatism can achieve partial correction or require further surgery. LASIK procedure for astigmatism is more expensive.
Is laser surgery suitable for long-sightedness?
In long-sightedness, also called hyperopia, you can see distant objects more clearly than close objects. Long-sightedness occurs when the eyeball is short, the lens is not thick enough, or the cornea is not curved correctly.
Laser eye surgery can treat long-sightedness by increasing the cornea’s curvature and removing tissues from the edge of the cornea. Those who have high levels of long-sightedness may be unsuitable for LASIK, but other laser techniques are available for them.
Is laser surgery suitable for short-sightedness?
Laser surgery is more suitable for people with moderate levels of short-sightedness. When you consult an eye doctor, they can carry out an eye exam to determine the right laser correction technique for you.
What are the risks of laser surgery?
All surgeries have risks, but complications from laser eye surgery occur in less than 5% of patients. Before you opt for laser eye surgery, ensure that your surgeon outlines possible risks and complications to allow you to make an informed decision.
Flap complications following the LASIK procedure occur in 0 – 4% of cases, but they can be corrected with little or no risk of vision loss. Some people also experience dry eyes for a few months after the procedure, but artificial tear supplements can help.
Many laser eye surgery patients experience halos or glares while driving at night, but this usually lasts for some days after the procedure.
Excessive thinning of the eye makes the eye shape unstable after treatment, but this occurs in rare cases. Severe vision loss rarely occurs, but hard contact lenses or corneal surgery can restore vision when it does. Before the procedure, ensure you ask the surgeon how often their patients experience complications and why.
Who can undergo laser eye surgery?
If you are 21 or above with a stable prescription, you can undergo laser eye surgery. You also need to have healthy eyes and consult your surgeon to assess whether your cornea is thick enough for the procedure.
Some people with a high prescription may be unsuitable for laser eye surgery. Your health also matters as you need to be healthy to have laser eye surgery. Consult your eye surgeon to check if you are a good candidate for the procedure or not.
Will I need some time off work after laser eye surgery?
Laser eye surgery requires minimal downtime, but you can take a day or two off work after the procedure. Most people can return to work in a few days to one week following laser eye surgery.
Do I need regular eye exams after laser surgery?
Yes, you do. Eye tests are a vital aspect of your health check and can help identify early signs of eye disease that may affect your vision. Even with a perfect vision, you still need an eye exam every two years or more, depending on your risk factors.
For more information on laser eye corrective procedures, contact Optimal Vision on 020 7183 3622. If you have vision problems and do not want to use glasses or contacts, you can have Laser eye surgery at the LASIK Clinic in London.
Alice Christina, a seasoned health writer, combines her passion for wellness with a strong foundation in evidence-based research. She crafts insightful content that empowers readers to make informed health decisions. Alice's expertise shines through her concise and reliable health articles.
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