THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO LASER EYE SURGERY
We talk about LASIK* in this article, as it’s the most performed laser refractive surgery, accounting for approximately 95% of all procedures.
LASIK is a standard surgical procedure used to correct vision problems - specifically, those caused by refractive errors. In eyes with normal vision, the cornea bends (refracts) light precisely onto the retina at the back of the eye. A refractive error is where your cornea fails to bend light correctly, distorting your vision. It can cause blurry vision (astigmatism), nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia).
LASIK* is an acronym for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis.” In situ means “in place” and “keratomileusis” is the medical term for reshaping your eye’s cornea.
“After the surgery, the cornea may be temporarily weakened. This can cause the eyes to produce fewer tears, leading to dry eyes.”
- MYOPIA (Short-Sightedness): When your eyeball is slightly longer than normal or when the cornea curves too sharply, light rays focus in front of the retina and blur distant vision. You can see objects that are close reasonably clearly, but not those that are far away.
- HYPEROPIA (Long-Sightedness): Hyperopia is the opposite of myopia. You can see objects far away but struggle with those up close. In this case, you have a shorter-than-average eyeball or a cornea that is too flat; light focuses behind the retina instead of on it.
- ASTIGMATISM (Blurred Vision): Astigmatism occurs when the cornea curves or flattens unevenly, blurring your focus on nearby and distant objects.
Results vary from centre to centre, but around 90% of people who undergo laser eye surgery have vision between 20/20 and 20/40 (without glasses or contact lenses).
20/20 vision is normal, healthy vision — not “perfect” vision. With 20/40, you can see at 20 feet what an average person sees at 40 feet.
Studies have shown that an average of 95% of individuals who have had laser eye surgery are satisfied with the results.
You will be awake during the surgery, which typically takes less than 30 minutes. (Note: you should not drive yourself home after the surgery.)
A laser makes a small cut, or flap, in the cornea. This flap is lifted, and the laser removes a tiny amount of tissue from the cornea. The flap is then placed back into its original position, where it will heal on its own.
The cost of LASIK surgery can vary depending on several factors (location of the surgery, the experience /qualifications of the surgeon, technology used, etc.).
On average, LASIK surgery can cost anywhere from £800 (US$1,000) to £3,200 (US$4,000) per eye. But it can be higher or lower depending on the above factors.
LASIK is not typically covered by the NHS or medical insurance plans, so patients may have to cover the cost. However, some surgeons or clinics offer financing options.
“You might notice increased light sensitivity, glare, halos around bright lights or double vision”
Recovery time from laser eye surgery is quick. You might be able to return to most of your normal activities as early as the day after the procedure (including driving).
Other activities may take a bit longer:
- Don’t wear eye makeup for 2 weeks.
- Avoid playing non-contact sports for 3 days and contact sports for 4 weeks.
- Wear an eye shield at night for at least 4 weeks.
- No swimming for at least a month.
- If you wear glasses or contact lenses
- Are over 18 (though your ophthalmologist might prefer you to be 21 or older)
- Your eye prescription is stable (i.e. hasn’t changed in the past year).
- Your eyes are generally healthy (especially your corneas, which need to be thick without scratches).
Your ophthalmologist or surgeon will consider the above factors and others before deciding if you’re a good candidate for LASIK.
- If the prescription in your eyes is unstable or changing.
- Your astigmatism (blurry vision), myopia (short-sightedness) or hyperopia (long-sightedness) is extreme.
- You have severe dry eyes.
- You have cataracts.
- You have uncontrolled diabetes.
- You have a history of eye infections.
- You have glaucoma at an advanced stage.
- You have rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease.
- You have keratoconus (cone-shaped cornea).
- You’re pregnant or breastfeeding.