Laser eye surgery is a procedure to correct sight problems by permanently reshaping the cornea (the clear covering over the coloured iris and the lens which is just behind the pupil of the eye).
This procedure can correct short-sightedness (due to the cornea being too steeply curved or the eye longer than normal) or long-sightedness (the cornea is too flat or the eye is too short). This laser eye surgery can also correct astigmatism (where the cornea is oval shaped rather than spherical) which can blur images at a distance by producing two different focal points.
Laser Eye Surgery: Am I suitable?
Laser eye surgery will not be able to treat presbyopia, or the need for reading glasses that people develop in their mid-forties and onwards, because this is not due to the cornea but instead to the lens becoming less flexible with age.
Your age may be a factor as different clinics will set different age limits. If you’re pregnant then you are not able to undergo laser eye surgery. Certain sporting activities or careers may preclude you having laser eye surgery and some medical or vision conditions may make you an unlikely candidate.
Laser Eye Surgery: What do I have to do to prepare?
The first step is to have an up-to-date sight test and eye examination to determine exactly what your prescription is.
Before the laser eye surgery procedure, contact lens wearers should leave their lenses out for a set amount of time depending on whether they wear soft or hard lens.
Laser Eye Surgery: What’s the treatment like?
There are two main methods of laser eye surgery – LASIK and PRK. The major difference is the manner in which the middle layer of the cornea (the stroma) is exposed before being vaporised with the laser. In PRK the top layer is scraped away and in LASIK a flap is cut and folded back.
The laser eye surgery procedure is very quick and local anaesthetic drops are used to numb the treatment area.
Laser Eye Surgery: What about after?
An eye patch is usually worn over the treated eye for 24 hours. With LASIK laser eye surgery both eyes can be treated on the same day but your consultant should outline the risks.
Most patients return to work within a week. Depending on the degree of vision correction, driving may be unsafe for one to two weeks.
Laser Eye Surgery: Are there any risks or side effects?
Complications occur in less than five per cent of cases. Some people might have a problem with dry eyes in the months after laser eye surgery and artificial tear supplements might be needed in the long term. Some patients have experienced a glare or halo effect when night driving.
In very rare cases, excessive thinning of the eye wall can cause the shape of the eye to be unstable after treatment. Severe loss of vision is very unusual.
Laser Eye Surgery: What will it cost me?
Usually costs £1,000 to £1,500 per eye.