For many patients who no longer wish to wear eye glasses or contact lenses, laser eye surgery can be an attractive option. Also known as “laser refractive surgery”, the procedure gets its name from the ultraviolet excimer laser which is used to correct vision by reshaping the outer covering of the eye (the cornea). Laser eye surgery is not for everyone – you’ll need to consult with your ophthalmologist about whether it’s appropriate for you – but for many cases of near-sightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism, the procedure can restore 20/20 vision and do away with the need for glasses or contact lenses. In most cases, patients must be at least 18, as the eye is still developing (restrictions can vary, so again, check with your eye doctor), and have had a prescription that’s been fairly consistent for at least two years. A commonly asked question about laser eye surgery is about deciding who to go to for the procedure. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCO) recommends you to choose a qualified doctor who is a registered ophthalmologist with specialist training in laser refractive surgery.
What are the types of laser refractive surgery?
Once you have chosen your doctor, he or she will talk to you about the various options for laser surgery, how they are different from each other, and what the pros and cons of having the procedure versus keeping your corrective lenses.
For example, LASIK surgery may be one of your options. LASIK is one of the most common procedures performed in the UK, and can be effective for both far-sighted and near-sighted patients. However, it does have limitations and may not be the right choice for you if you have a high prescription.
Another type of surgery is PRK, which has been established since the late 1980s, well before the development of LASIK, which followed in the mid-1990s. Generally speaking, PRK is a good option for those patients with low prescriptions. A customised version of LASIK, called wavefront-guided LASIK, is a very precise treatment that is unique to each patient, as it measures the natural aberrations of the individual’s eye. So along with adjusting the patient’s eyesight in line with their prescription, the wavefront-guided technology also corrects other issues that weren’t being addressed by corrective lenses.
What are the risks?
As with any surgical procedure, there can be risks. But overall, as your doctor will discuss with you, for most patients it is a very safe procedure. Fewer than 5% of patients have complications, and most people report being able to go back to work within a few days’ time.
If you want to know more, book a consultation with a qualified ophthalmologist. Before being accepted as a candidate for the surgery, you will need to undergo a thorough assessment of your vision and medical history. Be sure to discuss all of your concerns and questions with your doctor, who will help you make the right choice for your eye health.