Laser eye surgery is the reshaping of the cornea, the transparent ‘window’ at the front of the eye, by using an excimer laser. This then corrects focusing problems. To promote faster healing and better results the thin outer surface layer of the cornea is moved aside before the laser treatment is performed. The surface layer is then gently moved back into place. The two most common types of treatment used are LASIK and LASEK. These two methods differ in the way the surface layer is moved aside. There is also a third type of treatment called PRK, but this is used less frequently.
The correction of short-sightedness, a condition also known as myopia, is the most common use for laser eye surgery. Laser eye surgery is also used in the treatment of long-sightedness and mild astigmatism. It is not however recommended for correcting reading prescriptions, also known as presbyopia, because these prescriptions change as you get older.
Some high prescriptions are not suitable for laser surgery. although they may be corrected via a method of non-laser eye surgery. The majority of people who opt for laser eye surgery are happy with the results.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) produces guidance on whether procedures are safe enough or indeed successful enough to be used routinely in the NHS in England, Wales and Scotland. After considering the evidence for using laser treatments, they have decided that it is safe enough and effective enough for use in the NHS. They do recommend, however, that anyone considering laser eye surgery should make sure they thoroughly understand the benefits and risks of the surgery before proceeding. They should then weigh these factors up against the advantages and disadvantages of wearing glasses or contact lenses.
The images below a show cross-section of a short-sighted eye during treatment.
Is laser eye surgery for you?
Many people who choose laser eye surgery do so because they have experienced problems with their glasses or contact lenses.
If so, then considering the continual advancements in glasses and contact lens technology, it may actually be that previous problems can now be resolved. You should ask your optician about the latest developments in both contact lenses and glasses technology, as well as about laser eye surgery. This will help you to choose the option that is best suited to your needs.
Before you proceed
Before you decide to go ahead with the treatment you should try and talk to people who have already had laser eye surgery and ask them about their experiences. You can also find plenty of information about laser eye surgery on the Internet:
Royal College of Ophthalmologists information:
NICE information for the public:
Before undergoing the procedure you should have the opportunity to visit your chosen clinic where they should perform a thorough examination of your eyes. They can then discuss all the options available to you, and encourage you to ask any questions that you want before deciding whether or not to proceed.
Finding a surgeon
The surgeon is the most important person involved in the treatment and you should be confident about their qualifications and level of experience – for example, how many treatments they have performed?
The treatment process is usually carried out on both eyes during the same visit. You are in the treatment room for approximately 20 minutes with the laser being applied for only one or two minutes. The LASIK and LASEK techniques are both performed with the aid of anaesthetic drops.
After the treatment
As with any medical treatment you will need to have regular check-ups. This will help to make sure that your eyes are healing correctly.