Strictly speaking, laser eye surgery is a painless procedure, but there are some stages which some patients might find uncomfortable. Let’s discuss these stages:
First, the surgeon will put anaesthetic eyedrops in the eye to be treated to make it numb. Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, the surgeon will place a speculum on the eye to keep it open. Some patients have reported feeling a slight discomfort during this step.
Depending on the type of laser surgery, the surgeon will either scrape off the epithelial cells (for PRK) or cut and peel back a flap over the cornea (LASEK and LASIK). Some patients experience a slight pressure on their eye while this is being done. Once the cornea is exposed, the surgeon will focus a laser beam on the cornea in order to reshape it. Some patients report feeling a slight painless pressure while the laser is being beamed onto their eye, but this takes less than a minute. The flap is then replaced for a LASEK or LASIK patient.
After the procedure, a LASIK patient will be given eyedrops to prevent dryness and infection and possibly an eyepatch for protection. A LASEK or PRK patient will have a soft contact lens put on their eye to protect it during the healing process.
The patient may feel dryness and a mild stinging sensation which can be managed with painkillers and goes away after a few days.
The results of laser eye surgery are meant to last a lifetime. In the UK, regression occurs among only 5% of laser eye surgery patients. People who are likely to have regression are those with high prescriptions and/or are longsighted.
Laser eye surgery treats such a wide range of sight problems that most patients are suitable for it. There are some conditions, however, that a patient must meet to be considered eligible for laser eye surgery:
- The patient must be 21 or above, with a prescription that has been stable for at least one year.
- The patient must not be pregnant or breastfeeding, as hormonal changes are likely to affect eyesight.
Patients who are suffering from diabetes or glaucoma and other eye conditions will need to see an eye specialist first in order to see if they can undergo laser eye surgery. If you are deemed unsuitable for laser eye surgery there are still alternative eye treatments that can cure longsightedness, shortsightedness, astigmatism, cataracts, presbyopia and keratoconus.
A patient has to be at least 21 years old to undergo laser eye surgery. This is because a young person’s eyes are still developing and their prescription might still change. Laser eye clinics will normally require sight test results to show that a patient’s prescription hasn’t changed for at least one year before they consider that patient for laser eye surgery.
There is no upper age limit for laser eye surgery patients, although there are clinics that will not operate on those over 70.
The cost of laser eye surgery varies according to the type of procedure, the patient’s prescription, the surgeon and the clinic. Prices range from £800 to over £3,000. You can read this article about laser eye surgery costs to get a clear picture of how surgical costs are determined. You can also use our comparison form to get prices from reputable clinics in your area.
It depends on the pricing policy of the laser eye surgery clinic. Some clinics offer a flat rate regardless of the patient’s prescription, while others take into account the complexity of the patient’s prescription. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should go for the former and just ditch the latter. Cost, after all, should not be your main consideration when choosing a laser eye surgery provider.
We don’t recommend getting your laser eye surgery done abroad. It’s true that laser eye surgery in certain countries can be up to 20% cheaper than in the UK, but cost shouldn’t be the only factor in your choice of laser eye surgery. You also need to consider the qualifications of the surgeon and the success rate and level of aftercare of the clinic. What happens if complications occur and you need a corrective procedure? Will the additional travel fees and inconvenience actually end up costing you more? Keep in mind that many UK clinics offer lifetime aftercare, which means that their patients can continue to receive help, advice and even further treatment, if necessary, as part of their service package.
Yes, laser eye surgery can treat astigmatism. Astigmatism, however, can be quite a challenge to fix as the irregular shape of the cornea requires more than a straightforward solution. The best laser treatment for astigmatism is LASIK wavefront, as it can precisely correct the irregularities on the cornea. Your surgeon will decide after consultation which procedure will be the best one for your astigmatism.
Your recovery period depends on the type of laser eye surgery you’ve had and your recovery rate. Some patients have normal vision within 24-48 hours after surgery, while others take up to a week to recover. Your surgeon will tell you beforehand how much time you’ll need to take off.
If you are looking for more detailed information on the treatments available then I’d recommend reading our longer more comprehensive guide to finding the best laser eye surgery treatment and clinic for you.
If you have decided this is the route you’d like to go but are interested in how much it will set up back then we have a comprehensive guide on the typical laser eye surgery costs.