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Every type of surgical procedure carries with it a number of risks. Fortunately for laser eye surgery patients, the procedure has become safer and more effective over the years, and the technology behind it is constantly improving.

Laser eye surgery involves the use of a laser to vaporise parts of the cornea in order to reshape it and correct visual impairments. It’s an effective permanent solution for a range of refractive disorders, including myopia (shortsightedness), hyperopia (longsightedness) and astigmatism.

Introduced in the UK in 1990, laser eye surgery is now the most popular and the safest elective surgery in the country. Over 30 million procedures have been carried out worldwide so far, and here in the UK, more than 120,000 patients choose to undergo laser eye surgery every year.

What are the risks of each laser eye surgery treatment?

Every surgical procedure carries a certain number of risks, and laser eye surgery is no exception. While the chances of most of the problems listed below occurring are very low (less than 0.5% for most), it’s still important to be aware of them so you’ll know what to expect and discuss whatever worries you may have with your surgeon.

The following is a list of the risks that come with laser eye surgery, along with the type of procedure where they normally occur:

  • Your vision may be over- or under-corrected. This occurs mostly in PRK and LASEK patients. This is when the surgery doesn’t result in 20/20 vision or the patient’s condition actually gets reversed, e.g., a longsighted patient turns nearsighted. This can be corrected by another round of surgery, if the patient’s cornea is thick enough to withstand it.
  • You might end up with visual aberrations.This is predominant among LASIK patients, although the probability is lower than 1%. These aberrations include halos (the patient sees a glowing ring around light sources), starbursts (the patient sees light radiating from light sources) and double vision. These defects are apparent at night or in dim light and are more likely to happen to patients with larger pupils
  • You might develop chronic dry, red eyes.This occurs among patients of all types of laser eye surgery. For most patients, dryness and redness of the eyes disappear over time, but for a very few, this becomes permanent and the patients will have to use artificial tears for the rest of their life.
  • Your eye may get infected. This complication is very rare, and the patient can be treated with steroid eyedrops or antibiotics.
  • You might suffer from corneal estasia. This occurs in less than 0.2% of all laser eye surgery patients. Corneal estasia results from the cornea bulging and thinning out, most often because too much tissue had been removed. This condition can lead to blindness. As a solution, the patient will be given rigid contact lenses. Those with extreme estasia might need to undergo corneal transplant. 

Laser eye surgery success rates

Generally speaking, LASIK and LASEK have very high success rates among patients with mild to moderate prescriptions with around 80% attaining perfect vision. 

Those with more severe visual impairments might get varied results, although at least 40% have reported attaining 20/20 vision.

The success of your own procedure will be determined by your prescription and the competence of the surgeon who will perform the surgery. Before you decide which laser eye surgery clinic to go to, you’ll need to know the success rate of each clinic you’re looking into. Remember that more experienced surgeons will have higher success rates. When you do your comparison, make sure that you’re looking at the statistics pertaining to patients who had undergone the procedure that you’re about to have.

Laser eye surgery myths

Fact: When you for laser eye surgery, the eye surgeon will use eye drops to numb the eyes during the surgery, which takes almost 15 minutes for both eyes. During the surgery, you may feel some pressure and but not pain.

Fact: Depending on the procedure used for laser eye surgery, sometimes it is necessary for a flap to be cut and folded back. The underlying cornea is then reshaped using a computer-controlled beam of light that extracts an equal amount of tissue within a few seconds. The flap lifted from the cornea is then placed back to its original position. The cornea’s extraordinary bonding mechanism facilitates fitting of the flap without patches or stiches. Although it is an extremely delicate procedure, it is surgery nonetheless.

Fact: Depending on the procedure used for laser eye surgery, sometimes it is necessary for a flap to be cut and folded back. The underlying cornea is then reshaped using a computer-controlled beam of light that extracts an equal amount of tissue within a few seconds. The flap lifted from the cornea is then placed back to its original position. The cornea’s extraordinary bonding mechanism facilitates fitting of the flap without patches or stiches. Although it is an extremely delicate procedure, it is surgery nonetheless.

Fact: Laser eye surgery techniques such as LASIK use lasers that are classified as “cold” laser and do not emit any heat that can burn any part of your eye.

Facts: For over 25 years, laser eye surgery has been used to correct various vision defects. The first laser eye surgery treatment was done in The United States in 1987 and over the years the entire procedure has been refined. Side effects from laser eye surgery are usually minimal with complications being reported rarely. Millions of people have undergone laser eye surgery with positive outcomes being reported. The procedure is made relevant and more popular considering that it can be used to correct various eye defects ranging from shortsightedness to long-sightedness, thereby eliminating the need for glasses or contact lens.

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