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We cover the most common questions we receive about laser eye surgery. You may also be interested in reading  our guide on laser eye surgery here.

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How Long Does Laser Eye Surgery Take?

Short Answer: From a few seconds to 2 minutes.

You'll be in the theatre for approximately ten minutes and the actual laser will only be applied to your eye ranges from just a few seconds to two minutes depending upon the complexity of your prescription.

How Quickly Will I Notice The Results?

Short Answer: It varies, but you could notice the improvements immediately.

The majority of patients notice a significant improvement to their eyesight within 24 hours. By the end of your recovery period, which can last from around 2-7 days depending on the treatment type, you'll experience a vast improvement in your vision.

How Quickly Can I Return To Work After Laser Eye Surgery?

Short Answer: Normally within 48 Hours for LASIK, up to 7 days for LASEK.

Your recovery period depends on the type of laser eye surgery you’ve had and your recovery rate. Most LASIK surgery patients have normal vision and can return within 24-48 hours after surgery, while those who have LASEK treatments may take up to a week to recover. Your surgeon will tell you beforehand how much time you’ll need to take off. You can see more information in our eye surgery aftercare and recovery guide.

What Does Laser Eye Surgery Feel Like?

Short Answer: It is painless but may get uncomfortable at some stages.

Laser eye surgery does not hurt 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.

What are the Main Refractive Errors Treated by Laser Eye Surgery?

Short Answer: Presbyopia, Myopia, Hyperopia and Astigmatism.

Laser eye surgery, also known as vision correction or refractive surgery, refers to the handful of treatments used to correct refractive errors. In recent years, technology in this field has advanced dramatically meaning more severe prescriptions can be treated and the results are better than ever. 

The main refractive errors treated are Presbyopia, Myopia (also known as short sightedness), Hyperopia (also known as long sightedness) and Astigmatism. The majority of these surgeries involve reshaping the clear, front part of your eye (the cornea), as it’s this that’s responsible for letting light through and focusing it on the back of your eye (the retina).

Other procedures will replace the natural lens of your eye and this guide will hopefully answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the various types refractive laser eye surgery treatments available in the UK.   

What Are The Success Rates?

Short Answer: More than 95% of patients report being satisfied with the results.

The success rate for laser eye surgery is very good. Followup surveys across multiple clinics in the UK indicate that more than 95% of patients report being satisfied with the results they’ve had through their surgery, even going as far as deeming it ‘life-changing’.

There’s also very little pain (if any) associated with these types of procedures, and for the majority of laser eye surgery patients, vision returns to normal (and is noticeably improved) within a few days of the surgery.

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.

Who Is Suitable For Laser Eye Surgery?

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 suitable for laser eye surgery 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.

What Is The Age Limit?

Short Answer: You need to be at least 21 years old.

A patient needs to be at least 21 years old to undergo laser eye surgery. The eyes of anyone younger than this may still be developing and their prescription may 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.

How Much Does Later Eye Surgery Cost?

Short Answer: It depends on the treatment and clinic but between typically around £3000+ for both eyes.

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 get more information about the best clinics in your area here.

Does Laser Eye Surgery Cost More If Your Eyesight Is Worse?

Short Answer: It depends on the 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.

Should I Get Laser Eye Surgery Abroad?

Short Answer: It is possible but we don't recommend it.

We don’t recommend going abroad for laser eye surgery. 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. We cover this top more in this article and also within our

Can Laser Eye Surgery Cure Astigmatism?

Short Answer: Yes
Laser eye surgery can be used to treat Astigmatism. One of the best (and most popular) laser eye treatments for astigmatism is LASIK using wavefront (or similar bladeless technology), as it can be more precise in correcting the irregularities on the cornea. Your surgeon will decide after consultation which procedure will be the best one for your astigmatism.

What Are the Alternatives to Laser Eye Surgery?

If you are not a primary candidate for laser eye surgery, or want to weigh up your options? Then there are some good alternatives to laser eye surgery available:

Lens Surgery

When you’re looking for permanent vision correction, you may find lens implants a more suitable solution. Evolving from cataract surgery, these state-of-the-art procedures include refractive lens exchange (RLE) and phakic intraocular lenses (PIOLs).

In essence, PIOLs are like having permanent contact lenses placed in your eyes because the natural lens isn’t removed beforehand although they are removable if cataract surgery is needed or other vision changes take place. They also eliminate many of the restrictions faced with contact lenses as this lens is inside your eye. This type of surgery is often recommended for younger patients who have a high degree of astigmatism or myopia, aren’t suitable for laser eye surgery or have a high eye prescription.

In contrast, RLE is often better for older people who aren’t suitable for laser eye surgery, have a high eye prescription or are suffering from the start of cataracts. This procedure is the same as cataract surgery as the natural lens is removed before a monofocal, multifocal or toric lens is put in its place.

Persisting with Glasses or Contact Lenses

Another alternative is to stick with what you’ve already got - your glasses or contact lenses. And when weighing up your options as to whether or not this is a suitable choice for you, you’ll need to consider the limitations of contact lenses and glasses which include being unable to participate in sports, the aesthetics of wearing glasses (for some), the fact contact lenses can also increase your risk of irritation and infection and the ongoing costs involved in replacing these. 

That would explain why 42% of those who wear prescription glasses have considered having laser eye surgery.