LASIK eye surgery was first introduced in the 1990s. Since then, around 30 million procedures have been carried out worldwide.
It’s a popular choice for people looking to improve their vision and do away with the need for glasses or contact lenses. And if you’re looking into laser eye surgery, LASIK is an acronym you’ll see time and again.
But what does LASIK eye surgery involve? How does it work? And what results can you expect?
LASIK eye surgery is a type of refractive eye surgery used to correct vision. LASIK stands for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis.
The problems of short sightedness, long sightedness and astigmatism are caused by an imperfectly shaped eyeball.
During LASIK eye surgery, a surgeon uses lasers to correct the shape of your eyeball. When your eyeball is the right shape, light entering the eye focuses on the retina. This helps you to see more clearly.
In essence it is the reshaping of the cornea during the surgery that improves vision and corrects a range of eyesight problems including:
If you’re fed up with wearing glasses or contact lenses, LASIK eye surgery offers a more permanent solution.
Patients of LASIK eye surgery are generally young adults between the ages of 21 and 40. The surgery is most appropriate for people with moderate and common vision problems.
People who are extremely short sighted or long sighted as well as having astigmatism don’t always achieve the same results.
Choose an experienced surgeon and a reputable clinic and your ophthalmologist will conduct a thorough eye evaluation to work out how suitable and successful LASIK eye surgery is likely to be for you.
In general, only 40% of people are suitable for laser eye treatment. Ophthalmologists will look out for issues such as:
A surgeon will also want to know that your vision is stable. Your vision can change during your teenage years, during pregnancy, whilst breastfeeding and if you’re taking steroid drugs.
So that a surgeon can make an accurate assessment of your eyes, you should have had roughly the same eye prescription for the previous two years.
You may find that clinics in London and the South East charge slightly more – between £2,500 and £3,000 per eye. You may also pay more if your eye prescription is particularly bad.
Check to see whether all costs are included in the advertised fee or if you’ll have to pay extra for things like your initial consultation.
Often clinics will request a deposit of around £500 or 10% of the overall cost. Some clinics also offer interest-freeYour eyes will likely credit for a specified number of months. This can help to make LASIK eye surgery more affordable.
Before a LASIK eye surgery procedure, you’ll have a 3D eye scan. The scan creates a precise map of your eye. A surgeon will use this map to decide how suitable you are for this type of treatment.
If you are deemed a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery, the surgeon will also use the map to work out exactly what they’ll need to do to correct your vision.
Some clinics offer Wavefront analysis. This is an additional eye measurement that can help to make surgery more precise and effective.
Around two weeks before your surgery, you’ll have to stop wearing contact lenses and you’re your glasses instead.
Contact lenses can change the natural shape of your cornea. By wearing your glasses, you help the surgeon to take accurate eye measurements and plan the right surgical approach.
LASIK eye surgery is performed under local anaesthetic. Patients are awake for the procedure, which takes just a few minutes to perform.
Before starting the surgery, your ophthalmologist will put anaesthetic drops into your eyes so they become numb and you don’t feel anything. They may also give you some medication that will help you to relax.
The surgeon uses a special instrument to keep your eye open and prevent you from blinking during the surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon uses two lasers.
One creates a flap on the surface of the cornea. The surgeon then gently raises this flap to allow access for the second laser.
The surgeon uses the second laser to change the curve of your cornea. Each time the laser beam pulses, it removes a precise and very tiny amount of corneal tissue.
Once the surgeon has finished reshaping your cornea, the protective flap is carefully folded back into place. Following your surgery, the flap will heal naturally.
Recovery from LASIK eye surgery is relatively quick. Patients don’t tend to experience a lot of discomfort after surgery and can often return to work after just a couple of days.
However, you won’t be back to normal straight away. It’s likely that your eyes will feel a bit sore. They may also look bloodshot for up to two weeks. You’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you home from the clinic.
For the first 24 hours following your LASIK eye surgery you should stay away from strong light. You’ll have to wear sunglasses for the journey home and should try to have a nap when you arrive there.
To aid healing over the following week you should avoid rubbing your eyes, wearing eye makeup and getting water into your eyes.
Your ophthalmologist will give you a course of eye drops. Using these correctly will help you to avoid eye infections in the weeks after your surgery.
Most clinics ask you to attend an appointment in the day or two after your surgery. At this appointment your ophthalmologist will check your vision and that your eyes are healing properly. They can also sign you off as safe to drive.
Many people have improved vision within a few days following LASIK eye surgery.
Studies have shown that 77% of eyes treated were within 0.5 D and 97% of eyes treated were within 1.0 D of their intended correction, 3-12 months post-surgery.
However, there are a few side effects to be aware of.
Some people experience dry eyes or visual disturbances like blurred vision after LASIK eye surgery. These side effects are fairly common and usually resolve themselves within a few weeks or months.
It’s also possible that the laser removes too little corneal tissue from your eye – or too much. If surgery hasn’t achieved the desired effect, some clinics and surgeons will perform further surgery to rectify the problem.
It’s worth noting that about 1 in 10 people who have laser eye surgery need more surgery to get optimal results.
Your eyes will also continue to age. Most LASIK patients need glasses for reading or to see in low-light conditions as they get older.
Nevertheless, most people report high satisfaction with the procedure. Around 95% of patients are happy with the outcome after LASIK eye surgery.
Before you start looking for an eye surgeon to carry out your surgery, it’s important that you understand the different types of LASIK eye surgery that are available. With a number of different procedures that can vary quite significantly (in both the technology used and price of the operation), you may find that one type of LASIK surgery will be better for you than another.
We have a more detailed article comparing the differences you my be interested in: SMILE vs LASIK vs LASEK surgery.
Thankfully, most patients are delighted with the results they achieve after LASIK but, as with any other procedure, there are some risks involved. That’s why it’s important to understand the potential complications and limitations involved in laser eye surgery before you commit to the operation.
Below are some of the complications that can occur as a result of LASIK – take your time to read through these and try not to be influenced by family or friends, or even your surgeon, when considering this form of corrective eye surgery.