Should Laser Eye Surgery Be Banned?

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Considering laser eye surgery? You’ve probably got lots of questions about the safety and efficacy of the operation.

People worry about going blind from laser eye surgery or experiencing other long-term side effects.

But how realistic are these worries? What problems and side effects are you most likely to experience after laser eye surgery? And do eye surgery complications warrant a ban on laser eye surgery altogether?

Here we take a look at the facts and figures that can help you decide how safe laser eye surgery really is.

Laser eye surgery: problems post-surgery

Going blind from laser eye surgery is incredibly rare – experts estimate a rate of 1 in 5 million. However, the following problems are a little more common:

Dry eyes

Some laser eye patients experience dry eyes during the first few months after surgery. This is because the nerves responsible for tear production have to regrow after your operation. Eye drops are an effective temporary or long-term treatment.

Night vision problems

Some patients notice increased light sensitivity, glare, halos around bright lights or double vision following surgery. The risk is between 0-2% for LASIK procedures and higher for other laser eye surgeries.

Undercorrection, overcorrection or regression

If the laser removes too much or too little tissue from your eye you may not get the 20/20 vision you’d hoped for. This can also happen if your eye doesn’t heal in a typical way. As a result, some patients continue to wear contact lenses or glasses for some activities or choose to undergo further surgery.


Around 1 in 5000 laser eye surgery patients develop a post-surgery infection. Using eye drops as instructed by your surgeon will help to prevent this.

Flap complications

During laser eye surgery a flap is created on the surface of your cornea. Creating, folding back and replacing the flap, can cause complications including distorted vision and discomfort. This complication can occur with all types of laser eye surgery.

Flap complications occur in around 0-4% of eyes. However, surgeons can usually correct them and they don’t cause long-term vision problems.


This is a serious condition caused by the thinning of your cornea and can lead to loss of vision. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates that the risk of ectasia following LASIK is around 0.2%. However, the public body clarifies that most of the participants in its study were not appropriate candidates for LASIK treatment.

Laser eye surgery: what the experts say

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists states that the overall risk of something going wrong with laser eye surgery is less than 5%. It adds that most of these complications are rectified with further surgery.

According to The American Refractive Surgery Council, there have been no known cases where laser eye surgery has been the primary cause of blindness.

Leading UK eye surgeon, Mr Glenn Carp, was also interviewed on the topic. He says that it is technically possible for you to go blind after laser eye surgery.

However, he continues, “these cases are extremely rare. It would take a series of events to happen, very unfortunate events, to leave a person in that predicament where they’ve lost all their vision.”

“It’s estimated that the risk of losing all your vision in one eye is about 1 in 5 million.” Mr Carp compares this to your chances of being struck by lightning, which is around 1 in 6 million.

“You’ve got to understand,” he says, “that while these things theoretically can happen, they are extremely, extremely rare.”

Is laser eye surgery right for you?

Not all laser eye surgery is successful.

But according to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, 95% of laser eye surgery patients are happy with the end results.

Laser eye surgery isn’t without its risks. However, common complications are often treatable. And serious side effects, like blindness, are incredibly unlikely.

It’s important to understand all of the potential risks and benefits before you decide if it’s the right option for you

One way you can minimise risks is by choosing a reputable laser eye surgery clinic. Find out if the clinic is independently assessed or accredited. Find out how many procedures the clinic performs each year and how many of those procedures are successful.

Once you’re confident in your clinic, you can feel more confident in the advice and expertise of your surgeon. Only about 40% of patients are suitable for laser eye surgery. A good surgeon will expertly assess whether you fit into that 40%.

Then it’s up to you to decide whether the potential benefits of better vision outweigh the inevitable but minimal risks associated with surgery.