Laser eye surgery – what does it involve and how safe is it?

“More commonly, problems can be corrected with changes in medication or additional corrective surgery,” Dan notes. “In the worst likely scenario, a form of corneal transplantation may be required to replace a damaged block of tissue in the cornea. But less than 1 in 5000 patients in the UK require a corneal transplant after laser surgery, and good vision can normally be restored.”

Interestingly, both surgeons point out the risks of wearing contact lenses – the main alternative to laser vision correction – compared to laser eye surgery. Dan points out that approximately 1 in 3000 soft contact lens wearers develop a serious corneal infection every year.

“I’ve seen an array of blinding and sight threatening complications, including corneal ulcers, as a result of contact lens wear in my 15 year career as a consultant to date, which I haven’t seen with LASIK having performed over 5000 procedures,” adds Ali.

Who is not suitable for laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery is suitable for most people over 18 but not everyone is a good candidate, especially if:

1. Your eye prescription is unstable: “When the eye prescription continues to change every 12 to 24 months apart, we say that the eye prescription is unstable,” says Dan. “If we were to perform laser vision correction while the eye was still growing or changing, we would not expect the result to last.”

2. You have a thin or irregular cornea: “This can be made worse by laser eye surgery, and a condition called corneal ectasia may develop,” warns Dan.

3. Your eye prescription is outside the safe range of treatment: “As the laser reshapes the cornea it reduces the corneal thickness,” Dan explains. “The cornea needs a certain minimum thickness to maintain its shape, so it follows that there is a limit to how much reshaping (and thinning) can be done. For short-sightedness the safe limit is usually around -8 to -10 dioptres. For long-sightedness the safe limit is usually around +4 to +6 dioptres.”

4. You are pregnant or breastfeeding: “There is no clinically proven risk associated with laser eye surgery during pregnancy or breastfeeding,” says Dan, but “there is a theoretical risk of the medication in the eye-drops, which are used for a few weeks at around the time of the surgery, crossing the placenta or being passed on to the baby via breast milk.”

5. You have an underlying eye condition: There are some underlying eye conditions, which could be a contra-indication for laser eye surgery.

LASIK vs ICL Implant surgery – what are the differences?

“ICL implant surgery is usually used to correct high prescriptions, typically those that LASIK cannot treat or where the corneas are too thin for safe laser treatment,” says Ali.

Instead of using laser, the procedure involves “putting a tiny implantable collamer lens into the eye, which sits above the natural lens. It is effectively like having a contact lens within the eye that corrects the prescription.”

Results are similar for both LASIK and ICL, “but for large levels of short-sightedness, the ICL fares better in terms of outcome.”

How much does laser eye surgery cost?

The cost of laser eye surgery can range anywhere from £1,900 to £2,500 per eye depending on complexity of the prescription.

For more from Fiona Embleton, GLAMOUR’s Acting Associate Beauty Director, follow her on @fiembleton.


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