If you wear glasses or contact lenses, it’s likely you’ve heard about laser eye surgery – a common medical procedure to correct vision in one or both eyes. Laser (or LASIK, short for laser-assisted in situ keratomiluesis) treatment has become popular in recent years as it offers a convenient, relatively painless procedure that can reduce or eliminate the need for visual aids. However, as with all forms of surgery it’s not without its risks, and if you’re unsure of what to expect, this guide may help.
Put simply, LASIK surgery uses a laser to alter the shape of the cornea (the clear covering at the front of the eye that can grow out of shape, causing short- or long-sightedness). When you choose a LASIK surgeon (such as Ultralase) you will make an appointment with a doctor who will perform an eye exam to see whether you are a suitable candidate for the procedure. While LASIK surgery can be used to correct myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism, there are a number of conditions it can’t help with, and other pre-existing medical conditions may mean the treatment is too risky for you.
The procedure itself is very quick – patients are usually in and out of surgery in less than an hour, during which they will be awake the entire time. This is something that may put people off, but there is very little pain involved: most people report mild discomfort for a few days after the procedure. Patients are given anaesthetising eye drops and a retainer to keep their eyes open, and will be asked to stare at a light while the laser does its work. This part takes typically around five minutes per eye, and after a short rest the procedure is complete.
One of the advantages of LASIK is the low recovery time. Depending on their job, patients may be able to return to work the next day, although your doctor may recommend a few days of rest. Most people notice the benefits immediately, but with others their vision improves gradually over the next few days. It’s important to let your doctor know if you have any negative side effects, such as blurred vision or “halos” around lights – these can usually be corrected with post-operative treatment.
The efficacy of LASIK surgery has improved dramatically over the past few years, and the treatment is now appropriate for more people than ever. If you are still unsure, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists has a more detailed breakdown of the risks and benefits on its website.