12 May 2022
Laser eye surgery – fact or fiction?
Laser eye surgery was originally developed to correct defective vision such as myopia, also known as short-sightedness. Laser eye surgery is a highly successful procedure which produces outstanding results, but that doesn’t stop people from having some reservations about it.
Differentiating fact from fiction can be difficult as frightening myths nearly always make a greater impact than the truth. If you’d love to be free of wearing glasses or contact lenses, but you’re worried about the consequences of laser eye surgery, we’ll help you separate fact from fiction.
1. Laser eye surgery is an established technique
In 1970, a surgeon repairing an eye damaged by a fragment of glass discovered that during the process, the patient’s myopia had actually improved. It prompted scientists to carry out further research on the theory of how the cornea of the eye could be reshaped. In 1983, the development of the Excimer Laser enabled the theory to become a reality. It used a laser beam of ultraviolet light to accurately remove microscopic tissues from the cornea of the eye.
By 1991, the LASIK technique had been developed. It removes tissue from beneath a flap of the cornea, which encourages the eye to heal quickly. Laser eye surgery has been approved by worldwide health authorities for three decades and we’ve been providing vision correction solutions at Optimax since 1991.
2. The effects of laser eye surgery don’t last long-term
There have now been approximately thirty million laser eye surgeries carried out around the world. On average, 15,000 people in the UK complete the procedure every year. There is plenty of evidence to prove the long-term success of corrective eye surgery. The effects are usually permanent and satisfactory. It means up to 98% of people with stabilised short-sight gain 20/20 vision that stays with them indefinitely, and at Optimax, 99% of our laser patients achieve driving standard vision or better.
An unsatisfactory result usually occurs due to the natural healing process of the eye’s tissues and not the surgery itself. It can easily be remedied by a second laser treatment where the surgeon can precisely adjust your vision. Only 0.3% of operations might not provide perfect vision long-term. This is largely due to progressive myopia, a rare form of short-sightedness that continues to deteriorate throughout adult life. However, any post-surgery visual deterioration can usually be corrected whenever it has occurred by repeating the surgery.
3. Laser eye surgery is suitable for long-sight
Laser eye surgery isn’t just for short-sighted adults. If you belong in the 5% to 10% of the population that has hyperopia or long-sightedness, you could benefit from laser eye surgery. This form of long-sight isn’t related to the natural ageing of the eye and often begins developing in childhood. It means that your cornea is causing the light to reach its focal point beyond the retina at the back of the eye. It’s the reverse of myopia which has a focal point that falls short of the retina.
There are a range of factors that can determine if you’re suitable for laser eye surgery, with most long or short sighted individuals able to be treated.
4. Anaesthetic is applied in the eye with a sharp needle
This is one of the main fears of people reluctant to investigate further about laser eye surgery. Fortunately, the anaesthetic is applied as drops of liquid and not in a needle. It usually requires just one or two drops to make the eye numb.
You remain awake and conscious throughout the surgical procedure, but the anaesthetic prevents your eyes from feeling any sensation, including pain. The anaesthetic usually begins to wear off around four hours after the procedure, but it can sometimes take longer.
5. Don’t worry about blinking during laser eye surgery
Many patients are frightened that moving or blinking during corrective laser eye surgery might cause the surgeon to make a catastrophic error. There is no need to be anxious as the procedure has many safeguards. To begin with, you lie down on a comfortable theatre bed, and an eyelid holder is used to prevent you from blinking. Due to the anaesthetic, you won’t even be aware that the holder is positioned beneath the rim of your eyelids. You should find that not being able to blink is surprisingly comfortable.
To help you keep your eye still during the surgery, you’ll be asked to focus on a bright light. It’s impossible for the eye not to make small movements, but the laser is designed to account for them. It uses a computerised tracking system that makes automatic adjustments to ensure it still follows the exact curvature of the cornea. The process takes less than ten minutes for each eye. If you concentrate on the guide light and the activity around you, the surgery will be over much faster than you ever imagined.
6. You are never too old for laser eye surgery
You can be considered for corrective laser eye surgery at any age as there is no upper limit. People in their sixties or even older have been successfully treated through laser eye surgery.
However, mature patients need to have more pre-surgery checks to ensure their eyes are in a healthy condition without any sign of age-related glaucoma or cataracts. A prescription that has been stable for the last two years is also recommended.
7. Laser eye surgery cannot treat age-related presbyopia
Age-related long-sight, known as presbyopia, affects at least 80% of mature adults. The condition makes objects close by look out of focus. It’s a natural process that often begins in your forties and is caused by the lens in the eye losing its muscle tone and becoming unstable. People who have myopia are also affected by presbyopia. In this case, you might still have to rely on reading glasses to correct age-related long-sightedness.
An alternative solution is a laser eye surgery procedure called monovision. It involves treating each eye for a different focal length. Your strongest eye is usually selected for short-sighted corrective surgery. The cornea of the other eye is corrected for long-sight. It can take several weeks for your brain to adjust to seeing two different distances at once. However, if you have mastered multifocal glasses or contact lenses, you could be a candidate for monovision laser eye surgery.
8. Sleep helps you recover from laser eye surgery
After surgery, it’s recommended that you go home and relax by sleeping or at least closing your eyes for a few hours. The flap that’s cut into the cornea has the task of protecting your eye as it heals. During the first eight hours, it’s at its most vulnerable and can be moved out of position, so we recommend that you wear a protective eye guard when you go to sleep for the next week. This helps protect to your eyes from being accidentally rubbed.
Fortunately, there are very few side effects during your recovery. You might experience a mild, gritty discomfort for a few days, which can be soothed by artificial tears. Any bloodshot patches should disperse within a few days. Avoid driving at night as the glare from headlights can appear intensified. The light from a television or computer screen can be irritating, so take regular breaks for a few days. It takes between two and five days for your vision to have regained enough clarity to return to work. Your eyes should be completely healed in three to six months, with regular aftercare appointments to check that your eyes are healing as they should.