Laser Eye Surgery FAQs
Laser Eye Surgery
What is the right age to have LASIK / LASEK laser vision correction?
Laser corrective surgery works effectively to correct the general focus of eyes, no matter what your age so there is no strict age limit. Ideally, you should be over 18 years old and have had stable vision and optical prescription for at least the last two years. By the age of 20-21 most people have reached a point at which their glasses prescription will remain relatively stable.
Although there is no upper age limit, your natural lens becomes less flexible with age and no longer provides the capability of clear reading vision past around 45-50 years of age onwards. This means that even if you have surgery, you will still need reading glasses to see clearly up close. Laser surgery may be able to give you clear vision for all the other focal distances, without regular glasses, for the rest of your life. A Clear Lens Extraction procedure may be a more suitable choice if you require reading glasses. This involves having natural lens replaced with a special multi-focal lens to provide good distance and near vision. A consultation with your refractive surgeon will determine the best option for your particular circumstance.
If you are over 60 years of age, and have any degree of cataracts, you may benefit from waiting to have your vision corrected at the time of your cataract surgery. The new lens placed in your eye at the time of cataract surgery to replace your natural one, can correct your near-sightedness or farsightedness. Most people develop cataracts sometime between 60 and 85 years of age.
Am I suitable for LASIK / LASEK?
The presence of conditions like glaucoma, the presence of a cataract, moderate dry eyes and other diseases of the surface of the eye mean that you are not suitable for laser eye surgery. If you have a lazy eye or only one eye then even the small risks of laser vision correction may not be justifiable. Your surgeon will be able to advise you on the suitability for surgery.
What are the benefits of LASIK / LASEK surgery
1. Decreased dependency on contacts and glasses
2. Ability to get up and GO!
3. Major lifestyle advantages with sports
4. Reduced risk of contact lens related corneal problems
5. Clear, natural vision
6. Improved appearance
Does laser eye surgery hurt?
The procedure itself is virtually painless, as your eye will be numbed with anaesthetic drops. You will be aware of equipment that helps to hold your eye open and a slight pressure may be felt during the procedure.
The latest advances in laser technology have significantly reduced post-operative pain and the majority of patients experience minimal discomfort. However, in those that do, medications and drops are prescribed to relieve it.
What will happen during the laser procedure?
You will be awake for the procedure but your eye will be numbed with anaesthetic drops. You will be reclined into a horizontal position and a small device will be used to keep your eye open. You will be asked to look at a light that keeps your eye
properly positioned. You may feel a sensation of pressure while the flap is being created, but this only takes a couple of minutes. The laser is then applied to the eye, usually for somewhere between 10 and 90 seconds. The flap is then replaced and a bandage contact lens applied. The procedure takes under 10 minutes per eye.
Will my vision be perfect after surgery?
Although your surgeon will be able to give you a fairly accurate indication of what is achievable with laser eye surgery, no surgeon can absolutely guarantee a certain result of 6/6 vision.
How long will it be before I can drive and return to work after the surgery?
A patient is legal to drive with at least one eye 6/9 or better. However, you should refrain from driving until you have adjusted and feel comfortable with the vision having changed in the operated eye.
Returning to work is largely dependent upon the individual and their occupation. Most people can return to work within 2 to 4 days of the surgery. Light work, such as computer use or office-based work can be returned to within hours of laser treatment. However, higher risk activities such as operating heavy machinery or manual labour require stability and adaptation to vision changes. To prevent infection and aid recovery, the eye also needs to be kept clean, so outdoor work or work in dirty/dusty environments is not ideal.
Your vision may be a little blurry for a few days, making some tasks difficult. However, vision will continue to improve over 3 to 4 weeks.
What is the recovery time after the procedure and what can I expect?
All patients will experience blurred vision immediately after laser eye surgery. Normal symptoms in the immediate post-operative stages include: blurred vision, light sensitivity, eye irritation (similar to a foreign body sensation), and tearing. After the first six hours, these symptoms will start to resolve.
All patients are instructed to use antibiotic and steroid eye drops for about one week after surgery. Drops are usually prescribed for several weeks. A shield should be worn over the eye at night for at least a week until complete healing occurs. You will also be advised not to rub the eye or eyelid and refrain from squeezing your eyes shut. Wearing eye make-up and swimming should be avoided for at least a week.
The eye cannot be hurt or damaged by using it after surgery, watching TV, computer work, reading, etc. will not affect the outcome of the surgery. Normal activities that do not include pressure on the eye such as walking, jogging, routine work are allowed the day after LASIK.
Discomfort is rare and minimal. Vision is usually improved immediately but may fluctuate for several weeks. Glasses, if necessary, for reading and distance are prescribed after around two weeks following a routine post-operative check. In rare cases, retreatment is necessary and performed as soon as the eye has stabilised but usually no sooner than two months.
How long will laser correction last?
In the majority of cases, the correction lasts for the rest of your life. About 5% of the patients require a top up treatment to fine-tune the correction. In patients with less than 7diopters of myopia and less than 3 dioptres of astigmatism the re-treatment
rate is less than 2%. All re-treatments are carried out free of charge. There may be a very gradual natural variation in vision with age in a small minority of patients.
What are the common problems I may encounter after laser surgery?
There may be some discomfort lasting a few hours. Mild dryness of the eyes and glare at night time is sometimes seen after laser surgery and usually resolves within 9 months.
Are there any negative long-term effects?
Laser surgery studies and data to date indicate a very positive healing response of the eye. LASIK has been performed since 1991, so data and research can only go back this far. However, studies suggest that the eye behaves in a predictable manner; if visual results from laser vision correction procedures have been stable up to two years, then they should remain stable over a lifetime.
Can my vision be worse than before the procedure?
In very rare cases, if a significant complication arose, there is a chance vision could be worse. However, the vast majority of complications do not lead to loss of vision but a slight reduction in the quality of vision, generally associated with astigmatism or haze resulting from the surgery. Most complications are minor and treatable, but some are not.
In some not so common cases, while patients will experience better vision without the aid of contact lenses or glasses, the very best they can see with correction is diminished. In some cases, this is a healing related issue, or can be corrected with further treatment.
The worst complication of laser surgery is a serious infection, which left untreated, could lead to scarring of the cornea or possibly even loss of the eye. This however this is extremely rare as laser surgery is performed under sterile surgical conditions immediately followed by the application of prophylactic antibiotics. If a rare infection does occur, it can usually be controlled with topical antibiotics resulting in little or no ultimate loss of vision. Even if the cornea should happen to become seriously scarred because of an infection, corneal transplants are usually possible to restore clear vision again.
If I require surgery to correct defects, can both eyes to be treated at the same time?
Due to the latest technologies and rapid recovery times, it is possible for most candidates to have surgery on both eyes on the same day. Of course, this is providing the surgeon feels this is suitable. As with any type of surgery, there are always risks, so in some instances it is safer to do each eye individually on separate occasions depending on patient need and situation.
Are there any side effects of laser surgery?
Side effects are generally minimal following laser surgery as most of the surface of the cornea will not been affected. However, patients may experience some light sensitivity and glare for a few days or weeks. There may also be some discomfort in the hours immediately after the procedure but this will subside after a few hours. Full
visual stabilisation may take several weeks.
What is Intralase® or blade free LASIK?
Refractive surgeons can now use an infrared Femtosecond laser to create the LASIK flap rather than using a microkeratome. This allows the surgeon to create a thinner more accurate flap. This may aid in a quicker recovery and has fewer flap related complications. The vision correction results provided by the standard LASIK and the femtosecond blade free procedures are exactly the same.