Laser eye surgery uses a beam of light (a laser) to destroy diseased or unwanted eye tissue. It is also commonly used to correct vision in people by reshaping the cornea. In many cases this removes the need for glasses or contact lenses. Like all surgery, it has risks and possible complications.
When is laser eye surgery used?
Laser eye surgery can be used to treat a range of conditions, including:
- diabetes eye diseases
- some cases of age-related macular degeneration
- some cases of glaucoma
- retinal tears
- retinopathy in premature babies
Laser eye surgery can also correct vision problems due to a misshapen cornea, the transparent layer at the front of the eye. People with poor vision have a cornea that is not the correct shape to focus light on the back of the eye. This causes blurred vision.
Laser eye surgery can be used to reshape the cornea and restore vision. There are many types of laser eye surgery offered for vision correction including LASIK, LASEK, PRK, ASLA and SMILE.
Who is suitable for laser eye surgery?
Certain people should not normally have laser eye surgery for vision correction. These include people who:
- are under 18
- have an abnormal cornea
- have a physical condition that impairs healing
- have very dry eyes
- have unstable vision (their glasses prescription changes often)
- have an autoimmune disease
- have diabetes, uncontrolled rheumatic conditions or keratoconus
- have a history of herpes in the eyes
- use certain medications
- carry out activities that risk eye injury
What to ask your specialist before laser eye surgery
It is important to ask your eye specialist which is the best type of eye surgery for you. Some things you might like to discuss include:
- the risks involved in the procedure
- how long recovery will take
- the cost of the procedure
- what side effects you might experience, such as dry eyes and visual disturbances
- whether you will still need to wear contact lenses or glasses after the procedure
- whether you will need to use eye drops long term
- whether you will be able to play contact sports
- whether a second operation will be necessary, and if it is included in the initial cost
After laser eye surgery
After surgery, it is important to be guided by your ophthalmic surgeon or ophthalmologist. You might be instructed to:
- take a few days off work
- take antibiotics or use eye drops
- avoid rubbing your eyes
- avoid contact sports for a time
All vision correction laser procedures have temporary after effects, including:
- discomfort after the surgery, such as burning or itching
- mild pain
- bloodshot or watery eyes
- sensitivity to light
- glare or haloes around light
Most of these symptoms should only last a few days after surgery, although it might take up to six months for your vision to stabilise. If you experience strong pain or your symptoms get worse, see your doctor immediately.
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Last reviewed: January 2018