Is Laser Eye Surgery Safe?

Tags: eye surgery,laser eye surgery,lasik,

Laser eye surgery is a popular and relatively common procedure. As with many medical treatments and procedures, laser eye surgery first hit public prominence in part thanks to the number of celebrities who were using it. Today, laser eye surgery is widely accessible to the public and is often not an expensive means of correcting our eyesight. Here’s all you need to know about laser eye surgery.

What is Laser Eye Surgery?

Laser eye surgery, or laser corneal sculpting to use its medical term, involves reshaping the surface of the eye. Laser eye surgery can be used to correct a number of sight issues, including short and long sightedness, as well as being a solution for astigmatism, which is uneven curvature of the eye’s surface. During laser eye surgery, the focus is on the cornea, which is the transparent tissue that sits on the front of the eye and helps to focus our eyesight. When you undergo laser eye surgery, the laser is used to remove microscopic amounts of tissue from the cornea. The desired outcome
of any laser eye surgery is to restore normal eyesight without the patient needing to use contact lenses or glasses, although this is not always possible to do.

Two of the most commonly used types of laser eye surgery are PRK and LASIK.

  • PRK – When you undergo PRK – photorefractive keratectomy – the thin outer layer of your cornea is removed to allow the laser to access and reshape the underlying layers.
  • LASIK – laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis – is the most common and widely used type of laser eye surgery. This surgery involves using a second laser called a femtosecond laser to create a thin flap of corneal tissue. The flap is then lifted away, and the first laser, called the excimer laser, then reshapes the underlying tissue, before the flap is replaced to cover the treated eye surface. An alternative type of LASIK eye surgery does not require a second laser, instead a fine blade called a microkeratome will be used to make the flap before the laser is used.

Why Might You Be Considering Laser Eye Surgery?

There are numerous reasons why you might be considering laser eye surgery. These include:
You can’t wear contact lenses and don’t want to wear glasses, perhaps because you dislike how they make you look or because you feel uncomfortable wearing them Your job, a specific passion, or hobby means you cannot wear contact lenses or glasses You don’t want to wear contact lenses due to the inconvenience of needing to change and care for them on a regular basis

What Else Do You Need to Consider?

As well as thinking about the reasons for wanting to undergo laser eye surgery, you should also consider the following:

  • To ensure your eyes have fully developed, you should not undergo laser eye surgery before the age of 20. Some refractive surgeons may choose not to perform surgery until patients are older.
  • To provide the best possible opportunity of long-term success, prior to laser eye surgery your refractive error – this is the prescription for your glasses – ought to be stable. Your optician will be able to provide a history of your eye checkups if you need help with this.
  • Laser eye surgery may not be appropriate or completely safe if you have diabetes, uncontrolled rheumatic conditions, diseases of the immune system or a family history of keratoconus. Your eye surgeon will speak with you about the risks of proceeding should any of these conditions apply to you.
  • If you have abnormally shaped or very thin corneas, laser eye surgery can be riskier than normal. Do not worry about finding out about your corneas, they will be examined during your pre-operation appointment and you will be advised if there are any issues.

What Happens During the Laser Eye Surgery?

Both the PRK and LASIK eye surgery procedures have been outlined above. During the surgery, the laser used will vaporize the microscopic tissue of the cornea as required. The laser is pre-set by computer prior to surgery, and is set-up based on your own cornea so that it can be reshaped as required.

A local anesthetic is used to perform laser eye surgery, and takes the form of eyedrops. The total surgery time is between five and 10 minutes per eye, although the laser itself is usually active and working on your eye for less than a minute.

What Happens After Laser Eye Surgery?

Immediately after laser eye surgery you can expect to feel some minor discomfort. You will be able to see, although not 100%, and you will need to be driven home by a friend, family member, or in a taxi. Potential Side Effects and Complications of Laser Eye Surgery Consumer advocacy group CHOICE states that around 5% of laser eye surgery patients will report problems following surgery.

The most common problems tend to occur in the first two to three weeks following surgery, and include:

  • An over or under-correction of your sight, which may require an additional procedure to enhance the outcome of your treatment. This will typically be scheduled three months after your initial appointment.
  • Dry eyes. This is particularly common after undergoing LASIK eye surgery, and can lead to discomfort, but is easily manageable with eye drops.
  • Visual symptoms that affect your ability to drive at night, including corneal haze, blurry double vision, and light sensitivity. These problems are more common after PRK surgery.
  • General eye sensitivity, again more common following PRK.

Less common problems include:

  • Eyesight regression over time, where sight deteriorates back to the pre-surgery state
  • Lower contrast sensitivity
  • Less focused vision

Complications that threaten your eyesight are very rare, though in the first two days after surgery infection can occur, which can lead to scarring or even blindness in extreme cases. Infections are more commonly related to PRK surgery than to LASIK eye surgery. There is currently no data or evidence to highlight the long-term effect of removing corneal tissue given that laser eye surgery has only become available relatively recently. However, studies have failed to find any suggestion a laser eye surgery patient will suffer any long-term negative effects, and most complications or side effects are experienced within one year of having undergone the procedure.

How Much Does Laser Eye Surgery Cost?

The cost of your laser eye surgery will vary depending on the specific treatment required and the type of laser eye surgery you choose. Treatment typically ranges from $1,500 – $3,700 per eye in Australia, with $2,500 per eye the typically quoted average cost.

How to Find a Laser Eye Clinic for You

If you are considering going ahead with laser eye surgery, it is important to find a clinic and a surgeon that you feel comfortable with. We would suggest you use the following as a checklist when looking for a laser eye clinic and surgeon:

  • Ensure you are comfortable with the surgeon’s level of experience. A refractive surgeon can perform laser eye surgery straight from university. There is not any higher level of risk however it is something you should be comfortable with.
  • What involvement will you have with the surgeon before and after your procedure? Some will see you pre and post procedure, others will only see you once to perform the surgery, with other appointments taken care of by others. Consider whether this is important to you.
  • Ask for the surgery outcomes statistics specifically for the clinic. How successful is the clinic at performing the type of surgery you need? Do their results compare favorably with other clinics you have considered, and against national statistics?
  • What does the price of the surgery include? Are you paying $2,500 just for the surgery, or is the price of checkups and assessments included? If you experience complications and require further corrective or enhancement surgery, will you need to pay again?

Ensure you are comfortable with the decision you make. If you feel uneasy about a particular clinic, don’t use them just because they might be the cheapest. Laser eye surgery can change your life, and you want to be comfortable and ensure it does so for the better.

Is Laser Eye Surgery Safe?

Like any medical procedure, there are risks and potential complications with laser eye surgery. However, by following the advice of your surgeon, and ensuring you choose a clinic you are comfortable with and that has a proven reputation of providing successful treatment, you will reduce the level of riskattached. You should also remember that complication rates are historically
very low, meaning that laser eye surgery is a very safe, not to mention common, procedure.

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