Laser eye surgery - best and worst companies
Laser eye surgery FAQs
By Jess O'Leary
Article 3 of 4
Laser eye surgery FAQs
If you're considering laser eye surgery, you'll have lots of questions that need answering - read on for expert advice.
Here are some of the questions we are most commonly asked, plus advice on what questions you need to ask your surgeon.
Where should I have laser eye surgery?
Use the results of our Which? member survey to find the best and worst laser eye surgery companies.
What are the main risks of laser eye surgery?
This is common after surgery and usually clears up, but it can persist in the longer term. It's more common in certain people - including those with a history of dry eye - who should be specifically warned of the increased risks for them.
Infection is rare (the risk of developing an infection after surgery is 1 in 1,000). However, some cases can't be easily controlled by medication - which could cause some reduction in vision or, in extreme cases, loss of some sight.
Loss or reduced quality of vision
A small proportion of people don't see as well without glasses or contact lenses following surgery as they did with their spectacles or contact lenses before surgery. In up to 5% of cases, the person can be left with a prescription (ie still having some long or short sight) and will need glasses or top-up treatment.
For a smaller group of patients, this can't be corrected with spectacles and relates to a reduction in the optical quality of the eye.
Some patients experience glare or halo effects around lights when driving at night. This is more likely for those whose vision needed greater correction, and possibly those who also have larger pupils. Very occasionally, it is permanent.
Under-correction or over-correction
It's difficult to know exactly how an individual's eyes will heal, so between 0.2% and 5% of people (depending on the clinic and the patient) require another treatment. Ask clinics about their results.
Are there risks with having intraocular lenses (refractive lens exchange surgery)?
Yes, this is a surgical procedure and there are always risks involved. This includes the rare risk of infection and inflammation that can lead to some reduced vision, a detached retina, and night vision problems.
Talk to your surgeon about the risks for you, as they vary for each individual.
Does laser eye surgery make a future cataract operation more complicated?
Successful cataract surgery is possible after laser eye surgery.
People who have had Lasik should request and keep a copy of all eye measurements taken before and after their surgery. This makes it easier for your cataract surgeon to identify the correct power (prescription) of the lens to be implanted during your cataract surgery.
Should I see the surgeon before the day of surgery?
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists recommends that 'all patients should have an appointment with a refractive surgeon prior to the day of surgery.' This would ideally be at least a week in advance of surgery to allow a cooling-off period before surgery.
However, this is not standard practice for the larger high street chains Optical Express and Optimax, although you can ask if this is possible. You would generally meet the surgeon only on the day of your surgery, and see an optometrist and other sales staff or counsellors at your initial consultation.
What questions should I ask?
The president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth), Professor Caroline MacEwen, says: ‘Laser eye surgery has become normalised, but you’ve got to remember that anything surgical is irreversible. So we highly recommend that anyone considering the operation should ask their surgeon for details of their training, qualifications, length of practice and results.'
The RCOphth also advises:
- In general, the more operations a surgeon has carried out, the higher the success rate. In some cases, sight without glasses might not be as good as sight with glasses before the operation. The difference is usually minor, but find out what results your surgeon has had.
- Also check how many patients have had to come in for further treatment to improve on the initial results. Bear in mind that one in three people will still need glasses for some purposes, such as night driving.
- Ask about age-related presbyopia (the loss of elasticity of the eye's crystalline lens, leading to difficulty with near vision) and the need for reading glasses in your mid forties. Most people get this, and laser surgery won't be able to avoid or cure it.
Where can I go for more information?
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has further information for patients on its website.