Thinking of having laser eye surgery? Here’s all you need to know

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IF YOU’RE Bored with wearing glasses or contact lenses, the only other option for getting clear vision is laser eye surgery – a procedure which today accounts for around 75% of surgeries in the UK.

Such operations, also known as refractive surgery or laser vision correction (LVC), correct eye problems such as short vision, long vision, and astigmatism, using a laser to reshape the front. of the eye, which improves the ability to focus.

It is an increasingly popular option for people with vision problems – the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOPhth) reports that over 100,000 refractive surgery procedures are performed in the UK each year.

However, surgery to correct the need for glasses or contact lenses is currently not available on the NHS, nor is it covered by private health insurance.

Private clinics charge anywhere from £ 595 to £ 2,175 per eye, depending on the type of procedure, so it’s a big investment that requires careful and well-informed consideration.

:: Who is laser eye surgery for?

Most people over the age of 18 can have laser eye surgery as long as they have had a stable eyeglass prescription for at least two years. Short vision usually stabilizes in your late teens or early twenties.

About 99% of people in a large recent study published in the Review of Ophthalmology said they were satisfied with the outcome of their laser treatment, and for the small minority of patients with a poor outcome, review treatment is normally effective. .

You are more likely to be suitable for laser eye surgery if your eyeglass prescription is in the range of:

:: Up to –10.00D for myopia or myopia

:: Up to + 4.00D hyperopia or long sight

:: Up to ± 6.00D astigmatism.

Patients may not be suitable for CVG if they have other eye conditions, including cataracts, or eye surface problems.

:: Other surgical options

Allan explains that techniques based on implants may be more suitable for some patients.

Lens implantation techniques fall into two main categories: refractive lens exchange (RLE), which is identical to cataract surgery where the natural lens is replaced by a lens implant, and phakic intraocular lenses. (PIOL), where artificial lenses are implanted in front of the natural lens. objective without replacing it. This is often used in younger patients where the prescription of glasses is outside the normal range for laser eye surgery.

:: How do you choose a clinic?

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOPhth) advises prospective patients to think carefully before undergoing refractive surgery. The RCOphth has a useful function

checklist on their website (rcophth.ac.uk) that you can use when consulting with the refractive surgeon.

Patients are strongly advised to choose a surgeon who is registered with the General Medical Council’s Register of Ophthalmologists (gmc-uk.org), or who has the Cert LRS qualification, which can be verified through the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

Also make sure that the hospital or clinic is regulated by the relevant regulatory body for the region of the UK in which it is based.

The clinic should be clear from the outset about the total cost of the procedure. This normally includes follow-up visits to the clinic and the treatment of any problems resulting from surgery. Additional laser treatments to refine the visual result, for two years after surgery, are normally included in the initial cost.

:: What happens during the surgery?

The treatment is usually done on both eyes during the same visit and takes about 30 minutes, although the laser is only applied for a minute or two. All procedures use anesthetic drops to ensure patient comfort, and a spring clip is used to hold the eyelids apart.

Patients will be asked to look at a target light during treatment to help keep the eye in the correct position, and lasers are then used to remove a lens-shaped piece of tissue to reshape the cornea below. Although the three available treatments involve slightly different methods, all of them have similar results.

Patients can go home the same day of surgery, with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops to help the eyes heal.

:: Risks and side effects

Permanent vision loss is rare after CVL, and the main risk is that additional surgery may be needed for optimal results – up to one in 10 patients require some form of additional surgery.

Early in the post-surgery period, patients may see glare, halos, star bursts, and ghost images, but these problems usually resolve themselves within a few months. There may also be intermittent blurring, temporary red spots on the eyes, and symptoms of dry eye, which can be treated with artificial tears and should improve within a few months.

:: What results can you expect?

Most patients are satisfied with the outcome of the surgery. Although glasses may still be needed for certain post-treatment activities, especially for reading in older patients, Bruce Allan, consultant eye surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, says: “A reasonable expectation is to have vision. at the same level as you soft contact lenses, but without having to wear them.

“Another way to put it is you should see at least as well as a normal non-glasses wearer.”


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