Is Laser Eye Surgery Permanent?
The answer to this question is the same for all surgeries that involve laser correction of refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. These laser procedures include LASIK, IntraLASIK, Wavefront, Zyoptix, Visian ICL, PRK, and LASEK. The effects of these surgeries are permanent, but they do not necessarily prevent further naturally occurring changes in vision.
Tests show most people benefit from excellent long term results that last around 10 years, but after that there is a good chance of partial regression. Statistics show for every 100 patients between 5 and 10 will require further treatment while, in America, a study showed that after 5 years 36% still needed glasses.
Additionally nothing can halt the aging process. Natural age related deterioration means that the lens can no longer alter focus from distance to near. At least 70% of the population will find it harder to focus with age, and will need reading glasses, whether or not they have had corrective surgery.
Even when surgery has occurred some patients may still be required to wear glasses. This is usually the case for myopic (short-sightedness) and reading glasses are suitable for close-up work or reading but not necessarily required for distance and general vision.
As patients age they may need to wear glasses as part of the deterioration of sight due to the aging process. Further surgery will not stop this process but new technological advances are coming into practice to help maintain reading vision.
The Affects Of Age
All of us experience a condition called presbyopia when we reach our 40s. This is sometimes called difficulties with “accommodation,” which means that your eyes begin to struggle with switching between short vision and long vision.
When we are younger, the lens of the eye quickly changes its shape slightly in order to focus far away and then again at an object that is close. The lens weakens as we age, losing the flexibility to change shape fast enough, causing focusing to become difficult.
Even if you receive laser vision correction surgery in your 20s or 30s, the procedure will not stop the occurrence of presbyopia. For this reason, some people must wear reading glasses, bifocals, or trifocals starting in their 40s, whether or not they have had laser eye surgery.
Laser eye surgery also does not prevent other eye conditions from developing that may or may not impair vision. These include glaucoma and cataracts. Almost everyone develops cataracts in their 60s, 70s, or 80s. When this occurs, lens replacement surgery is recommended to remove the lens of the eye that is clouded by the cataract. A synthetic lens is installed with a corrective prescription. As a result, may people late in life experience better vision than they have had in years.
Opting For Monovision Or Multifocal Lens Replacement
Since the correction in laser vision correction surgery must be made for either short or long sight, problems with accommodation will continue, necessitating the need for glasses at least some of the time. The only way to avoid glasses or contact lenses entirely is through a procedure called monovision.
In monovision, the correction during laser eye surgery is made specifically so that one eye focuses more on near objects while the other eye focuses more on far objects. It takes the brain a short period to become accustomed to the difference in vision between the eyes, but it quickly learns to switch its focus from one eye to the other.
Monovision is a risk, however, because some people never become accustomed to it. For those who work daily on computers, for example, monovision can be problematic because the eye focusing on near objects can become over-tired and strained. Similarly, people who use long sight regularly, such as those who play tennis, may experience excessive eye strain in the eye that focuses on distant objects.
Therefore, the decision to have monovision correction should be carefully thought out.
For those who are receiving lens replacement surgery, it is possible to obtain new lenses on the eyes that are like bifocal or multifocal eyeglasses. These lenses allow you to deal with accommodation issues by focusing through different parts of the lenses to see objects at varying distances. Note, however, that NHS does not currently cover multifocal lens replacement surgery.
A Second Course Of Laser Eye Treament
Another possibility after Lasik-type procedures is a slip of the flap over time. While the flap that is cut in the cornea heals, it never fully reattaches to the rest of the eye. It is estimated that five percent of people who receive Lasik surgery experience a flap slip. This requires a “touch-up” surgery.
It is also important to note that if the initial Lasik surgery has not been sufficient, a subsequent procedure can be conducted only if the initial correction was not overdone. If too much tissue has been removed to alter the shape of the cornea, that tissue cannot be restored. If not enough tissue has been removed, the cornea’s shape can be altered to further improve vision.
Despite these caveats, the results of laser eye surgery and lens replacement surgery are considered permanent, and the majority of people experience significantly improved vision for the rest of their lives.
Is It Worth It?
Costs per eye start from £595 with many companies offering special deals and credit options. So even if the effects do only last 10 years, this would cost just under £120 a year.
Contact lenses cost between £60-£200 a year depending on the type used. An average pair of glasses comes in the cheapest at around £40. If looked after properly they can last, but most people have at least 2 pairs at a time and change them every 2 years.
So for a lens free life in your 20’s and 30’s, and armed with all the facts, laser eye surgery does seem worth it.
What Expectations Do You Have?
Best practices for anyone considering laser eye surgery include fully researching which surgery and options are available for your particular prescription. Then use the initial consultation to collect information and ask questions to get what is best for you.