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LASIK Eye Surgery

The most common laser refractive surgery in the UK

What Is LASIK?

LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) is the most commonly performed laser eye surgery procedure for the correction of short- and far-sightedness and astigmatism. It was first performed in the UK in 1995 and to date more than 28 million procedures have been carried out worldwide. Approximately 100,000 LASIK procedures are performed in the UK each year making it the second most common surgical procedure in the UK.

The surgery involves using a laser to reshape the cornea to allow light entering the eye to be properly focused onto the retina. To enable the laser clear access to the cornea, a thin flap of tissue is cut and lifted back from the front of the eye. Once the procedure is complete, the flap is placed back in position to heal.

Who is eligible for LASIK?

Although LASIK is available to many people there are a few criteria you will need to meet in order to be eligible.

  • Your prescription must be within the required range. If your prescription is too high you may be advised against laser eye surgery or offered an alternative procedure. If you are short sighted your prescription should fall in the range of between -1.00D and -9.00D. If you are far-sighted your prescription will need to be between +1.00D and +3.50D.
  • Your cornea should not be too thin. For those who have thin corneas, there is a higher risk of the procedure being unsuccessful.
  • If your pupils are too large there is an increased risk of side effects such as seeing halos or experiencing glare in low light conditions.
  • You must have healthy eyes with no history of glaucoma or cataracts.
  • Your prescription should not have altered within the last year.
  • You must be in good general health.
  • You must meet the minimum age requirements.

Advantages of LASIK

There are numerous advantages associated with LASIK eye surgery. In particular, many take great comfort in knowing that it has been carried out successfully on millions of eyes around the world, making it a proven and reliable way of correcting vision.

The procedure itself is quick, usually only around 10 minutes per eye, and is associated with very little pain. The recovery period is short, requiring no stitches or bandages and the majority of patients will find their vision improves almost immediately. Although most people will only require one treatment to improve their eyesight, it is possible to ‘top-up’ the procedure later down the line, if necessary.

Disadvantages of LASIK

LASIK is a permanent treatment; once changes have been made to the cornea they cannot be reversed. In rare cases visual acuity may actually worsen and cannot be improved with further surgery so candidates should ensure that they meet the eligibility criteria to minimise the risk of complications.

How does LASIK work?

All laser eye surgeries reshape the cornea to correct visual problems. LASIK is unique because a hinged flap is created in the fine tissue covering the eye which is then sealed back in place once the procedure is complete.

Other laser techniques, such as PRK, remove this tissue altogether meaning it has to grow back. The key advantage of LASIK is the shortened healing period and less painful recovery associated with the flap merely being folded back over the surface of the eye.

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  • STEP 1: A suction ring is placed over the eye to stabilise its position and provide pressure in order for the microkeratome to cut the flap properly.
  • STEP 2: The microkeratome, a high-precision blade, is passed over the cornea and creates a flap as it goes.
  • STEP 3: The corneal flap is carefully peeled back on its hinge to expose the deeper layer of the cornea.
  • STEP 4: The laser cuts and reshapes the cornea.
  • STEP 5: Afterwards, the corneal flap is repositioned.
  • STEP 6: The healing process starts straight away.

Prior to the surgery your doctor will conduct a thorough examination of your eye to confirm your prescription and will use an instrument called a corneal topographer to measure and create a virtual map of your cornea. This profile will be relayed to the laser to create a specific treatment for you.

Immediately before the procedure you will be given anaesthetic eye drops to numb the eye and, if you are nervous, you may also be given a mild sedative.

Tips and advice

  • There are a few things that you will be advised to do or stop doing in the weeks prior to undergoing LASIK.
  • Stop wearing contact lenses around two weeks before the procedure as they can change the curvature of your cornea.
  • Since LASIK is conducted under local anaesthetic you are permitted to eat but should avoid anything too heavy.
  • Don’t wear any make-up, particularly mascara or eye shadow.
  • Avoid wearing any large accessories in your hair as you head will need to be positioned under the laser and you will want to be comfortable.
  • Let your doctor know if you are taking any prescription medications.

How much does LASIK cost?

Average Cost Per Eye Consultation cost Aftercare cost
£1488 £0 Normally included in the price of surgery

The above chart provides an average cost of LASIK in the UK, but the range is anywhere from £395 per eye to £2,500 per eye.

You should avoid making a decision based on price; it is always a good idea to get a number of quotes and visit a number of different clinics. Try and find the place where you feel most comfortable and the clinic you think will give you the best customer experience.

Factors that can affect the price include:

  • The equipment: You can get LASIK for as little as £395 per eye but if you want to benefit from the very latest developments in the technology you will need to pay more.
  • The surgeon: The level of qualification and the experience of your surgeon may also impact the overall cost. A surgeon with numerous years’ experience and who has been accredited by a body such as the Royal College of Ophthalmologists is likely to charge more.
  • Your location: If you live in a city or large town there are likely to be a number of clinics competing for your business, driving prices down. However, if you live in a more rural locale your options are likely to be more limited.
  • Clinic size: You are likely to find cheaper treatments at the large, established clinics. They will have more staff and will be able to conduct more procedures than smaller centres, meaning they can afford to be more competitive on price.

As there are a number of laser eye surgery procedures, make sure that you are getting quotes for LASIK specifically. Other treatment types may be less expensive but may not be suitable for you.

Types of LASIK surgery

Researching LASIK can be difficult due to the various terms for branded or slightly modified procedures. Although they work in similar ways they each have distinct characteristics:

Epi-LASIK: EpiLASIK involves the creation of a hinged flap in much the same way as traditional LASIK but the flap is much thinner. This is likely to be more suitable for those with thinner corneas who may not otherwise have been judged to be a suitable candidate for LASIK.

IntraLASIK: The only difference between IntraLASIK and LASIK is in how the flap is created. Instead of being made with a microkeratome (a steel blade), a laser is used. This procedure is also known as iLASIK, IntraLASIK & Femto-LASIK.

Wavefront assisted LASIK: Wavefront assisted LASIK uses 3D measurements of how your eye processes images and relays that to the laser to precisely re-shape your cornea. It is capable of correcting visual defects with much more accuracy than standard LASIK.

LASIK recovery time

LASIK is a popular choice for many as the recovery time is shorter than with other laser eye surgery procedures. Many will notice an almost immediate improvement in their vision and report their eyes feeling totally normal within a day.

The anaesthetic drops will start to wear off in the hour following the procedure and you may feel a mild burning or itching sensation. This is totally normal and taking over the counter painkillers should help with any discomfort. It is essential that you do not rub your eyes as you may dislodge the flap which could lead to complications. Your doctor will also give you eye drops to keep them lubricated as LASIK can dry out the surface of your eye temporarily.

Activity Period of time before re-starting activity
Showering Immediately
Driving 1 day
Returning to work 1-2 days
Regaining full vision Between 1 day and a week
Wearing eye make-up 1 week
Swimming 1 week

Is LASIK safe?

LASIK is considered to be a safe and successful procedure in the majority of patients. According to The American Society of Cataract and Refractive surgeons, 96% of patients achieve 20/20 vision. But as with any surgical procedure there are some possible side effects and complications that should be taken into consideration.

Possible risks, side effects and complications

The most often cited complication of LASIK relates to the hinged flap that is cut in the corneal tissue. Firstly, as with any incision, there is always a risk of infection. Secondly, if the flap is not created properly it may not fully re-bond with the surface of the eye which can lead to distorted vision. This only occurs in around 0.3 to 5.7% of cases but should be taken into consideration.

A small percentage of patients may find that their vision has been either over or under corrected. In many cases this can be corrected by a further laser procedure but in a very small proportion of cases the patient may have to continue wearing glasses or contact lenses.

Side effect Symptom Recovery Time Treatment
Glare & Halos Seeing glare from lights particularly in low light conditions Up to 3 months Avoid looking at bright lights and wear sunglasses when outdoors
Poor night vision Your eyes may take longer to adjust to low light conditions Up to 3 months Wavefront tracking can help reduce risk
Dry eye Dry scratchy eyes Up to six months Use moisturising eye drops to keep your eyes lubricated

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