You may be used to wearing your glasses or contact lenses, but there is no denying that sometimes life would be much easier if you didn’t have to. Sometimes it is just a cosmetic worry, and even though glasses are seen as a fashion item these days many wearers feel they would look better without them. And as far as sports are concerned, both glasses and lenses can be more trouble than they are worth.
Luckily, there is an alternative as it is possible to have eye surgery to correct your vision, and as these operations are becoming more commonplace the success rates are excellent.
What is Laser Eye Surgery?
Eye surgery that is used to correct vision issues is generally concerned with changing the shape of the eye so that light rays that hit the retina will be focussed properly. This enables people who have needed glasses or contact lenses in the past to see clearly without them, whether they are short-sighted, long-sighted or have astigmatism. It is rarely a painful operation but numbing drops can be administered in case of any discomfort.
Types of Eye Surgery
The main types of eye surgery are:
• ReLEx SMILE
LASIK is an acronym which stands for laser in-situ keratomileusis. Keratomileusis just means surgical reshaping of the cornea, and in this case will correct any refractive errors that people have with their eyes that results in them being short-sighted or long-sighted. Light passes through the eye and if the lens is the wrong shape it won’t focus the light properly onto the retina at the back of the eye. This surgery corrects that by cutting into the cornea and creating a flap through which the cornea is reshaped so that the patient can see more clearly without glasses or lenses.
LASEK is slightly different in that it is less common than LASIK and used generally with people for whom that option is not suitable, for example, people with dry eyes or thin or flat corneas. It stands for laser-assisted sub-epithelial keratomileusis and works by loosening the surface layer of the cornea before reshaping instead of creating a flap.
This is another acronym as SMILE stands for small incision lenticule extraction and it is a type of keyhole surgery. No blades are used, instead a laser is used to outline the part of the cornea that needs to be altered and the surgeon can remove it without needing to create a flap. This means that there is less discomfort after the operation, and it can take less time for the vision to improve. As it is a very sensitive operation, it can often correct more severe cases of short-sightedness that would be unsuitable for LASIK or LASEK procedures.
Who is Eye Surgery For?
There are limits to the amount of short or long-sightedness that the surgery can correct, but the majority of people will fall within the parameters that make this a simple and successful operation. It is ideal for anyone who would rather not have to wear glasses all the time, or has issues with contact lenses either for playing sports or in day-to-day life.
There are categories of patients who would not be suitable, but the chances are if you have had a stable prescription for over a year this could be suitable for you. Specific groups of people who are not suitable for laser eye surgery are:
• Children and young adults under the age of 20. This is because as you grow your prescription will alter and it really needs to be stable for the best results.
• Those with an autoimmune disorder or eye problems may be rejected as unsuitable. It depends on the condition and the severity and consultation with your surgeon should clarify this. However, issues that can cause a problem are Lupus, keratoconus and diabetes.
• Short-sightedness can happen as a result of age, therefore people over the age of 40 are unfortunately also unsuitable. In these cases, it is possible to have laser lens surgery or laser blended vision but not the LASIK or LASEK options.
• Also unsuitable are people who have an extremely large refractive difference in their corneas compared to people with 20:20 sight. SMILE is sometimes possible, but if not then something called Phakic IOL which is a contact lens that is implanted into the eye is an alternative procedure.
After Effects of Eye Surgery
While complications are rare, there can be problems associated with surgery on the eyes. Most common problems include dry eyes in the few weeks following an operation, but this can be alleviated with eye drops until they begin to return to normal. Also, for about a month after surgery, the patient can experience halos or issues with glare. These are to be expected from surgery on the delicate eye area, but again, within a few months, this should have righted itself completely. As with any operation, there can be a problem with infection, but this is highly unlikely if the doctor’s instructions have been followed properly.
One of the more unusual issues is a problem with the flap that the doctor has to cut into the eye in the case of LASIK surgery. Rubbing or unexpected movement can cause this to dislodge which will interrupt healing, but there is only a tiny chance of this happening and in most cases returning to the clinic will allow them to repair this issue quickly.
Recovery from LASEK can take longer than with LASIK surgery, and there is slightly more discomfort in the days immediately following the surgery. However, it is an excellent alternative if you are unable to have LASIK treatment as it has a similar success rate.
Although it may seem to be an expensive procedure, try not to just go for one of the cheaper options without research. While these may be perfectly adequate, you often get what you pay for and more expensive clinics may be so because they employ experienced doctors at the top of their profession. This will usually translate into a higher success rate so an investigation is essential if you are to choose the correct clinic for you.
Additionally, clinics can offer an easy payment scheme so that you are not paying for the whole procedure in one go, and many offer 0% finance to make it even more attractive a proposition.
Laser Eye Surgery Cost – Updated in 2022
The laser eye surgery prices displayed below are based on six quotations provided to us by healthcare providers in April 2022:
Would it Be Cheaper Abroad?
At first glance, it would seem that surgery abroad is by far the cheaper choice, but don’t forget that you have to factor in the price of flights and somewhere to stay while you are being treated. There may also be charges for appointments after the surgery, including additional flights if they want to include an aftercare appointment as well. Many of the clinics in European countries such as the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland are excellent, however, many are not and without a standard that clinics here in the UK have to adhere to, it is harder to tell which is which.
Benefits of Eye Surgery
An American study by the American Refractive Surgery Council has found that laser eye surgery has consistently high safety results, outcomes and patient satisfaction. This proves that it is a perfect answer for people who want to correct their vision as long as they have eyesight that will be suitable. There is very little pain experienced and normal tasks can be resumed within a day.
Generally, there is no requirement for bandaging or stitches, and over 95% of patients have improved vision after the operation. Even those who do experience complications, these are usually mild, can be corrected and don’t usually result in vision loss.
Although it can take a few weeks to correct the patient’s vision, either glasses are no longer required or a much-reduced prescription is needed. Age may still alter the vision slightly, but another treatment can be tried a number of years later if the prescription has changed in the meantime. Finally, although the initial cost may seem large, if you compare it to the sight tests, glasses and contact lenses that have to be purchased over the years, it can actually save you money.
Along with fast results and a virtually pain-free surgery, this can be a permanent way to correct your vision. There will be no need to remember your glasses wherever you go or to worry about infections from wearing contact lenses. Many more sports are open to you and the ones you already participate in will become easier. It may not improve your goal-kicking skills, but your range of vision won’t be restricted to the limit of your glasses and you won’t need to worry about heading the ball with lenses in.
Downsides of Eye Surgery
There is a certain amount of fear related to eye surgery, mainly because the patient is generally awake during the procedure and a scalpel and laser are in close proximity to your eye. Although it is a relatively safe method as far as operations go, sharp things near your eyes are dangers we are taught to avoid from a very young age. Nevertheless, studies have shown that this is in fact a very safe operation although as with any surgical intervention there can be slight risks.
It is possible that the patient may experience poor nighttime vision, glare or halos, but this is quite a rare symptom and if experienced may even improve with time. Infection and inflammation are obviously possible as with any operation, but this chance is lessened if the patient adheres to the medical recommendations.
Expectation can be an issue with this type of procedure as well. The worse the eyesight of the patient, the harder it is to rectify completely and this can lead to disappointment. Potentially the vision will not be completely corrected and the patient will still need to wear glasses, albeit with a smaller prescription. If the patient is not prepared for this, satisfaction with the results will obviously suffer.
How to Investigate the Possibility of This Type of Surgery
The first thing you should do is organise to have your eyes tested properly. An optician will be able to tell you whether you qualify for either LASIK or LASEK eye surgery, and may even be able to recommend a local ophthalmologist for you. The optician is also qualified to check for underlying medical conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma or indeed anything else that may prevent you from being able to have surgery or that should be treated beforehand.
If your optician thinks you may be suitable for surgery, your next step should be to investigate clinics that carry out such operations. You should check for recommendations, ideally from people you know who have been, but if you don’t know anyone who has been personally then check online recommendations from sites like TrustPilot. Make sure the clinic you are considering will give you suitable aftercare; you don’t want them to just operate and leave it at that.
Also, checking their track record and how long they have been in business will give you some idea of how successful they are. Make sure your prescription is within the margins that they specify for their success rates, and that their results have been verified independently or published nationally. With all of these checks, you can then make an appointment at your favourite to see for yourself.