Laser eye surgery is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and with surgeons continually refining techniques the future looks bright. More than 200,000 people in the UK choose to have the procedure and results are generally very good. However, it's important to remember that it is a surgical procedure and complications have occurred. These can range from minor irritations to major crises, so it is worth investigating the clinic carefully before committing to treatment.
Corrective laser eye surgery has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and modern procedures mean shorter recovery periods, less pain and the ability to treat a wider variety of conditions. In the past patients with common eye disorders relied on glasses and contact lenses to treat them. However, in the 1980s advances in laser technology allowed surgeons to begin treating eyes in a new way. The first procedure to be developed was dubbed PRK and involved removing the outer layer of the cornea before the underlying tissue could be treated with a laser. Recovery was painful and could take some time as the outer cornea had to grow back before vision was fully restored.
The next decade saw the development of LASEK, which differed in the way that the underlying corneal tissue was to be accesses. The procedure only required that a thin layer of the outer cornea be removed, so recovery was much quicker. LASEK proved successful in correcting low to moderate visual problems. For more acute visual problems eye care specialists came up with LASIK , which involves cutting a flap in the outer cornea which is replaced after laser treatment. It has an extremely rapid recovery time and is fairly painless but if complications occur they can be serious.
Laser eye surgery in the UK relies on these three methods of correcting vision. PRK is increasingly uncommon so most clinics today use LASEK and LASIK . However, laser eye surgery is still a ‘young' operation and isn't suitable for everyone. Those with large pupils, thin corneas and other medical conditions will generally be advised against the operation
Overall the success rate for laser eye is good, but problems do occur. Most clinics claim a 99% success rate (for each eye), but finding reliable statistics is a tricky business. Clinics keep their own records and there is no central body overseeing procedures. If you have any concerns whatsoever talk them through with your eye care specialist and don't be afraid to go somewhere else to get a second opinion.