Laser Eye Surgery

'Laser eye surgery' is an umbrella term for the various medical procedures used to correct common vision problems such as myopia, hypermetropia and astigmatism.

It is now the most frequently performed elective procedure in the world. The operation uses a cool beam of light emitted from an excimer laser to reshape the transparent layer at the front of the eye (also known as the cornea).

How Does Laser Eye Surgery Work?


Video Transcript

Laser eye surgery is the most commonly used elective procedure performed in the world today; there are thousands of people benefiting from this procedure in the UK every year. Laser eye surgery is a corrective procedure which uses an excimer laser to carefully alter the shape of the front surface of the eye, otherwise known as the cornea.

The treatment is safe, comfortable and effective, and typically laser eye procedures last less than one hour. In the majority of cases people experience a noticeable improvement in their eyesight within 24 hours and in many cases patients can return to work within a couple of days.

How Much is Laser Eye Surgery?

The cost of laser eye surgery will vary depending on a number of different factors, including your prescription and the type of procedure you undergo. In the UK the average price for laser eye surgery starts at just under £1000 per eye. Many clinics also provide finance options to help spread the cost of surgery over a number of months, allowing patients to pay for their treatments in monthly installments.

Imagine not having to rely on glasses and contact lenses and the freedom that 20/20 vision could bring you. Play sports freely, work, and enjoy life without having to rely on glasses or contact lenses. Clear vision from the very moment you wake up, it’s never been safer or more affordable to achieve 20/20 vision.

Why not find out if you’re suitable for laser eye treatment by getting in touch?


Which Treatment Is Right For Me?

Your optometrist should be able to explain the different procedures available to treat your particular eye condition. The conditions most commonly treated by laser eye surgery are Myopia (short-sightedness), Hyperopia (long-sightedness), Glaucoma and Astigmatism.

The most important step in choosing your surgery procedure is doing your own research, not only into the type of procedure but also into the clinic and even your surgeon. Once you have found a reputable eye surgery clinic you should then arrange a consultation to discuss the procedure itself, the risks and recovery period and also the financial implications and payment options available.

LASIK - Laser In Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) is the most commonly performed type of laser treatment in the UK, accounting for approximately 70% of the market. It is used to treat myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and Astigmatism (defect to the shape of the eye). In LASIK surgery, the surgeon uses a microscopic blade to create a tiny opening to access the corneal tissue and then uses a laser to reshape it for more accurate vision. The opening is then re-closed and as the incision is so small, no stitching is required. The cost of LASIK surgery works out to around £595-£1,250 per eye.

Intralase Wavefront LASIK - is a more advanced version of the LASIK procedure, where a laser is used to create an opening in the cornea instead of a blade. This means the incision is more precise, cleaner and altogether thinner than standard LASIK giving you a greater chance of attaining 20:20 vision. As would be expected for this updated version of LASIK, the average cost per eye is higher at £1,495-£2,400.

laser eye surgery uk Image shot at Moorfields Eye Hospital

LASEK - Laser Epithelial Ketatomilieusis (LASEK) is an alternative to LASIK surgery and uses a finer laser to reshaping the surface layers of the cornea under the epithelium. This treatment is used to correct correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and/or astigmatism. On average prices start from £795-£1,000 per eye.

Wavefront LASEK - Wavefront LASEK is a state of the art version of LASEK that is specific to your individual eye shape on a very fine scale and has more precise results. Wavefront is a computer program used in conjunction with both LASIK and LASEK procedures. It is used for patients suffering from myopia, hyperopia and/or astigmatism. On average prices start from £1,195-£2,400 per eye.

Photorefractive Keratectomy - Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) is the original type of laser surgery performed in the UK. It is quite similar to LASEK, and is also used to correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism, however it involves the removal of the outer layer of the cornea (called the ‘epithelium’), a cool ultraviolet light is then beamed onto the eye to precisely remove tiny bits of tissue from the surface of the cornea in order to reshape it. The process is seen as more invasive than LASIK and also less precise and more painful. However, it is still an option for those who cannot have other types of surgery. On average prices start from £2,175 per eye.

Epi LASIK - Epi LASIK is a procedure very similar to standard LASIK, preferred for patients with flatter corneas or milder forms of myopia, as it is more difficult to perform on patients with steeper corneas. It is suitable for people who cannot undergo regular LASIK surgery as it is the least invasive procedure. On average prices start from £800 per eye.

IOL (Intraocular Lens) Surgery - During an IOL procedure, an artificial lens is implanted into the eye to improve vision in patients suffering with cataracts or severe myopia (short-sightedness). On average prices start from £1,795-£3,15.

ICL (Implantable Contact Lens) Surgery - An ICL procedure essentially involves the permanent implantation of a “contact lens” into your eye to correct visual problems such as severe myopia (short-sightedness). On average prices start from £2,595-£3,45.

Cataract Surgery - During a cataract removal surgery, the lens of the eye is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens to restore the patient’s natural eyesight. On average prices start from £2,950-£3,450.

Suitable for Laser Eye Surgery? Click your age below to find out!

What Are The Different Types Of Laser Eye Surgery?

Watch Valerie Saw, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, explain the different types of laser surgery that are currently available in the UK:


Video Transcript

"There are two different types of lasers that we use for laser eye surgery at the moment. The first one is called an excimer laser, which shapes the cornea to correct the focus of the eye.

There is very sophisticated technology now that measures the optical patterns of the patient’s eye and the excimer laser can be delivered in every precise way to customise the treatment according to the optical pattern of the patient’s eye. That’s called wavefront customised treatment.

We also try to optimise away from the patient’s eye so that the laser treatment does not cause aberrations or deviations in the way the light focuses after the surgery as well.

The way the excimer is delivered is also controlled by really sophisticated technology that makes sure that the treatment is centered on the patient’s eye by tracking the eye during surgery up to six dimensions. They are not just X, Y axis and vertical axis, but also rotation of the eye.

The second laser we use is called a femtosecond laser which cuts the Lasik flap. The advantage of using a laser to cut the flap is that we can cut much thinner flaps, the thickness of the flap is a lot more reliable and that means that firstly we can treat much higher prescriptions because the flaps are thinner, secondly there’s less dry eye and other consequences because of the thin flap. We can also treat people with thin corneas with a thinner Lasik flap.

These two different types of lasers are used in the commonest procedure that we do, it’s called Lasik. The reason why a lot of people choose to have Lasik is that visual recovery is a lot quicker, within a day or two of the surgery they can see very, very well.

Although the Lasik flap heals very strongly at the edges, inside the flap is a potential space so if there was a very strong knock to the eye, it could potentially dislodge the flap. So people who work in the military or do professional boxing or martial arts, they tend to choose not to have the Lasik flap for that reason. In those cases we use the excimer laser to do just surface treatment, to reshape the cornea. The advantage to that is there is no Lasik flap but vision takes seven to ten days to recover from that procedure. It’s a longer slower process of healing."

Valerie Saw, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital


Can I Get Surgery On The NHS?

Laser eye surgery is usually only available on the NHS if the eye condition can lead to loss of vision without treatment. Conditions include Diabetic Retinopathy, Wet Macular Degeneration, severe Cataracts and Corneal diseases.

However getting eye surgery to fix refractive errors, or for cosmetic reasons (such as not wanting to wear glasses), is not considered essential as there are non surgical options available.

How Much Will It Cost?

Privately laser eye surgery costs in the UK can range from £395 to £1,895 per eye depending on the procedure required and the surgeon performing the procedure.

There are a range of factors that can affect the cost of surgery. These include the prescription itself (which depends on the patient’s condition), the type of procedure required, and the reputation of the clinic and operating surgeon. Therefore it is important to perform a laser eye surgery comparison against these factors.

Finance Options

Many of the clinics we work with offer patients a range of payment options including payment plans and 0% interest deals for surgery. The repayment conditions will vary from clinic to clinic and most will require patients to undergo credit checks before they are offered.

For example, Optical Express offer the following repayment terms which can help break down the cost of laser eye surgery into manageable monthly repayments allowing the patient to repay the cost of surgery over 48 months:

Treatment Price Per Month Over 48 Months
Standard £14.91 per month
iLASIK £32.37 per month
iDesign £46.35 per month
Monofocal RLE / Cataract £69.63 per month
Multifocal RLE / Cataract £116.21 per month

Prices taken in January 2017

Bank loans are available for health operations and it is also a good idea for potential patients to check the details of their health insurance to check whether their policy includes cover for such surgery.

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Finding The Right Surgeon & Clinic

Finding the right surgeon and clinic may seem daunting, however your optician will be able to provide you with some initial suggestions regarding local clinics, and you can continue your research from there. There are several factors to take into consideration when selecting a clinic:

  • The treatment you require
  • The type of surgery you wish to have (such as LASIK, or LASEK)
  • Your budget (if you are not having treatment on the NHS)
  • Your location, and whether or not you are willing to travel for treatment

Some of the leading clinics are; Optical Express, Optegra, Advanced Vision Care (AVC) and Moorfields Eye Hospital. In addition to finding the right clinic, you should inquire about the qualifications and experience of the surgeon who will be carrying out your treatment at the clinic. The Royal Society of Ophthalmologists awards Certificate of Competence in Laser Refractive Surgery to members who have carried out a minimum of 300 procedures over a two-year period, so it’s important to ask if your surgeon has this accreditation among others.

Laser Eye Surgery Story


Video Transcript

My name is Djalenga Scott, I’m 29 and I’m going to have LASEK eye surgery on Friday.

What Is Your Eyesight Like At the Moment?

I’ve got minus two in one eye and minus one point seven five in the other so I can see three meters probably, well I don’t even know if I can see three meters properly, maybe two and then anything further away from that is just a bit of a nightmare for me.

How Does Your Poor Eyesight Affect Your Life?

It’s very frustrating when you have to remember to take your glasses everywhere and I’m a very forgetful person, so I always forget. I’ll go see a show or something and I’ll get there, and I’m like “oh” don’t have my glasses. Watch the whole show, can’t see anyone’s face, it’s just a nightmare. I hate wearing contact lenses; they’re so uncomfortable so they’re just not an option for me.

Did You Know About LASEK Laser Eye Surgery Before Your Consultation?

I have talked to some friends who have sisters or friends of friends who have done it, and everyone says it’s quite a quick easy simple thing. I didn’t really think it would be something that would be possible for me or that I would even have the time to do it. I didn’t realize how quick the recovery time is, or I didn’t realize it was so easy.

What Are You Most Excited About?

Everything, just being able to actually realize when I know someone on the street and not say hello to strangers, or ignore people that I do actually know, would be quite nice.

Is There Anything You Are Worried About?

I’m worried about how painful it will be, or like how long it will take to recover but I think it’s natural to be a little bit nervous.

When is the Surgery?

So the surgery, what’s today – Monday, so this Friday. I’d like to just go (snap) and make it be a month down the line and just see everything perfectly. I can’t believe it’s quite real.

We Meet Up with Djalenga 4 Weeks After the Surgery To Chat About Her Recovery

Everything just looks so much clearer, it’s amazing. I didn’t realize how much I was missing out on. I didn’t realize how bad my eyes actually were. Since the surgery I can just see people right down the other side of the street recognize who they are. I can see what bus number it is, I can see train times. It’s brilliant.

What Was the Procedure Like?

The actual procedure was very quick. I went in; I got given eye drops so that I couldn’t feel anything so that my eyes were completely numb. I laid down, got asked if I was okay and definitely alright to go ahead. I couldn’t feel anything on my eyeballs at all because it just didn’t seem like anything was going on, but I could feel when they opened my eye. I didn’t see what it was so they hold your eyes open, put lots drops to make sure that it’s keeping moist I guess for the surgery, and then you look at the red dot. I had Lasek which is the one where they push some of the cells to the side, and then do the laser and you just keep looking at the red dot, and it’s quite weird because you can see there is obviously something when they’re pushing it across. You can’t really see what it is, but they move that across. You don’t feel anything at all you’re just looking at the red light.

Then they laser and you sort of see lots of red, and then it goes back and they put on the bandage contact lens, and that’s it and you don’t feel anything. You’re just looking at the red light. It was like three minutes on each eye, and then you’re done.

How Was Your Recovery?

So after the surgery I went home and they gave me some sleeping tablets because the first 24 hours can be a bit sore so it’s best to sleep through I got told, so I just tried to sleep as much as possible. For a few days I was being helped to put drops in because I wasn’t used to putting eye drops in. I stayed in my bedroom with my tinfoil on my windows to keep it really dark and cool in there. Then by sort of day four I had to go back to get my contact lens, the bandages removed, but it took me about a week to get back to normal.

What Was The First Think You Noticed With your Improved Eyesight?

The first thing I noticed with my eyes was when I would come out of my bedroom and I spoke to my best friend on the phone and my phone is just by my window in my apartment and I could see – I just suddenly looked out and saw this brick wall that was over the other side of the street, I’ve never noticed before, ever, because it had obviously been this kind of blur. I was talking to my friend and I was going I can see every single brick. It’s actually amazing.

Would You Recommend Laser Eye Surgery To A Friend?

I would definitely recommend laser eye surgery, I think it’s just so quick and so easy, and then you’ve got the rest of your life to just see perfectly in HD. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t get it done.


Does Laser Eye Surgery Hurt?

All prospective patients will undergo an in-depth examination and consultation to ensure they are an eligible candidate for eye surgery. The question does laser eye surgery hurt? Is one of the most popular queries clinics receive.

laser eye surgery Image shot at Advanced Vision Care

Patients generally report little to no pain during the operation itself, especially if they remain calm and do not resist the device. This is because the surgeon administers eye-numbing anaesthetic drops at the beginning of the surgery. Some patients however do report slight discomfort when their eyelids are kept open with an instrument that allows access to the cornea, and prevents any blinking that would disrupt the surgery. If this is something that makes you feel anxious, you can get a prescribed mild sedative to help relax you before the surgery. A slight pressure to the eye can be felt during the laser correction application itself, and is the most widely experienced sensation.

During the recovery period is when patients will experience some discomfort. For those that have the more popular LASIK procedure, Ophthalmologists warn that patients should expect to experience dry eyes, mild itching and a stinging sensation that will steadily diminish within 24 to 48 hours, after which patients can return to normal activities.

The more invasive LASEK operation can produce pain levels of moderate severity that may be lessened with the use of painkillers as prescribed by the surgeon. This pain can be expected to be over in 24 to 48 hours, although most patients will feel some discomfort for anything up to seven days following the procedure.

What Are The Risks?

Laser eye surgery has a very high success rate. Risks and complications associated with the procedure are extremely rare nevertheless, it’s important that you speak to your consultant and ensure that they have outlined any potential risks.

Some people experience temporary and minor side effects such as a little redness or soreness (often described as ‘Dry Eye’). This can be easily remedied eye drops prescribed by your clinic.

As with any operation, there is a small chance of infection and to counter this, your clinic should administer antibiotics which prevent any later complications.

Surgery Procedure

When you arrive for your procedure, your ophthalmologist will likely take steps to help you feel comfortable, as it’s natural to experience some pre-surgery nerves.

Once settled in, you’ll undergo a final examination to ensure all the measurements and settings are correct. If everything is confirmed and there are no alterations needed, you will be prepped and changed for surgery. Your surgeon will administer anaesthetic and ensure you are comfortable before performing the procedure itself, which takes just a few minutes. Your surgeon will walk you through each stage of the procedure to help you feel at ease, and once it is completed, you’ll be ready to begin the recovery process.

Aftercare & Recovery

Your surgeon will issue you with postoperative instructions to reduce the risk of infection and ensure a smooth healing process. Some of these instructions are:

  • Avoid getting your eyes wet for 24 hours
  • Avoid rubbing and touching your eyes
  • Avoid eye makeup and swimming for at least 10 days post surgery
  • Avoid colouring for at least 10 days
  • Wear eye protection when exercising
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays

For LASIK surgery, recovery time is usually 24-28 hours and most patients are able to return to work the next day. However recovery for other types of procedures may take up to 3 months. Its essential to discuss your recovery with your surgeon pre and post surgery.

Surgery Savings Calculator

Are you interested in getting surgery but unsure of whether you could afford it or not? Why not check out our brand new laser eye surgery savings calculator where, after entering a few details, you can find exactly how much you could save.

Read more: laser eye surgery FAQs

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