How Long Does Laser Eye Surgery Last?
Is It Permanent?
The results of laser eye surgery should last a lifetime as the cornea is an extremely stable tissue. Only a very small number of patients have had regression to the eye which has required further laser treatment. It is important to think about the best time to have laser eye surgery. Although laser eye surgery is permanent, it is possible your eyes may change over time. The condition of the eye may change for people under the age of eighteen, so laser eye surgery is not recommended. Some clinics will only treat patients if they are over the age of 21. The condition of the eye may also change during pregnancy, therefore surgery is not recommended for women who are pregnant.
Effectiveness Of Laser Eye Treatment
The success rate for laser eye surgery is high with 9 out of 10 patients experiencing improved vision following laser eye treatments. Patients should do their homework before committing to surgery and should research their clinic and surgeon thoroughly beforehand. Your surgeon should offer a clear understanding of the potential risks involved in surgery and talk you through the various options available. LASIK, LASEK and PRK laser eye procedures vary in complexity and technique and success rates vary as a result.
It is important to remember that a successful outcome is not the same as having "perfect" vision, which may be difficult to impossible to achieve even with surgery. Remember that it can take a month or longer after surgery for an eye to reach its full post-treatment capacity.
The degree of imperfection in the eyes before surgery, particularly with myopia, will affect both the likelihood of the surgery being a success and the likelihood of achieving "perfect" vision.
Surgery is also considerably more likely to be effective if the surgeon works from a stable and accurate prescription. Before getting surgery, talk to your optician to discover how much your prescription fluctuates over time. Make sure your surgeon is aware of this fluctuation to increase the accuracy of the prescription used to determine the laser treatment.
In a few cases, treatment is neither likely to be effective, nor likely to have the usual permanent effects. This includes:
- people with thin corneas
- people with extremely high prescriptions for myopia or hyperopia
- teenagers, whose eyes may still be changing shape.
In these cases, surgeons may instead recommend IOL (intraocular lens) treatment, which involves implanting the equivalent of a permanent contact lens.
Who Is Eligible For Laser Eye Surgery?
In order to be deemed a suitable candidate for laser eye surgery, you must in the main have healthy eyes. This means no conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, severe dry eye or any other condition or infection that could potentially impair the postoperative healing process. You should also not have an autoimmune or degenerative disease, as this could also negatively impact the eyes’ ability to heal.
You must be at least 18 years of age, although for most procedures, candidates must be at least 21 years old to ensure their vision has stabilised. You should not be pregnant or breastfeeding, as the hormones can affect the shape of your eye which can lead to inaccurate measures being taken.
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How Long Does The Procedure Last?
The procedure will last approximately 30 seconds for each eye. The patient will usually be in surgery for about 30 - 35 minutes, which will cover preparation time, briefing by the surgeon, etc. The eye is covered by a patch for the next 24 hours to protect it. Vision may be blurred for a few days following surgery. Most patients find they are well enough to return to work within a week of surgery.
Watch Mr Romesh Angunawela, Consultant Eye Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, explain how permanent the results of your surgery could be:
"Laser surgery lasts; it really depends on the patient and their age. It’s not a surgery that lasts forever, patients do age, they’re going to get cataracts or they’re going to become presbyopic in their late 40s. Those things are still going to happen; it’s not an age proof technology.
What we know from studies that have gone for almost for 20 years, those recent studies published on 20 year follow up is that laser surgery appears to be relatively stable, and in that group of patients there was a change of around one diopter over 20 years. So really a minimal change that’s occurred over time. It seems to be relatively stable, but it is still subject to change as it happens with age to people’s eyes, which are just normal."
Mr Romesh Angunawela, Consultant Eye Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital
What Are The Risks And Benefits Of Laser Eye Surgery?
There are some risks associated with laser eye surgery, however they are minimal.
Complications arise in less than 5% of cases, but regardless of this slim statistic, it’s a wise idea to have an idea of the risks before going into your surgery. You can take the opportunity to ask your surgeon about these risks and potential complications during your pre-operative consultation. One of the most common side effects of laser eye surgery is dry eyes. These can easily be treated however with artificial tears and eye drops. For some patients, driving at night can result in seeing a glare or “halo” effect. Those who have undergone treatment to correct short- or long-sightedness are at higher risk of experiencing this. Though a less common risk, there is the chance that the eye wall can thin too much after treatment, rendering the eye unstable. Severe loss of vision is also very rare. More information about the potential risks associated with this type of treatment can be found in the Patient Guide to Excimer Laser Refractive Surgery, published by the RCOphth.
There are also many benefits associated with laser eye surgery. First and foremost is the correction to vision, which can result in patients becoming free from wearing eyeglasses and contacts. This can result in increased confidence, which can help with better performance both at work and in personal endeavors. Patients can enjoy tasks such as driving without having to worry about wearing glasses or impaired vision, and the irritation that contact lenses can cause is also a thing of the past. Although it can be an expensive procedure, laser eye surgery can actually be a more cost-effective option than glasses or contacts in the long run. Many clinics will offer partial payment or financing plans as well, making it easy for people to afford the corrective vision care they need.
Can You Have Laser Eye Surgery More Than Once?
In many cases you can have laser retreatment: it depends on the causes of your new vision problems.
- If the shape of your eye has changed since the surgery, causing fresh symptoms of myopia or hyperopia, laser retreatment can be effective.
- If the problem is instead presbyopia, laser surgery will not work.
- The main barrier to laser retreatment is the thickness of your cornea. In many cases, laser retreatment will work fine. In a few cases, it's possible that your cornea was only just thick enough to make the original laser surgery suitable and that a retreatment will not be viable.