How Long Does Laser Eye Surgery Last?

Laser eye surgery is a permanent solution for the correction of common vision defects including long- and short-sightedness, and eliminates the need to wear prescription glasses or contact lenses.

For a very small percentage of patients however, laser eye surgery can fail to improve vision and these patients will need to have laser eye surgery again. This is known as a ‘touch-up’.

Most clinics offer a laser eye surgery touch-up for free if it is carried out within a certain period, but some do charge for the treatment.

Does Laser Eye Surgery Wear Off?

For approximately 96% of patients, the effect of laser eye surgery does not wear off. For most, it is a permanent treatment for the correction of common vision problems such as myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness), with the majority of patients experiencing huge improvements in their eyesight many years after surgery.

So does this mean that you wouldn’t need laser eye surgery for a second time? Not necessarily, unfortunately. For roughly 4% of patients, the surgery does not produce long-lasting improvements to vision, and these patients may need to have laser eye surgery again in order to give them the visual sharpness they desire. This procedure is known as a laser eye surgery touch-up.


Why Would I Need Laser Eye Surgery a Second Time?

Laser eye surgery is only performed for a second time if you are not satisfied with the results of your original surgery, or if your vision changes significantly over time

:
  • Unsatisfactory results: following laser eye surgery, it is normal for your vision to fluctuate in quality for several weeks whilst your eyes heal from the treatment. In this time, many patients experience visual disturbances such as blurred vision, light sensitivity and halos around blight lights. As part of your aftercare, your surgeon will monitor your vision regularly in the first few weeks to months after your surgery. However if these symptoms persist for 3 months or more and your vision is noticeably blurry still, this is an indication that your surgery may not have been completely effective. Individuals in these circumstances may require a laser eye surgery touch-up.

  • Changes to vision: whilst our vision is stable in adulthood, our eyesight can regress in later life due to the natural aging process. This means that conditions that were corrected using laser eye surgery can return, such as myopia (short-sightedness). This is because the muscles that control the eye deteriorate with age. If you find that you are having to increasingly rely on glasses to see clearly as you get older, you may want to consider having a laser eye surgery touch-up to improve your eyesight.

Whether you are eligible for laser eye surgery for a second time will be determined by an ophthalmologist who will carry out a series of tests to analyse your ocular health. One thing they will check is whether your corneas are thick enough to withstand the surgery again. If you think that you might need a laser eye surgery touch-up, book an appointment with a laser eye surgeon.


Laser Eye Surgery Touch-Up

The majority of patients who have laser eye surgery undergo the LASIK procedure. During this treatment, a small flap is created on the cornea and peeled back to expose the underlying tissue below. This tissue is then reshaped using an excimer laser to correct your vision, before the flap is gently put back in place.

For the very small number of patients who will need surgery for a second time, a touch-up will follow a very similar procedure to that of the original LASIK surgery, apart from one exception. During a LASIK touch-up, a corneal flap is not created. Instead, a specialist instrument is used to peel back the flap that was created during the original surgery. This is painless and only takes a few minutes to perform. Like in the original surgery, an excimer laser is then used to reshape the corneal tissue underneath the flap. A touch-up often only requires a small amount of reshaping to be done. This means that the surgery is typically shorter than the original procedure, taking only a few minutes to complete.

Bear in mind that other types of laser eye surgery can be performed during a touch-up procedure, such as PRK surgery or LASEK surgery. These may be performed if you:

  • Did not have LASIK eye surgery as your original procedure
  • Are not suitable for a LASIK touch-up
  • Are having a touch-up many years after your original surgery

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


How Much Does it Cost?

Many clinics will not charge for a laser eye surgery touch-up within the first twelve months of your initial procedure if you return to the same surgeon. Every clinic will have its own policy regarding re-treatment however, so it is important that you check this when researching clinics.

If you are charged for a laser eye surgery touch-up, it is important to be aware of the costs. The table below provides you with an idea of how much you could expect to pay based on the price of different types of laser eye surgery. Some clinics may charge less for a touch-up than the original procedure however, so actual prices may be lower.

Laser Eye Surgery Type Starting Price (Per Eye)
LASIK £595
LASEK £795
Wavefront LASIK/LASEK £1195
IntraLASIK £1495
EpiLASIK £800
PRK £2175

Many clinics in the UK do provide finance options to help you to pay for your surgery by spreading its cost over several months. Each clinic will offer its own unique repayment packages, so you should ask about them during your consultation. To find out more about paying for your surgery on finance, visit our laser eye surgery cost page.


Watch Mr Romesh Angunawela, Consultant Eye Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, explain how permanent the results of your surgery could be:

 

Video Transcript

"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

END


Is Laser Eye Surgery Worth it?

Although a very small number of people will require laser eye surgery for a second time, for many it provides a permanent solution to vision problems that plague a massive 74% of the UK population. Laser eye surgery is worth investing in for anyone that relies upon glasses or contact lenses. This is because its success rate is so high, with a staggering 96% of patients achieving permanent 20:20 vision. Some other benefits of laser eye surgery include:

  • Cost-effective: laser eye surgery is expensive, but it's a one-off charge that proves to be cost-effective over time. How much money do you spend on changing lens prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses, or frames to keep up with fashion, or replacements for lost and broken eyewear?

  • New Opportunities: some jobs require the use of perfect eyesight, and employers will not permit individuals reliant on glasses or contact lenses to apply. These include those who want to join the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force. Laser eye surgery can also allow you to do activities much more easily than before, such as skydiving and swimming.

  • Better Eye Health: contact lenses may be increasingly user-friendly, but inserting and removing them could still leave you at risk of infection and foreign objects making it into your eye. Laser eye surgery removes the probability of these issues occurring.

  • Improved self-confidence: while glasses have become a fashion statement for many, they can still cause feelings of embarrassment and frustration in those who have to rely on them to see clearly. Laser eye surgery eliminates the need for glasses, and many who have undergone the procedure report experiencing a boost in self-esteem.

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