Laser eye surgery – too good to be true?

Posted: 20/11/2015


Some TV adverts are making laser eye surgery sound so straightforward that people are tempted to sign up without thinking twice. The idea of being able to see perfectly as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, when you have worn glasses or contact lenses all your life, is understandably attractive. Contact lenses can be fiddly, expensive, time-consuming and uncomfortable. Glasses may be cumbersome to wear while playing sport. 

Laser eye surgery can be obtained relatively cheaply and accessibly, being available on most high streets, even within a working lunch hour. It can be seen as the quick fix and whilst many people have the surgery successfully, it is not without risk and certainly not for everyone. Every year approximately 100,000 Britons undergo laser eye surgery, which alters the shape of the cornea to correct long or short sightedness. It was first carried out in 1989 and was sold to the public as the end of the need for contact lenses or glasses. Since then, a whole range of different types of laser surgery has become available and the price has decreased. 

The risks of laser eye surgery, in general terms, include chronic eye dryness, inflammation, foggy or blurred vision and at its worst, permanent pain or loss of sight. In 2009 a Which? report claimed that six out of ten opticians offering laser eye surgery gave unsatisfactory advice and failed to point out the risks. Whilst we hope that these statistics have improved significantly over the last six years, we are still seeing examples of laser eye surgery undertaken on patients who are simply not good candidates for this procedure. We are also aware of the commercial pressures that may be felt by opticians recommending laser eye surgery to sign up private patients. Those pressures should of course never trump the need to advise patients fully so that they are armed with all the information they require about the surgery to make an informed choice. The truth is that laser eye surgery is not a lifetime fix and even if it goes well, patients can still need glasses or contacts for some activities as they age.


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