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Laser Eye Surgery - What Is It

Sep 9, 2008
LES is a surgical alternative to wearing contact lenses or glasses. It is not for everyone, for some vision problems cannot be corrected, and some eyes are just not suited to it, such as dry eyes or eyes with large pupils. But for everyone else, laser eye surgery is hailed as a miracle in eyesight.

Before the surgery, patients are instructed to stop wearing contact lenses, and the patients cornea is examined to determine its thickness. The doctor then analyses the shape of the cornea to determine the precise shaping requirements needed, the amount of corneal tissue to be removed during the operation. Patients are usually given an antibiotic, to minimise the risk of infection after the procedure.

Surgery
In the surgery, the cornea is partially sliced using a very sharp medical knife called a microtome. Part of the cornea is lifted, then the surface underneath that is shaped by a laser. The cornea is then put back together with reduced thickness. This reduced thickness should enable patients to see very well without glasses or contact lenses. They may still need reading glasses for close work but everything else should be corrected by the surgery.

Effects
Patients typically describe seeing some haze around bright lights at night after the surgery, which is due to the cornea still being slightly rough from the laser treatment. If patients injure their eye then there is a possibility that the effected area of the cornea might shift and change, but this is rarely a problem.

Occasionally, surgery can go wrong and vision can be worse than before the operation. More often it is only a problem at night when bright lights become so hazy that night driving becomes an impossibility.
Dry and painful eyes is a common complaint, with some patients having to use artificial tear drops to moisten their eyes.

These complaints are very uncommon, but the success rate of this surgery is inevitably hard to know because clibics have a vested interesting in publishing high success rates and getting more patients. Most laser eye clinics define success as having patients with 20/15 vision afterwards, and do not take into account night vision difficulties or painful dry eyes.

One thing which remains impossible to know is the long term effects of laser eye surgery. It has only been commercially available for just over a decade, so the effect on eyesight after 20 years is impossible to predict.

So if you are prepared to brave the small risk of eye damage, laser eye surgery could free you from those glasses or contact lenses. The choice is yours.
About the Author
John McE writes on behalf of Focus Clinics, which is a London Laser Eye Surgery Clinic consisting of consultant surgeons and optometrists who are the most experienced in the field.
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