Published by Bupa's Health Information Team, January 2011.
This factsheet is for people who are planning to have laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) eye surgery, or who would like information about it.
LASIK eye surgery involves using a laser to change the shape of the cornea (the clear covering over the front of the eye).
You will meet the surgeon carrying out your procedure to discuss your care. It may differ from what is described here as it will be designed to meet your individual needs.
LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It uses a computer-controlled laser to change the shape of your cornea. LASIK can be used to correct or improve:
To have LASIK you will need to be over the age of 21 and have healthy eyes. You will also need to have stable vision. This means that you have had less than a 0.5 dioptres change in your prescription over the last two to three years. Dioptres (D) is the unit of measurement used for the power of a lens.
LASIK isn't suitable if you:
You will need to have a consultation with a surgeon to find out whether you’re suitable for LASIK.
Your surgeon will talk to you about the results you can realistically expect from LASIK, as these will vary from person to person.
During your appointment, you may have:
The non-surgical alternative is to continue wearing your glasses or contact lenses. Your surgeon will discuss the range of alternative surgical techniques available with you.
You will have to remove soft contact lenses at least one day before your appointment and hard/gas-permeable contact lenses at least one week before. This is because your contact lenses can affect the measurements of your eye. Your surgeon will tell you when you should stop wearing contact lenses.
LASIK is usually done as a day-case procedure. This means you have the procedure and go home the same day. LASIK is usually done under local anaesthesia. Anaesthetic drops will block feeling from the surface of your eye and you will stay awake during the operation. The procedure usually involves being at the hospital for around an hour.
Your surgeon will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen, and you can help yourself by preparing questions to ask about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead, which you may be asked to do by signing a consent form.
Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your operation. For example, if you smoke you will be asked to stop, as smoking increases your risk of getting a wound infection and slows your recovery.
You may be offered the option of either having each eye operated on separately or both eyes at the same time.
During the operation, you will lie back in a special chair. Your surgeon will place anaesthetic drops into your eye and may use a special eyelid clip to stop you blinking. You won't be able to see out of your eye while it's being treated, although you may see a red or green light.
Your surgeon will use a highly precise instrument with a blade or sometimes, a laser, to cut a very thin flap in your cornea. Your surgeon will open the flap (like the cover of a book) and use the computer-controlled laser to shape the cornea underneath. It will take about 30 seconds to remove the right amount of your cornea.
Your surgeon will then reposition the flap so that it can bond to the rest of your cornea. This takes minutes. You won't need any stitches.
You will have antibiotic eye drops put in your eye to help prevent you getting an infection.
After the procedure, you may have some mild pain and your eye may feel uncomfortable for a few hours. If you need painkillers, take paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
You may also find that your vision is blurred which can make you feel disorientated. This should gradually improve within one or two days and your vision will usually stabilise within one to four weeks.
After your procedure you will need to:
You will be given a date for a follow-up appointment.
You shouldn't go out into the sunshine without sunglasses after you have had LASIK eye surgery. You will need to wear them for three months. You should also not play contact sports, racket sports or go swimming for at least four weeks, or drive for the first one to two weeks.
For the first few days after having LASIK eye surgery you should not:
You should be able to return to work after two to three days.
If you experience more than mild pain, or you have any problems with your vision or increasing redness of your eye, contact your clinic or hospital.
As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with LASIK. We have not included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and differ for every person. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.
As the treatment is relatively new, there is limited evidence on the long-term effects.
These are the unwanted, but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure.
After LASIK you may have:
This is when problems occur during or after the operation. Most people aren't affected.
Very rarely, complications can lead to reduced vision or blindness.
Specific complications of LASIK are rare but can include:
The amount of improvement that you have in your eyesight depends on how well your eyes heal, but it can't be guaranteed. If the operation doesn't achieve the result you hoped for, you may need further LASIK treatment.
For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see FAQs.
For sources and links to further information, see Resources.
Bupa's range of Health Cash Plans allow you to claim money back for ongoing costs such as optical and dental treatments. Read more on Bupa Health Cash Plan or call 0500 000 125 quoting ref. 4096.
This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the About our Health Information page.
Publication date: January 2011
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