Can I have laser eye surgery if I am diabetic?

Thousands of diabetics have successfully had Laser Eye Surgery. However, whether or not a patient is suitable does depend on their individual circumstances, and crucially, the Laser Eye Surgery clinic they go to.

Every clinic has its own guidelines on who it’ll consider for surgery. It generally comes down to two things: the technology they have available and the expertise of its surgeons.

Due to the added complications that diabetes presents, patients may be turned away from clinics that are lacking in one or both of these departments. But if dealt with by an expert surgeon who has access to the latest technology, it’s fully possible for a diabetic to be treated with Laser Eye Surgery and achieve an excellent outcome.

The first port of call for people with diabetes is the opticians to check for diabetic retinopathy. The most common cause of vision loss among diabetics, retinopathy affects blood vessels in the retina and is more prevalent among those with type I diabetes.

A retinopathy test will ascertain whether or not treatment is first needed to correct the retina with a separate laser procedure. This procedure involves treating damage at the back of the eye, in contrast to Laser Eye Surgery which adjusts the cornea or the “lens system” at the front of the eye.

It’s important to note that having laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy does not mean your glasses prescription will be corrected, but at the same time it does not mean you will be ineligible for Laser Eye Surgery. 

Complications of performing Laser Eye Surgery on diabetics

Including retinopathy, there are a few other complications associated with diabetes that may affect suitability for Laser Eye Surgery. Below, we explore what they are and the best practices for managing them:

Unstable blood sugar levels. Most Laser Eye Surgeons require a letter from the GP stating blood sugar levels are stable enough for surgery. This ensures the measurements of your refractive errors are accurate and therefore that the treatment is permanent.

Slower healing rate. The cornea has incredible healing powers. However, these powers diminish in patients with diabetes as high levels of blood sugar can, over time, impact the nerves and blood circulation. A surgeon may suggest an alternative, less-invasive laser treatment with a quicker healing time such as ReLEx SMILE.

Fluctuating prescription. A fluctuating prescription can be the result of unstable blood sugar levels. If for example, blood sugar levels are high on the day of your initial assessment, the treatment plan drawn up by the surgeon will not be effective once they return to the normal level.

Pre-existing diabetic retinopathy. As mentioned above, a separate laser procedure can improve retinopathy. If retinopathy affects your vision, Laser Eye Surgery will not repair this issue but will treat your eyes according to your glasses prescription.

Although many diabetics are living with greater vision thanks to Laser Eye Surgery, there are a number of factors that need to address before being cleared for treatment.

The best place to start is by speaking with your GP and/or ophthalmologist and gathering the information you need, for instance, a letter stating how stable your blood sugar levels are. Once you have all the necessary documentation, arrange a consultation with a Laser Eye Surgery clinic. If your diabetes is under control, and you find a clinic that’s well experienced and equipped to perform the procedure, you’ll have very good chance of experiencing the incredible benefits of Laser Eye Surgery.

If you’d like to book a consultation with us, or find out more about preparing for Laser Eye Surgery, leave us a comment or give us a call us on 020 7224 1005.