Is Laser Eye Surgery Risky?

© John Angerson -London Eyes Clinic, London2008

“Laser”, “eye” and “surgery” are three words that may, understandably, arouse anxiety. Unlike in the USA, where the procedure is often referred to simply as “LASIK”, one of the first obstacles for someone considering the treatment in this country may well be just getting over their pre-conceptions (which, we have found, are most often mis-conceptions) about what risks Laser Eye Surgery involves.

It is completely normal to be anxious about having Laser Eye Surgery: to be honest, if you weren’t, we’d be worried – after all, the eyes are so essential to our quality of life, and to the way we experience the world. For most people, this anxiety doesn’t reflect a belief that something will go wrong – but rather that, if it did go wrong, it would be catastrophic. However, with today’s highly advanced technology, and in the hands of an expert surgeon, the chances of experiencing a significant problem after Laser Eye Surgery are extremely small – and the vast majority of problems can be corrected. In fact, the chance of even a minor compromise to the vision is about 1 in 1000, and the chance of going blind from Laser Eye Surgery (a question we get asked much more often than you might think!) is virtually zero – Technically there is an exceedingly small risk of blindness with laser eye surgery but it is lower than the risk of wearing monthly contact lenses for one year, so a risk that everyone seems to accept as perfectly reasonable.

What Are The Real Risks Of Laser Eye Surgery?

Some common after-effects of Laser Eye Surgery include dry eye, and experiencing ‘haloes’ around lights. However, for the vast majority of people, these do not cause a significant problem and, in any case, gradually disappear. A handful of people are more pre-disposed towards experiencing these symptoms (this can be to do with existing dry eye or low tear production, for example). Whichever category you fall into, it is important to make sure that your pre-surgery consultation takes place with an expert optometrist, who can discuss these factors with you, assessing your likelihood of experiencing any discomfort from these symptoms, and explaining how they can be dealt with. And, of course, in the unusual event that surgery isn’t the right option for a particular patient, we’ll be the first to explain why, and advise them of the other options they can consider.

So The Same Risks Don’t Apply To Everyone?

If you are interested in booking Laser Eye Surgery, you will first have an initial consultation – at this appointment, the risks of the Laser Eye Surgery procedure will be discussed with you at length, in a way that is specific to you. Your eye health and corneal thickness are factors, and will be evaluated by your surgeon to determine your suitability. If your surgeon believes that you are at a higher risk of developing complications, you will be made aware of this, and may be refused surgery.

Ultimately, however, no consultation, no amount of information, and no one else’s experience, can be a substitute for your own personal judgement. Of course, no surgery is totally without risks. We believe that, in the case of Laser Eye Surgery, the risks are vastly out-weighed by the benefits of the procedure – but your eyes are your own, and only you can make a decision about what you feel comfortable with.

If You’re Thinking About Laser Eye Surgery…

…but, like many people, are concerned about the risks, the most important thing is to do your research, and to be aware that not all clinics are equal – either in customer care or, more importantly, in terms of safety records. Above all, don’t decide yet. Why not book a no-obligation Initial Screening and Ophthalmic Exam  – not with the intention of having surgery, but simply to find out the facts, and how they apply to your own individual case. You never know, it might not be as scary as you think!