Laser Eye Surgery Explained

A lot has happened in the field of Laser Eye Surgery in its introduction more than thirty years ago. So much so that today there is an endless barrage of information on the topic.

Unfortunately, whether due to being outdated, misguided, used for promotion, or simply ill-informed, a lot of that information is incorrect. This can make it tricky when it comes to navigating the market or Laser Eye Surgery providers and finding out if the procedure is a good option for you.

We’re going to help clear the waters by providing a simple explanation of how the procedure works. But before that, let’s take a look at some of the main reasons why you would want to have Laser Eye Surgery in the first place.

Why have Laser Eye Surgery?

It’s a good question: why would anyone want to have Laser Eye Surgery? Glasses are safe and effective, and contacts are useful for sports or move physical endeavours, so what’s the deal?

The main advantage of having Laser Eye Surgery is that you’re able to do away with visual aids. That means getting rid of the hassle of glasses, being able to engage in more sports and activities, avoiding the risks of contacts.

In this way, Laser Eye Surgery is a functional treatment that comes with many cosmetic benefits. The fact is, your vision affects all areas of your life, and so making one subtle change to it can have a huge impact. After having Laser Eye Surgery, many people describe it as life-changing and say they wish they had done it sooner.

Of course, not everyone is a candidate for surgery. There are certain permanent and temporary conditions that may make you ineligible for the treatment. But don’t let that stop you from inquiring: many people are surprised to find while they’re not suitable at one clinic, they’re actually great candidates at another.

How does Laser Eye Surgery work?

Glasses and contact lenses work by positioning an external lens over the eye to alter the way light is refracted and focused on the retina.

Laser Eye Surgery works by using a laser to alter the curvature and focusing power of the cornea. It does this in different ways to safely and accurately correct such refractive errors as near-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism, and presbyopia.

There are three types of procedure that are commonly used in the UK:  PRK/LASEK, LASIK, and SMILE. Each of these procedures produces good results in the right patients. The quality and thoroughness of the initial screening, in which your suitability for Laser Eye Surgery is assessed, is highly important in determining the success of your treatment.

Let’s now have a look at some of the differences between these three laser vision correction procedures.


Surface laser treatments like LASEK and PRK are procedures that involve removing or pushing to the side the outer layer of the cornea.

This clear layer of skin regrows over a period of about a week, taking a further few months to smooth off and complete the visual recovery.

While the skin layer is regrowing, the surface of the eye can be uncomfortable. This is one of the main differences between surface treatments and LASIK or SMILE, which both aim to keep the outer layer of the cornea intact.

Surface treatments differ in the way in which the corneal skin layer is removed, but they all produce similar results. In PRK and LASEK, for instance, the skin layer is removed by diluting it in alcohol first. Some modern excimer laser systems are able to remove the skin layer as part of the reshaping treatment.


LASIK (laser in situ keratomileuses) is typically performed using two lasers: A femtosecond laser to create a thin flap in the outer layer of the cornea, and an excimer laser to reshape the cornea.

After the treatment is performed, the flap is simply moved back to its original position and allowed to heal. As the procedure involves minimal disruption of the outer layer, the patient experience is much improved in LASIK and the recovery time is much faster compared to LASEK/PRK.


ReLEx SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) is the latest generation of Laser Eye Surgery that uses one femtosecond laser to perform the whole procedure from start to finish.

The laser is used to define the tissue that is to be removed by the surgeon through a small incision on the side of the cornea. In this way, SMILE is a “key-hole” procedure that is essentially LASIK without the flap.

Due to its minimally invasive nature, SMILE may offer benefits to some patients such as those who have dry eye or a high prescription.

To find out more about the different types of Laser Eye Surgery or to book your consultation, leave us a comment or get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators today.