Laser eye surgery is without doubt an amazing procedure, giving people the opportunity to throw away their glasses and contact lenses. Laser eye surgery has actual been around a lot longer than most people realise and it was first carried out over 20 years ago, admittedly not with the same impressive results as we expect today.
In the early days, laser eye surgery was far more invasive than it is today, leaving people with extensive corneal scarring and variable results. Laser eye surgery risks were also far higher and they also tended to be more serious.
Today however, laser eye surgery is minimally invasive and the results are extremely impressive. Around 95% of people having the procedure will end up with 20:20 vision and almost 100% will have driving standard of vision or better. Laser eye surgery is the most common elective surgery available and is far more popular than even the most common cosmetic surgery procedures.
For those deciding whether or not to have laser eye surgery then one of the most commonly asked questions is just how long the visual results are likely to last. This article is going to outline the most important points you need to know about this aspect of laser eye surgery:
Around 6% of all laser eye surgery procedures will have to be repeated with a ‘top up’ treatment. This is normally done for free by the clinic that carried out the original procedure and it may only be required for one eye. To illustrate how laser re-enhancements work, it is best to use an example.
Imagine your prescription was -7.00 Dioptres prior to your surgery and then after surgery your prescription was completely eliminated to zero, meaning you had perfect vision. Then over the course of the next year your prescription slowly regressed to -1.00.
This is obviously only a fraction of what your prescription was before you had the surgery but it is enough to affect your vision. The laser is then re-applied to re-correct this remaining prescription.
Long sighted prescriptions
Long sighted prescriptions (plus e.g. +5.00) are more likely to regress than short sighted (minus e.g. -3.00) prescriptions.
The higher the prescription the more likely you are to need a laser re-enhancement. The reason for this is that the more something has changed, the more likely it is to return back to its original state.
Reading glasses as you get older
Regardless of whether you have had laser eye surgery or not, you are still going to need reading glasses as you reach your mid 40’s. This is related to the lens in your eye that slowly loses its power which is a condition called presbyopia.
As we get older so the chances of us getting age related conditions such as cataracts increases. Cataracts typically start affecting us aged around 70 years old and they can cause a change in our prescription. So even though you may have had laser eye surgery previously the cataracts could mean you end up needing glasses as you get older.
So, as you can see, having laser eye surgery does not guarantee that you will be free from glasses/contact lenses for life but for most people they will at least have perfect distance vision for a prolonged period of time.
Tim Harwood is an optometrist with over 8 years in practice with a specialist interest in both laser eye surgery and contact lenses. He has worked both in the United Kingdom as well as Australia and has worked for both multiple and independent opticians. Tim also provides useful information on his own website, TreatmentSaver.com.
Cover image: Flickr/Peretz Partensky