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Risks versus benefits of laser eye surgery

Many people with sight impairments will recall the delight of the brave entrepreneur Richard Branson when, some years ago, he emerged from a laser eye clinic as one of the pioneer patients of the revolutionary eye repair surgery.

Since then, the technology involved in restoring 20/20 vision to short-sighted, far-sighted or astigmatic patients has advanced considerably. The initial technology, known as Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK), has been superseded by procedures including LASIK, LASEK, LASIK Wavefront and Intralase. Each individual procedure provides a much more personalised treatment to restore the eye deficiency and reduce the risk of complications and infection.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, about 85% of people who have undergone refractive surgery no longer need to depend on their glasses or contact lenses. People with mild near-sightedness tend to have the most successful outcomes, while patients who have both severe far-sightedness, along with astigmatism, have the least predictable results.

For people keen to gather more info, read on for an overview of the benefits and risks of laser eye surgery;


  • No need for glasses or contact lens ever again. If you are one of those people who are always looking for your glasses (they’re on your head!) or forgetting the saline solution for your contact lenses, laser eye surgery will change your life for the better. Being able to watch a movie at the cinema or browse the internet without your glasses is one of the best benefits of laser eye surgery.

  • One-off investment. Over the long term, laser eye surgery patients save a considerable amount of money on eye examinations, contact lenses, eye solutions and glasses.

  • Permanent relief from contact lenses irritations. The discomfort that some users experience from wearing contact lenses will become a thing of the past.

  • More attractive. While some people make glasses a feature of their look, glasses don’t suit all face types and many people look more attractive without them.


  • Dry Eyes. This is one of the most common risks of laser eye surgery. Tears produced by the eyes help to keep the eyes moist and in some cases, laser eye surgery reduces the capacity of the eyes to produce tears due to damage of the corneal nerves.

  • Infections are another common side effect of laser eye surgery. Patients should take care to keep the eye area clean after surgery and get treatment immediately if the eye becomes infected.

  • Poor night vision can occur after surgery in some patients, making it difficult or hazardous for affected patients to drive without glasses in the dark.

  • Temporary pain or discomfort in the days following surgery.

  • More serious and long-term problems include a condition known as corneal ectasia which causes fluid build-up in the eye after surgery. In severe cases, a corneal transplant is necessary to rectify the complication.

  • Blurred vision is a possible complication of laser eye surgery in some patients.

Overall, it’s estimated that less than 1 in 2,000 patients have a complication that will permanently damage the eyesight in the operated eye. A more common complication – which can affect up to 10% of all laser eye surgery patients – is of the surgery not working as well as expected, which requires the patient to undergo repeat surgery at additional cost.

Thankfully, advances in laser eye surgery technologies have significantly reduced the risk of complications. The quality and cost of laser eye surgery treatment available varies considerably, with expert hospitals and high-street chains both offering the same treatment, by consultants with widely divergent levels of expertise and skill. To ensure that you are receiving the best possible treatment, use a comparison website to research the best laser eye surgery clinics in the UK.