Our eyesight is truly one of our most precious possessions, and if you’ve reached a time in your life where you feel that your vision is not as good as it used to be it can be worrying. It is also inconvenient and even unpleasant; having to squint to read small print or endure headaches caused by blurred vision, all these factors can have a real negative effect on your day-to-day life.
The good news is you don’t need to suffer from poor eyesight. It is possible to regain both your vision and your quality of life.
In this article, we’ll answer the question: exactly how does laser eye surgery work?
The Laser Eye Surgery Procedure
Although performed using different techniques, both methods have the common goal of correcting problems with your vision. Which procedure is right for you will depend on various facts, such as your eyesight, your age, what you hope to achieve, and the overall health of your eyes.
The Different Types of Laser Eye Surgeries
Laser eye surgery is further broken down into three different types: LASIK, LASEK, and ReLEX SMILE. To answer the question, how does laser eye surgery work? We need to look at each of these methods separately. You can read more about each on their individual pages by clicking the links, but to summarise:
LASIK, the most well-known and popular laser eye surgery, effectively treats shortsightedness, long-sightedness, and astigmatism. No blades are used in the procedure; it only takes around 15 minutes per eye, and most patients will see results in just 24 hours.
The LASIK Procedure: LASIK involves creating a thin flap in the cornea using a femto-second laser The surgeon then reshapes the underlying corneal tissue using an excimer laser, and the flap is repositioned.
Recovery For LASIK: quick recovery, with most patients experiencing improved vision within 24 hours.
Suitability: Ideal for patients with a moderate degree of refractive error (myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism). Not suitable for those with very thin corneas or certain corneal diseases).
Advantages: quick visual recovery and minimal post-operative pain.
LASEK: unlike LASIK, LASEK has a slightly longer recovery time and potentially a few days of discomfort after the procedure. However, patients with very thin or flat corneas are not usually suitable for LASIK; therefore, LASEK does offer a very good alternative.
The LASEK Procedure: Similar to LASIK, but instead of creating a flap, the outer most layer is removed to allow an excimer laser then reshapes the cornea. The outer-layer is repositioned and a bandage contact lens placed on top to allow the eye to heal comfortably
Recovery for LASEK: slower than LASIK; it may take a week or more for the outer layer of the cornea to heal.
Suitability: Suitable for patients with thin corneas who are not ideal candidates for LASIK. It is also a good option for individuals involved in contact sports or occupations at risk of eye injuries.
Advantages: Less depth of laser treatment compared to LASIK, which is beneficial for those with thin corneas.
ReLEX SMILE: whereas LASIK surgery creates a flap in the eye, SMILE does not, meaning that post-op discomfort is minimal. It is also very fast, taking just minutes, and results in 80% better vision in a few hours, with 100% vision being achieved in just weeks.
The SMILE Procedure is the latest laser eye surgery technique where the surgeon reshapes the cornea using a femtosecond laser to . The laser creates a lens-shaped bit of tissue (lenticule) within the cornea, which is then removed through a small keyhole, Millions of patients have undergone successful SMILE surgery.
Recovery for ReLEX Smile: Recovery is usually quick, faster than LASIK, and with less postoperative discomfort.
Suitability: Mainly used for treating myopia and astigmatism, ideal for individuals with dry eyes .
Advantages: No flap creation is involved, which reduces the risk of flap-related complications and may be better for maintaining corneal strength.
A consultation with one of our experts can help determine the best type of laser eye surgery that may be suited for your unique needs.
What Does Laser Eye Surgery Do?
The benefits of laser eye surgery are many and varied. If you’re wondering what laser eye surgery is and how it can help you achieve better vision and a better quality of life, consider that:
- You will have no, or far less, dependency on glasses or contact lenses.
- You will regain or attain clear, sharp vision.
- You can say goodbye to headaches caused by squinting to read small print.
- You will be able to play most sports where glasses are inconvenient .
How Does Laser Eye Surgery Work?
Laser eye surgery primarily functions by reshaping the cornea, the clear front part of the eye. This reshaping alters the way light rays enter the eye to focus more precisely on the retina, which can improve vision and reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses. The general approach involves the use of specialised lasers to precisely modify the curvature of the corneal tissue. The procedure is quick, effective, and pain-free.
Is The Surgery Procedure Different For LASIK, LASEK and ReLEX SMILE?
LASIK, LASEK, and ReLEX SMILE are slightly different methods of vision correction; therefore, the procedure for each varies.
LASIK: A femtosecond laser is used to send pulses to the cornea, producing tiny bubbles. This creates a flap, which enables the surgeon to lift back the cornea’s outer layers to reveal the tissue below. The refractive error is then corrected using an excimer laser before the flap is replaced.
LASEK: instead of creating a flap, the outer layer of the cornea is loosened and folded back. The surface of the cornea is then reshaped to rectify the refractive error using an excimer laser. The outer layer of the cornea is returned to its original position, and a bandage contact lens is inserted to protect it during the healing process.
ReLEX SMILE: A Zeiss VisuMax laser is used to send a series of pulses to the centre of the cornea, forming microscopic bubbles. These outline the tissue that needs to be removed to alter the shape of the cornea and correct the refractive error. The laser then creates a microscopic tunnel through which the surgeon removes the tissue.
At Optegra, our world-class surgeons handle tens of thousands of vision correction procedures each year. We are a dedicated eye hospital and have specialist facilities and technologies to ensure your surgery is successful and as comfortable as possible.
Does Laser Eye Surgery Always Work?
Laser eye surgery has an extremely high success rate. In the unlikely event a patient requires further correction after initial laser eye surgery, the process is generally known as “enhancement” or “touch-up” surgery. This procedure is done to fine-tune the visual acuity achieved from the first surgery. The steps for this follow-up procedure depend on the type of original surgery (like LASIK, LASEK, or SMILE) and the specific needs of the patient.
Are There Any Risks With Laser Eye Surgery?
As with any type of surgery, there is a small element of risk. However, thanks to advancements in technology and refined surgical techniques, these risks are extremely low, making it one of the safest elective procedures available.
The advent of advanced technology, improved surgical techniques, customised procedures, and a minimally invasive approach means you can be confident and relaxed when considering the decision to undergo laser eye surgery.
You’re in Safe Hands: Meet Our Laser Eye Surgeons
At Optegra, we have helped tens of thousands of patients achieve clear and vibrant vision via our laser eye surgery treatments. We have an excellent rating on Trustpilot, and patients can choose from a wide range of top-rated eye surgeons.
Now that you know more about how laser eye surgery works, if you’d like to begin your journey to better eyesight, contact us now, and we’d love to arrange your free consultation.
By Author: Amir Hamid
Mr. Amir Hamid is a Clinical Lead for Vision Correction and an expert refractive surgeon, based in London.
Medically Reviewed Date: 4th January 2024