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What is Laser Eye Surgery?

Laser eye surgery is an incredibly accurate procedure which corrects eye problems and even deformities, restoring vision in millions of patients each year. Both short-sightedness and long-sightedness can be treated, as can many age-related problems and cataract-related issues.

It is the world’s most popular form of elective surgery, and the most effective, with 99 percent patients achieving 20/20 vision after the operation.

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How does it work?

The part of your eye which controls focus is the cornea, a slightly curved clear layer which lies over your iris. It is responsible for bending light and projecting images onto your retina, which interprets what it receives for the brain.

A cornea that is too flat or too sharp can cause light to fall on the wrong areas of the retina, causing distortion. Glasses and contact lenses are shaped to make up for this; laser eye surgery is different in that it actually shapes the cornea using a precision laser, and changes it to the optimal shape.

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What happens?

When you go into a laser-eye clinic for your appointment, anesthetic drops are placed in the eye. There are two types of laser eye surgery: LASIK and LASEK. In LASEK, a fine knife is used to cut a small portion of your cornea, leaving one side attached as a hinge.

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This portion can then be folded back to allow access to the middle of the cornea, which is exposed to laser pulses, generally for around 15-60 seconds. The portion that has been removed is then replaced, and the procedure is complete.

LASIK is similar, but the corneal flap is created with the use of a high-energy laser rather than a blade. More information on LASIK is available from Ultralase, who offers this type of surgery across the UK, with a comprehensive aftercare program

Patients should expect a consultation before and after, so the entire session can take up to an hour. The doctor will explain everything about the procedure in detail, and check whether the patient has any concerns. It is normal for patients to be nervous, so if you are considering this treatment make sure you ask as many questions as you need to!

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Important information

While patients can have both eyes treated at the same time, using a protective contact lens after treatment, it is not recommended for a number of reasons. Cross-contamination can occur, and patients are found to recover faster when protecting the eye with a patch, as photophobia can be a side-effect for 24-48 hours afterward while the eye heals.

Laser eye surgery can cause some mild discomfort for a day or so after treatment, and patients are often advised to take some over-the-counter painkillers and to keep their eyes covered or closed for the rest of that day.