Sick of wearing glasses or messing about with contact lenses? Laser eye surgery is a proven solution to correct vision for many people who are short-sighted, long-sighted or have astigmatism. Still, not everyone is eligible. So how do you know if you can take advantage of the latest in laser eye surgery to make glasses and contact lenses a thing of the past?
What prescriptions can laser eye surgery correct?
If you wear glasses or contact lenses you would be familiar with your current prescription. This is measured in Diopters (D). Generally, laser eye surgery can treat prescriptions from -11.00 Diopters (in the case of short-sightedness) and up to +5.00 Diopters (in the case of long-sightedness). It can also treat up to 5.00 Diopters when it comes to astigmatism. Laser eye surgery is also most successful for people who have had a stable prescription for more than 12 months.
At what age can I have laser eye surgery?
Laser eye surgery is generally recommended for people over the age of 21. Before then the stability of refractive error is usually too uncertain to treat. Also, if you are over 40-45 and beginning to have trouble reading or seeing things up close, this is known as presbyopia or age-related long-sightedness. Presbyopia cannot be fixed using laser eye surgery. Instead, a lens replacement can be performed should glasses or contact lenses wish to be avoided.
What laser eye surgery procedures am I eligible for?
There are three main types of laser eye surgery performed today. These are commonly known as PRK, LASIK and SMILE®. PRK is the oldest procedure followed by LASIK and the most recent procedure is SMILE®. While these represent the three generations of laser eye surgery available, they are each used in specific situations depending on the patient’s vision impairment or personal or lifestyle preference.
PRK, the oldest procedure, known as PhotoRefractive Keratectomy, is most suitable for patients who have thin corneas. It is able to treat short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism. You may not be aware you necessarily have thin corneas but an Ophthalmologist will tell you this prior to considering surgery. PRK is also often also the cheapest procedure given the time in the market and the technology being used now more affordable. The downside is a slower recovery time.
LASIK, the most popular procedure to date, known as Laser-Assisted in-Situ Keratomileusis, similar to PRK is used to treat short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism. Given the improved recovery time, this procedure has had wider appeal. People who play contact sports or in active professions (like the military) may be unsuitable for this surgery as detachment of the corneal flap created during surgery can occur. Also, people who have dry eye may find that LASIK causes this to increase.
SMILE®, the newest laser vision correction procedure is rapidly growing in popularity. As a newer procedure, this is only available in certain clinics who have the technology and surgeons to perform it. The recovery time is faster than LASIK or PRK as the surgery is less invasive. It also minimises the risk of flap detachment and dry eye associated with LASIK. SMILE® cannot currently correct long-sightedness (trouble seeing up close) but it can treat short-sightedness and astigmatism.
Deciding whether to have laser eye surgery can be a difficult and anxious decision to make, even if you are eligible. The best decision is to get the right advice. An Ophthalmologist is a highly qualified eye surgeon who can provide you with your specific options, explain each procedure and any risks or alternatives to consider.