Perhaps you’ve worn glasses since you were 5 years old and you’re getting pretty sick of it. Maybe you’ve tried contact lenses but you can’t get them in and then once they’re in, you can’t get them out, or maybe they just fall out themselves at the most inconvenient of times. Whatever the situation, laser eye surgery is looking like a very tempting solution right now. But eyes are precious things and we only have two of them so the big question on your mind is – is laser eye surgery safe?
Laser Eye Surgery
Laser eye surgery is a general term referring to what is also known as refractive surgery, a type of procedure designed to surgically correct the optics of an eye to allow clear vision without the need for optical aids such as glasses or contact lenses. Although many people use the term “laser eye surgery” to refer to all refractive procedures, not all methods necessarily employ the use of a laser.
All surgical procedures carry a degree of risk of adverse effects and complications, and laser eye surgery is no different. Setting aside the anatomy-specific complications, simply making an incision through the body’s natural barrier of skin, membrane, or any other external surface tissue, immediately opens the way for potential infection. In laser eye surgery, all refractive procedures involve an incision in the cornea, the transparent dome at the front of the eye.
Certain laser eye surgery techniques are more invasive than others and therefore carry specific risks that other techniques may not carry, but with the development of new techniques and new technology, laser eye surgery procedures on the whole are becoming increasingly safer.
Is Laser Eye Surgery Safe?
Since booming in popularity over 30 years ago, laser eye surgery has been studied for its safety and efficacy. Though statistics may vary from study to study and depending on the particular refractive technique involved, success rates are typically quoted as around 98-99%, making laser eye surgery one of the safest elective procedures in Australia. Complications involving a loss of visual acuity of more than one line on the letter chart has been reported as no higher than around 0.4% and over 90% of patients undergoing LASIK are reported as achieving perfect 20/20 vision (also known as 6/6 vision in Australia).
Though many people fear that a complication during surgery may cause them to become blind, total loss of vision from refractive surgery has never been recorded in Australia. Studies have also been conducted on the safety and efficacy of various other laser eye surgery procedures, including SMILE, PRK, and ASLA (advanced surface laser ablation), and most have concluded that they are all as safe and effective as LASIK.
It is important to note that some risks can be mitigated or avoided altogether, something you’ll be happy to hear if you’ve been wondering how safe is eye laser surgery. One of the ways to do this is to ensure that you are a suitable candidate for any laser eye surgery procedure and to ensure you have the surgery performed at a reputable clinic. Though it may be tempting to have laser eye surgery done overseas where it may be cheaper, medical standards and regulations, surgeon experience and the standard of equipment may be significantly poorer, which has the potential to increase your chance of experiencing a less-than-optimal outcome.
An experienced refractive eye surgeon will perform a thorough examination before advising you on the most suitable technique – this will take into consideration several factors:
- Your prescription. There are prescription limitations for each surgical technique and some offer a wider treatable range than others whilst still maintaining acceptable safety standards. Attempting to treat a certain prescription with an unsuitable technique can lead to under-correction and residual refractive error or may result in the cornea becoming dangerously thin and weakened.
- Corneal thickness. Several laser eye surgery methods such as LASIK, PRK, and SMILE, involve removing and reshaping select areas of corneal tissue in order to correct the optics of the eye. LASIK surgery also requires the formation of a flap of corneal tissue which is temporarily lifted away, further reducing the amount of tissue available for reshaping. After the procedure is complete, sufficient corneal tissue must be left intact to maintain the integrity of the eyeball.
- Lifestyle factors. Certain laser eye surgery techniques are more suitable for certain lifestyles and vocations. For example, due to the creation of a corneal flap, LASIK carries the risk of flap-related complications, such as debris getting caught beneath the flap or the flap becoming dislodged through trauma. Patients who engage in physically rough tasks or are often in dirty, dusty environments, may be directed away from LASIK and instead to a less risky procedure for their particular lifestyle, such as PRK or SMILE.
- Pre-existing eye conditions. The presence of various other eye diseases can affect the safety and final results of any refractive surgery. Careful preoperative examination and appropriate counselling can help patients to avoid undergoing laser eye surgery procedures that may exacerbate conditions such as dry eye disease or keratoconus, a corneal thinning condition. SMILE tends to pose less of a concern for dry eye compared to LASIK as it is a minimally invasive technique while LASIK has been known to induce corneal thinning in patients susceptible to this condition.
While some surgical complications are a result of plain bad luck, ensuring that you follow all pre- and post-operative instructions, such as maintaining eyelid hygiene and adhering to prescribed eye drop medications, will help to reduce your risk of adverse effects such as an eye infection.
So, if you’re wondering is laser eye surgery safe and effective, be assured that it has been performed millions of times across the world to the satisfaction of millions of eyes. Though very few procedures, if any, can boast a 100% success rate, laser eye surgery demonstrates very high levels of patient satisfaction alongside very low rates of complications.
Call Eye Laser Specialists for free at (1300) 297 583 to book your complimentary initial consultation today and know your vision is in experienced hands.