Laser eye surgery is one of the wonders of modern medicine, transforming the lives of over 30 million people who would rather not wear contact lenses or glasses. The crystal-clear vision achieved with laser eye surgery is far superior to the vision achieved with glasses and lenses and so the only regret is not having it done years earlier.
Laser eye surgery, such as that at Optilase, is performed with an excimer laser and a precision surgical instrument called a microkeratome which is used to create the corneal flap. Whereas until fairly recently the operation removed a layer of the cornea it now consists of creating a temporary flap in the cornea through which the laser does its work of reshaping the cornea. In this way, there is no epithelium removed that will simply grow back later on and require an additional course of treatment to remove it again. The whole operation is performed under local anaesthetic and lasts about 15 minutes.
Of the two most common types of eye surgery available today, LASIK is the most popular, with a very short recovery time for the patient. LASEK treatment is similar but is appropriate for people with relatively thin corneas for whom LASIK is unavailable. LASEK treatment entails about three to four days recovery time whereas LASIK can be even shorter.
Unfortunately, the answer to the question, Am I Suitable for Laser Eye Surgery? is not clear-cut. It is not the case that everyone is equally suitable for refractive eye surgery, there are points to consider before hand. There are health related issues as well as various eye conditions that may make such treatment inappropriate. A qualified professional will always give their approval before such surgery can go ahead, even though the procedure is quite minor. It is estimated that around 20 per cent of patients that apply for laser eye surgery are unable to go through with the procedure.
For example, when a patient is pregnant or breastfeeding is not a suitable time for taking accurate readings of the eye. With all the hormonal activity going on the eyes often adjust to nearsightedness and sometimes long-sightedness during pregnancy. Also, medication may sometimes be required following the treatment, pregnancy can throw off the most appropriate prescription making it a difficult time to provide the correct medication post procedure.
People with glaucoma who have the characteristic optic nerve damage of later phases cannot be treated, although someone with ocular hypertension and no nerve damage will usually receive the treatment.
The minimum legal age for receiving laser eye surgery is 18. However, as the majority of individual prescriptions do not stabilise completely until the age of around 21, younger applicants will usually have to provide evidence that their prescriptions have not changed for a year or more before being accepted.
As mentioned above, if an applicant's corneas are thinner than the norm they may still be deemed suitable for LASEK laser eye surgery, provided a specialist agrees that it would be safe to go ahead with this.
There are a number of factors that may make you unsuitable for laser vision correction. These include prescriptions stronger than -10 or +5. Having a squint or a lazy eye can also rule you out. (Note that laser vision correction can be carried out on some patients with a lazy eye, depending on its severity).
For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is necessary to wait until 6 months after finishing. You also need to be over the age of 18.