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Laser eye surgery

What is laser eye surgery?

Using a laser to reshape the cornea to permanently treat vision problems normally requiring glasses.

It's also known as LASIK, LASEK, PRK, or Refractive surgery.

What does laser eye surgery do?

  • Face

    Changes appearance

Who can have laser eye surgery?

  • You usually need to be at least 18

  • Ideally your prescription should not have changed in the last two years

How long does laser eye surgery last?

As laser eye surgery is still a relatively new treatment, exactly how long the effects last is still unknown.

How do I stay safe?

To ensure you are receiving the safest possible treatment, you should follow this advice from the Care Quality Commission on how to choose cosmetic surgery.

What should I be aware of?

The main risks of laser eye surgery are not having the expected improvement in vision, development of new visual problems like halos, infections in the cornea, and complications with the creation of the flap during the surgical procedure. There is also a very small risk of developing ectasia, a condition that can cause blindness 1.

Who might want laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery can be used to treat:

  • myopia - shortsightedness or inability to clearly see things in the distance
  • hyperopia - longsightedness or inability to clearly see things which are close up
  • astigmatism - a condition where the eye does not focus evenly

Laser eye surgery is normally used on people with +6 dioptres (D) of hyperopia to –10 D of myopia, with up to 4 cylinders of astigmatism.

What kinds are there?

There are three main types of laser eye surgery, Photoreactive keratectomy (PRK), Laser-assisted sub-epithelial keratectomy (LASEK), and Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK). The current evidence available from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence suggests that there is not a significant difference between the effectiveness of these techniques 1. Laser eye surgery is an area with continual development of new techniques, so you are advised to do your own research into the different kinds of eye surgery available to you. There is guidance available from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists that includes detailed information about laser surgical techniques, including newer techniques not described here.

How much will it cost?

Laser eye surgery is not normally funded by the NHS unless it is to treat a condition that cannot be fixed with contact lenses or glasses.

Where can I learn more?

You can read more about laser eye surgery on the NHS website.


  1. 1.
    National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2006) “Photorefractive (laser) surgery for the correction of refractive errors (IPG164).” Link

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