man with glasses

Forget what you think you know about laser eye surgery

Most people are not aware of the advances in laser eye surgery that have taken place in the last couple of years. Different types of lasers are used extensively in all types of eye surgery from cataract to glaucoma to floaters to diabetes.

Each laser is completely different and has unique properties which are utilised to deliver the treatment for the different eye conditions.

To an eye doctor, laser eye surgery means treating someone with one of the conditions above but to the layman it usually means laser surgery to get rid of glasses. This surgery, called Refractive Laser Surgery, is carried out by eye doctors (ophthalmologists) specialising in this area of eye surgery. Just like all areas of ophthalmology it is a very precise sub-specialty requiring long training and study to become proficient. But, unlike the other areas ophthalmology where lasers are used, Refractive Laser Surgery to get rid of glasses has suffered a bad press in the past while laser for cataract or glaucoma is perceived as a beneficial breakthrough.

Many people have heard the urban myths about how someone had laser eye surgery and had poor vision afterwards, while very few people have heard stories about someone getting an eye infection from their contact lenses leading to permanent damage to their sight.

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Laser vision correction lasts.

Everybody’s vision fluctuates over time. Even people who do not need glasses have fluctuations in their refraction. However once the eye is focused within the spectacle free zone it is highly unlikely that the normal fluctuations would cause the eye to wander out of the zone where glasses or contacts are necessary. Laser eye surgery will put the focus of the eye into the spectacle free zone where it should stay indefinitely.

Contact lenses are more risky.

Triathletes who need contact lenses would be taking less risk with their vision by having laser eye surgery rather than wearing contact lenses to correct their eyesight. Contact lenses are safe but not risk free. Soft contact lenses can allow an infection to get hold in the cornea with minimal symptoms. Prompt treatment is necessary combined with stopping lens wear to bring about recovery and the avoiding of permanent damage. The risk of losing some vision permanently due to complications of contact lens wear is about the same as having laser and in fact some experts believe that laser is actually safer. Contact lens risks greatly increase if the wearer swims while wearing them. This risk is greatest when swimming in open water such as a lake or river. This means that triathletes who wear soft contact lenses are more at risk of irreversible vision loss than someone who is having laser vision correction. Taking this to its logical conclusion laser vision is safer. And with it comes the benefit of being free of the hassle of contact lenses or glasses.

It’s not painful.

The laser treatment with the early machines was very painful for a few days. But the modern lasers have very little discomfort and healing is almost instantaneous. The latest method called Small Incision Lenticule Extraction (SMILE) causes minimal discomfort on the day and the dry eye symptoms associated with LASIK are much less and shorter lived. People who have SMILE can resume normal activities the same day. And, because there is no flap lifted off the cornea, contact sports can be engaged in again safely.

It’s not expensive.

Over approximately a four year period someone with moderate myopia and a small amount of astigmatism will spend more money on their contacts than if they have SMILE laser vision correction. And the same is true with glasses unless they don’t want the best quality lens in designer frames. And frames go out of fashion.

It’s for everybody.

There was a time when only celebrities or top athletes had laser vision correction. But today it is for anyone who has poor vision without glasses or contacts. It’s ideal for busy people in their 20s or 30s who can become completely spectacle free. Also people in their 40s or 50s who are beginning to have problems with their reading glasses can have laser surgery to give them clear vision at all distances, near, intermediate and far. There is even an option for people who have extreme short sight. Over one million people have had SMILE laser surgery already and tens of millions of patients have had laser eye surgery since it became available. Fewer people have complications from modern laser eye surgery than have complications from contact lens wear. For moderate to severe myopia contact lenses or glasses do not provide a cure, they merely make the condition survivable. SMILE laser vision actually gives you the vision you were always supposed to have.

About the experts

Mr John Bolger | Consultant Ophthalmologist / Clinic Director


John Bolger is a Consultant Ophthalmologist and Clinic Director at My-iClinic. He specialises in ophthalmology, laser refractive surgery (SMILE, Presbyond, LASIK, PRK, PTK), refractive lens exchange (RLE), cataract surgery, glaucoma treatment and macular degeneration.

Over the course of his career, John Bolger has carried out over 35,000 cataract operations, 20 of which were for eye surgeons. He has also taught over 1500 young ophthalmologists worldwide as they begin their surgical careers.

Bolger has observed and played a part in the evolution of modern ophthalmology. He was one of the first surgeons to introduce microincision cataract surgery to the UK; he witnessed the advent of the femtosecond laser that is used in SMILE procedures and is seeing huge progress in the treatment of glaucoma and wet macular degeneration.

Remaining at the forefront of these advancements ensures that he is always providing his patients with the very best and latest treatments, whatever their condition.

In his free time, John Bolger enjoys flying helicopters, playing classical guitar, baking bread and pastries, and making fresh pasta.