Is laser eye surgery safe?

It’s about your eyes—and they are the only ones you’ve got, so of course you want them to get the best treatment available. But how can you know whether a chosen treatment is indeed the best option? The decision to have your eyes treated is a big step that may seem overwhelming.

Seven simple steps can help you reach the best decision and find the optimal treatment. You can play an active role in this decision-making process, without wasting hours of valuable time. In fact, it is best to take matters into your own hands, because in the end the decision will always be yours to make—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You need to be informed and not to be talked into anything. It's about your eyes—you decide if you think laser eye surgery is safe or not.

  1. Get informed.
  2. Organise your questions and information.
  3. Have specialists perform an extensive pre-examination.
  4. Sleep on it.
  5. Compare the benefits and possible drawbacks.
  6. Be honest with yourself.
  7. Reach your decision and go for it.

Step 1: Inform yourself

Refractive surgery is a technical intervention. If you are looking for a solution to replace your glasses or contact lenses, it is of the utmost importance that you learn a bit about the technical side of the procedure. In the end, you and your surgeon will discuss some technical matters. To do so, you should at least know:

  1. How the eye works
  2. What type of refractive errors exist
  3. What refractive error you have
  4. What type of treatments are being performed
  5. What efficacy index and safety index mean
  6. What the potential risks of each procedure are
  7. What the results of any treatment will be           

Look for information on the Internet and get informed. Do you know people who have undergone treatment? Ask them about their experiences!

Step 2: Organise your questions and information.

Your ophthalmologist will need some information from you. There will probably also be things you would like to ask or discuss with him. Do not rely on your memory, but make a list of these things. It is best if you don’t need to dig into your memory during the intake procedure, so beforehand, write down the most important matters:

  • What is your general health like, and what medications, if any, do you take?
  • What is your medical, ophthalmological history? Have you ever had eye surgery, or have you ever had inflammatory or other problems with your eyes? Was one of your eyes patched during childhood?
  • What is the current dioptric power of your glasses/contact lenses, and how has this power change during the past years? You may need to request this information from your optometrist.
  • Do you have any questions? When you started exploring the subject, did you run into anything that wasn’t entirely clear? Do you have any questions about the different types of treatment that are out there?

Step 3: Have specialists perform an extensive pre-examination.

If you want to have a definite answer to the question of which treatment is optimal for you, you will need to have your eyes examined extensively.

It is the surgeon’s task to review all measurements and discuss possible treatments with you. There will probably be only one advised treatment, so ask about the motivation for choosing this particular treatment. Sometimes, various options exist, each having its own pros and cons.

Feel free to ask about your surgeon’s experience. Even more, you owe it to your eyes to check if your surgeon’s experience meets benchmark standards. Numbers do count. Ask how many procedures your surgeon does each week and how much training and education your surgeon has had in the last 2 years. Ask about research activities, awards, memberships and certifications.

Step 4: Sleep on it.

A French philosopher once said, ‘Life is the sum of all your choices’. And indeed, in the end the decision to undergo treatment is yours to make. Maybe you should discuss things with your friends and family. You may also want to talk to your general practitioner or your optometrist, if you’re in doubt whether laser eye surgery is safe. In any case, don’t rush into things. If you choose to be treated, it is important that you fully back your own decision. For most people, this means growing comfortable with is.

Step 5: Compare the benefits and possible drawbacks.

Refractive surgery has a lot to offer. Current technology allows for extremely accurate treatments, yielding excellent results. Daily, we hear patients talk about the positive impact the treatment has had on their lives. The most commonly heard benefits of refractive surgery are:

  • Freedom—Becoming independent of a tool to aid seeing gives a great sense of freedom. Not having to worry about losing contact lenses can often put people at ease.
  • Cosmetics—Some people find themselves much better-looking without glasses.
  • Sports—Glasses or contact lenses can get in the way of most sport activities.
  • Costs—Buying contact lenses and glasses can add up over the years. Refractive surgery means never having to buy any contact lenses or glasses again.
  • Safety—People who are a bit sloppy when it comes to their lenses (sleeping and swimming while wearing them, not replacing the lens fluid, not cleaning the lenses, etc.) find the surgery a safe way to correct their eyesight.

Find out what is important to you and what you are looking for. This is different for everyone. Refractive surgery is not only about refractive errors or the acuity of your vision; rather, the goal is to improve your life.

Step 6: Be honest with yourself.

Regardless of your refractive error, numbers aren’t everything. Each person is different, and your mind-set and situation also determine whether you’re a good candidate for eye surgery.

  • You may want major changes, but try to have realistic expectations about the result. Modern equipment is precise, but not all treatments lead to X-ray vision above 20/20. The aim of the treatment is to relieve dependence on tools such as glasses and contact lenses. This is why the refractive error of your eyes is reduced to a number close to zero. The difference between very good and perfect is subtle, but it exists.
  • You will have to bear part of the burden of responsibility yourself. During the first weeks after treatment, you will need to take medication and have regular checkups. In other words, optimal treatment will require some discipline on your part.
  • Check whether your job has any advice or limitations regarding refractive surgery. Some occupations, such as piloting, may offer specific guidelines for this type of procedure.

Step 7: Reach your decision and go for it.

If you are still really not sure whether laser eye surgery is safe or not, then don’t have the treatment. Postpone it, or don’t have it at all. On the other hand, if you do decide to have the treatment, go for it! A positive attitude also positively affects the subsequent healing process. Refractive surgery is not only a big step, but it's probably also one of the best decisions you’ll make in your life. Research has shown a high level of contentment for patients who have undergone refractive surgery. In other words, nearly 100% of all patients would make the same choice, if they could do it over again. Make sure you’re behind the treatment 100%.