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LASIK eye surgery

Laser eye surgery to correct vision problems from refractive errors

Man getting eye exam to assess need for laser vision correction (LASIK) treatment
Laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a type of eye surgery that can correct problems with your vision known as refractive errors.

A refractive error occurs when the shape of your cornea prevents light from focusing on your retina (the light-sensitive part at the back of your eye). This causes problems with vision like short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and astigmatism.

LASIK eye surgery uses lasers and microsurgery to reshape your cornea (the clear part at the front of your eye). It is a quick and painless procedure that is performed as a day case under local anaesthetic. Both eyes can normally be treated on the same day.

This page explains what LASIK eye surgery is, what conditions it can treat and what to expect during your surgery and recovery.

At Circle Health Group, we offer the latest technology in laser eye surgery using CustomVue™ to measure and correct individual imperfections in your vision. We are also one of the first healthcare providers in the UK to treat patients using the VISX excimer laser system, meaning laser eye surgery is safer and more accurate than ever before.

Call or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss private LASIK eye surgery with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.

LASIK eye surgery is suitable for people with refractive errors such as:

  • Short-sightedness (myopia) - when far away objects appear blurred
  • Long-sightedness (hyperopia) - when close-up objects appear blurred
  • Astigmatism - where both close-up and far-away objects appear blurred and distorted

LASIK eye surgery may not be suitable for everyone. You may not be a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery if you:

If you wear rigid, gas-permeable lenses, you'll need to stop wearing these for at least three weeks before your consultation. If you wear soft lenses, don't wear them for three days before your appointment. Bring your prescription glasses with you to your appointment.

At your first consultation, you will be seen by a consultant ophthalmologist, a doctor specialising in conditions affecting the eye.

Your consultant will ask you about your symptoms, general health, and medical history. They will perform a thorough eye examination and may arrange further tests. These may include:

  • Topography/ Tomography
  • Refraction testing
  • Slit lamp examination
  • Dilated eye examination
  • Intraocular pressure
  • Contrast sensitivity
  • Night vision simulation
  • Dry eye exam
  • Pupil size
  • Corneal thickness
  • Wavefront analysis

Topography and tomography

These tests measure the shape (curvature) of your cornea. They are used to detect corneal diseases such as keratoconus.

Refraction testing

During this test, you look through different strength lenses while reading from a chart.

Corneal thickness

Pachymetry is the measurement of the thickness of the thinnest part of your cornea. It is used to check that your corneal thickness is sufficient for LASIK eye surgery. The test is carried out using an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scanner or high-frequency digital ultrasound.

Slit lamp examination

This test uses a beam of light and a microscope to examine the front of the eye including the eyelids, iris, lens, and conjunctiva for abnormalities.

Dilated eye examination

During this test, eye drops are used to dilate your pupil so that your consultant can examine the back of the eye including the retina and optic nerve in more detail.

Pupil size

Pupillometry uses an infrared camera to measure your average pupil size, how much your pupils dilate and contract and the difference between the two.

Intraocular pressure

In this test, an instrument called a tonometer is used to blow a small puff of air onto the eye to measure the pressure inside your eye.

Dry eye exam

This test measures your tear film (a thin film of tears that lubricates your eyes). The test involves placing a small piece of paper in your lower eyelid and measuring the amount of moisture it gathers over a few minutes.

Contrast sensitivity

This test measures your ability to differentiate between shades of grey stripes, letters, or shapes against a background. It is used to assess how well your eyes work when the contrast between objects and their background is reduced such as in low light, glare, or fog.

Night vision simulation

In this test, you are shown a computer simulation of night-time images to assess your night vision.

Wavefront analysis

Light enters the eye as a travelling wave and the shape of the wave reflects the movement of light photons. Irregularities in the front of the wave (wavefront) can indicate defects in your vision. During wavefront analysis, a device called a wavefront aberrometer is used to create a 3D map of the wavefront of your eye. Your consultant can then check for normally undetectable irregularities in your vision.

Why is this first consultation so important?

At Circle Health Group, your first appointment is very important as it's where we get to know you, discuss your expectations for treatment and encourage you to ask any questions you may have. It is important to us that you are as well-informed and comfortable as possible during your LASIK eye surgery, so please ask your consultant any questions you may have.

At the end of your appointment, your consultant will decide if LASIK eye surgery is a good option for you based on your symptoms, diagnosis, and general health. If LASIK is not a suitable procedure for you, your consultant will discuss possible alternative treatments.

Your consultant will tell you everything you need to do to prepare for your LASIK eye surgery. If there's anything you're not sure about, or if you have any questions, speak to your consultant, or call the hospital for advice. Being well-prepared for your surgery will help to ease any anxiety you may have, as well as allow your surgery and recovery to go more smoothly.

Before your surgery, tell your consultant about any medical conditions or allergies you have and any medication, including over-the-counter medicines you are taking.

You may eat a light meal and take your regular medications before your LASIK eye surgery.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing to your appointment and avoid wearing eye make-up, or bulky hair accessories that may make lying on the operating table uncomfortable.

LASIK eye surgery is performed under local anaesthetic which means you'll be awake during the procedure but won't feel any pain. You may be given medication to make you feel relaxed during your surgery.

You will be asked to lie on the operating table and your consultant will administer local anaesthetic eye drops to numb your eyes before the procedure. You will have a device placed around your eye to hold your eyelids open and prevent you from blinking during your surgery.

Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your consultant will make a thin flap in your cornea using either a handheld blade called a microkeratome, or a blade-free technique using a Femtosecond laser.

The flap is peeled back, and another laser is used to remove tiny precalculated amounts of tissue from the deep layers of your cornea. This reshapes your cornea and corrects your refractive error.

Once the cornea has been reshaped, the flap is put back into position. It is left to heal naturally and doesn't require any stitches.

LASIK eye surgery normally takes less than half an hour for both eyes.

Recovery from any type of surgery is different for everyone and depends on factors such as your age, general health and whether or not there were any complications during your surgery.

Your consultant will be able to give you an estimated recovery timeline based on your individual circumstances.

After your LASIK eye surgery, you'll need to stay in the department for a couple of hours. After that you can go home, and you should relax at home for the rest of the day.

Your eyes may feel uncomfortable and scratchy for a few hours after LASIK surgery. Your consultant will give you artificial tears to lubricate your eyes and eye drops to prevent infection and help them heal.

You may be given an eye shield to wear at night to protect your eyes for a few days after your surgery. Don't swim or use a hot tub for two weeks after your surgery.

How many nights will I need to stay in hospital?

LASIK eye surgery is performed as a day case procedure, meaning you'll go home the same day.

Will I be able to drive home?

You will not be able to drive yourself home from hospital after your LASIK eye surgery. Please make arrangements for someone to collect you, or we can organise a taxi if you prefer.

How soon can I go back to work?

When you can go back to work after your surgery depends on how you feel after your surgery, and the type of job you do. Recovery from LASIK eye surgery is usually quick, and most people can return to work the next day.

How soon can I drive?

You should not drive yourself home from hospital or for at least twenty-four hours after your surgery. The day after your surgery, you will have your first post-operative appointment, where your consultant will check your vision.

Many people experience improved vision very quickly after LASIK eye surgery, and your consultant may give you the all-clear to drive after this appointment. In some cases, you may need to wait a little longer before driving after your surgery. Speak to your insurance company, too, in case they have specific rules about when you're OK to drive.

When will I be back to normal?

Recovery from LASIK eye surgery is normally quick, and you can usually return to most activities within a day or two. Your eyes will continue to heal over the next three to six months during which time your vision will continue to improve.

LASIK eye surgery is a generally safe procedure, but as with all types of surgery, there is a small risk of complications. Your consultant will explain all the possible risks and complications before your surgery and answer any questions you have about your procedure. Being as well-informed as possible about what to expect from your surgery will help put your mind at rest and allow you to make an informed decision so please ask any questions you may have.

Possible complications of LASIK eye surgery may include:

  • Dry eyes - your eyes may feel drier than usual for around the first six months after your surgery. You will be given eye drops to help with this
  • Poor night vision - you may have difficulty seeing at night for several days or weeks after your surgery. This may include double vision and seeing glare and halos around lights
  • Astigmatism - if corneal tissue is removed unevenly during surgery, astigmatism can result. This may be corrected by further surgery or with glasses or contact lenses
  • Under or overcorrections - If too little or too much tissue is removed during surgery, it can mean your vision may not be properly corrected. Under corrections can often be fixed with further surgery, but overcorrections may be harder to repair
  • Flap problems - include infection, excess tears, and abnormal growth of the corneal layer during healing
  • Corneal ectasia - a rare, but serious complication that occurs when there is thinning and bulging of the cornea leading to worsening vision
  • Vision loss or changes to your vision - This is extremely rare and is a result of complications of the surgery such as infection or ectasia, not the surgery itself

In addition to LASIK, other types of laser eye surgery include:

SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction)

Like LASIK eye surgery, SMILE uses a laser to reshape your cornea. It is used to correct short-sightedness. One advantage of SMILE is that it requires a much smaller incision meaning less damage to the cornea. There may also be less risk of developing dry eyes than with LASIK surgery.

Surface laser treatments (PRK, LASEK and TransPRK)

These treatments are carried out on the surface of the eye. Unlike LASIK and SMILE where the clear skin layer on the surface of the eye is left intact, during surface laser treatment, your consultant removes this layer from the front of your eye before reshaping the corneal tissue directly underneath. The skin layer grows back after about a week. Your eye is normally very sore for around a week as it heals. Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis (LASEK) can treat mild to moderate short and long-sightedness and astigmatism and may be an option for people who can't have LASIK eye surgery.

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about LASIK eye surgery.

What does LASIK eye surgery do?

LASIK eye surgery corrects refractory errors like short-sightedness, long-sightedness, and astigmatism by changing the shape of your corneas using lasers.

What is the best age to get LASIK eye surgery?

You must be at least eighteen years of age to have LASIK eye surgery. The best age is normally between twenty-five and forty, as your refractory error has probably stabilised by the age of twenty-five and you are less likely to have developed age-related eye problems.

Are you awake during LASIK eye surgery?

LASIK eye surgery is performed under local anaesthetic which means you'll be awake during the procedure but won't feel any pain. You may also be given medication to relax you before your surgery.

Can anyone get LASIK eye surgery?

LASIK eye surgery is not suitable for everyone. Talk to your consultant about whether you may be a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery.

When can you drink alcohol after LASIK eye surgery?

We recommend that you avoid alcohol for at least a week after your LASIK eye surgery. This is to prevent dehydration and allow your eyes to heal. Alcohol may also interact with some eye drops and medications you are taking after your surgery.

Can LASIK eye surgery go wrong?

As with all surgical procedures, there is a small risk of complications when having LASIK eye surgery. Your consultant will discuss all the possible risks and complications with you before your procedure so that you can make an informed decision.

At Circle Health Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about LASIK eye surgery, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in March 2023. Next review due March 2026.

  1. Laser eye surgery and lens surgery, NHS
  2. LASIK-Laser Eye Surgery, American Academy of Opthalmology
  3. Laser In Situ Keratomileusis, NIH
  4. Patient Information: Laser Vision Correction, Royal College of Ophthalmologists

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