Laser Eye

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Laser eye treatment will transform your sight and change your life. The results are dramatic.   

Over the course of your lifetime, you will spend thousands of pounds on glasses and contact lenses that you certainly need, but don't really want. They don't let you live the life the way you want to.

Modern life is all about taking part. Whether it is playing with the kids, swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Med while on holiday or a game of five-a-sides down the park, we all want to be part of something. Poor eyesight holds you back in so many ways. You can only do what your glasses or contacts allow you to. Running, playing and travelling is all that bit more difficult if you don-t have great vision. It shouldn't be like that. Corrective eye surgery will transform your sight, but it will do so much more than that. Corrective eye surgery from Optical Express will change your life.

Without your glasses or contacts you will be free to run, free to play, free to live your life the way you want to.


What is laser eye surgery?

Over 30 million people around the world have had their sight transformed and their life changed by this amazing treatment. 
During eye laser surgery a cool beam of light from a state-of-the-art laser gently reshapes the cornea to correct your vision. The cornea is the transparent dome-shaped window that covers the front of your eye responsible for most of your focusing power. It determines how sharp your vision is. The focus of your cornea is fixed but the laser can adjust the curvature of the lens to "tune" this focus.

It is quick, affordable and you will be back on your feet and enjoying your new vision in a matter of hours. It is no wonder the most common reaction from people who have the treatment is "I wish I had done it sooner."

There are two different methods of performing laser surgery for eyes: LASIK eye surgery and LASEK eye surgery. Both methods may be enhanced by iDesign. Find out more about each by clicking on the links below.


Can I have eye laser surgery?

With the continual advancements in technology it is now possible to help more people than ever achieve great vision without the need for their glasses or contact lenses. In fact, 9 out of 10 Optical Express patients are now suitable for an eye surgery. Eye laser treatment can treat people who currently wear glasses or contact lenses for distance or near vision. It can now correct long-sightedness (Hyperopia), short-sightedness (Myopia) and astigmatism to a higher prescription than ever before.

Even people who have been told that they were not suitable for eye surgery in the past can now experience a life without their glasses or contact lenses.

The only way to find out if you are suitable for laser surgery is to attend a detailed consultation with our clinical team to discuss your own treatment plan. Consultations are FREE at Optical Express and everybody who attends an initial refractive consultation will receive a state-of-the-art iScan advanced eye care report.

Here we present information on some of the conditions the laser eye surgery procedure can correct and the different types of eye surgery available.

Short sightedness (Myopia)
Myopia is the medical term for short-sightedness. It describes being able see close up objects more clearly than those that are farther away. It is caused by the shape of your eye being too long... 
Read about Short sightedness (Myopia) here

Long sightedness (Hyperopia)
Hyperopia is the medical term for long-sightedness. It describes being able see things at a distance more clearly than those that are close by. It is caused by the shape of your eye being too short...
Read about Long sightedness (Hyperopia) here

Astigmatism is a minor and fairly common eye condition that affects your vision. It may cause blurred or distorted vision. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea or lens isn't a perfectly curved shape...
Read about Astigmatism here


The Laser Eye Surgery Consultation explained

We get asked a lot of questions by prospective patients. They range from "how does laser eye surgery work", to "how long does laser eye surgery last" and "is laser eye surgery painful We've created this page to help answer these faqs.

A laser consultation is basically a very thorough eye examination undertaken by an Optometrist as the first step towards eye laser treatment. The free consultation can take up to two hours compared to a standard eye examination which may take up to thirty minutes. Many of the examinations will be familiar to you such as measuring your vision without spectacles and/or contact lenses, determining your eye prescription and assessing your eye health. 

Additional tests
Some of the additional tests may not be so familiar, such as: a test for assessing the shape of the outer window of your eye, known as the cornea, with a topographical instrument such as an Oculus Pentacam; measurement of the thickness of this eye window; and assessment of the higher order visual phenomena that can contribute to the quality of your vision. In addition the Optometrist will, as standard, dilate your pupils. This is done by using dilating eye drops which prevent your pupil from closing down, allowing a detailed examination of the retina to take place. All of these tests, including the eye drops, are pain free. 

Your results
Following these clinical examinations, your Optometrist will interpret the results and compare them with the International Medical Advisory Board approved Clinical Suitability Guidelines. These are a set of parameters that confirm who should be referred on to a surgeon for a surgical procedure such as laser surgery. Everyone's eyes are different and therefore not everyone will be a suitable candidate for this optional procedure. There are some health and eye conditions that are contraindicated (i.e. prevent us from proceeding with the surgery) as well as some eye prescriptions that are better served by a different procedure. For patients suitable for laser eye treatment, the Optometrist will discuss the procedure in detail. They will cover both the benefits and the risks of the procedure. As we can all understand, all medical procedures have benefits and risks. However, with eye laser surgery the risks are very low. The risk of developing an infection, for example, is greater with frequent wear or extended wear of a soft contact lens than a eye laser surgery procedure. 

Your optometrist will also make a recommendation of the best procedure for you. This recommendation is based upon a collective analysis of clinical outcomes, peer review articles, the optometrist's personal experience and last but by no means least your personal feedback. 

The final decision on your suitability for surgery rests with your treating ophthalmic surgeon. The majority of patients are suitable for laser eye treatment, but you may find you are best suited for lens surgery. If you are not suitable for eye surgery, Optical Express can also offer a great selection of glasses and contact lenses. 

Any questions you have in respect to this prospective future treatment are of course answered and you should feel free to ask any question during the discussion phase of the consultation. Some patients consider what questions they wish to ask ahead of the procedure and this is worthwhile doing as the consultation is your opportunity to spend time with the optometrist and it is worth getting as much information from it as possible.

Laser Eye Surgery FAQs

We know that having laser treatment for eyes is an important decision that you will have spent a lot of time thinking about. We know that it can seem quite daunting at first, especially if you do not know much about it. You will soon discover that laser surgery for eyes is one of the safest and most common surgeries. We want to make sure that every stage of the process is as straightforward as possible and that you always get your questions answered. To get you started we have answered the most commonly asked questions below.

Will I be suitable for laser eye surgery?

Whilst the majority of patients who attend a FREE consultation are suitable candidates, not all will be. We treat eye prescriptions of up to four and a half dioptres of long sightedness, up to twelve dioptres of short sightedness or up to six dioptres of astigmatism. For some there may be a health or eye condition which means laser eye treatment is not the best optical solution for them. Other eye surgery procedures are available for those who are either not suitable for laser surgery or would benefit from an alternative solution as a result of their clinical evaluation. To be considered you must be over the age of 18.

Can I have laser eye surgery if I have astigmatism/high prescription?

Yes. Thanks to new technology more and more people are suitable for eye laser surgery. Even people who have previously been told their prescription is too high or their astigmatism can't be treated. In fact 9 out of 10 patients are now suitable for treatment. The only way to determine if you are suitable for corrective eye surgery is to attend a consultation. 

How long does it take to perform laser eye surgery?

Less than 10 minutes for both eyes. The procedure is very simple and to gently reshape the cornea to correct your vision typically takes less than one minute. Both eyes are treated on the same day.

Is laser eye surgery safe?

Almost 24 million people worldwide have had eye laser surgery. It is the most common elective surgery in the world. It is important to understand that any form of surgery has a degree of risk. It is our aim to fully inform you of the risks and benefits of eye surgery. During your consultation you will be shown a video that explains the benefits, risks and potential side effects of eye surgery. This informed consent video will allow you to make a well-informed decision on whether eye surgery is right for you. Less than 1% of patients will develop a complication and the majority of these are easily overcome through a personal aftercare plan. Most people are back at work within a few days. The majority of our patients are extremelyhappy with their results and wish they had done it sooner.

Does laser eye surgery hurt?

Anaesthetic eye drops are applied to your eye first and you will not feel pain. An eye holder is applied to keep your eye open and some people have described a mild discomfort as it is applied. Most people describe a mild discomfort and sensitivity to sunlight as the anaesthetic wears off. Typically this only lasts for a few hours and can be managed with over-the-counter medication. For LASEK patients this recovery process may take a week or two.

What if I blink, sneeze or move during surgery?

Nothing. Very sophisticated and ultra-fast eye tracking technology is used to follow the eye's movement precisely. Although your eye will move during surgery the laser will pause automatically at even the slightest of movement outside the parameters set by your surgeon. This ensures the laser always pulses in exactly the right place.

How quickly will I see the results of eye laser treatment?

Some patients will notice a significant improvement in their vision immediately. Most will notice a significant improvement within 24 hours of having surgery.

When can I go back to work?

We would normally recommend that you take the day following your surgery off work. Recovery time varies depending on a number of factors such as treatment type and your working environment. Most LASIKpatients return to work within 48 hours of having their surgery. LASEK patients may take around four days. You can return to work as soon as you feel comfortable with your vision. Most people are able to drive and return to work within 48 hours after laser treatment for eyes unless their work environment is very dusty or dirty.

How long does it last?

Laser vision correction is permanent. It is a permanent correction of your current prescription but your eyes can continue to change with age. Most people will not need glasses again to correct their distance vision. As part of the natural ageing process our eye sight changes from around the age of 45. Even people who have enjoyed good vision throughout their life will then require reading glasses. If your eyes do change then it may mean that glasses will be required in later life. It is possible to have further laser surgery.

Where is my nearest Optical Express clinic?

One of the advantages of choosing Optical Express is that we have the largest number of private clinics in the UK and Ireland. You can be sure to find a clinic close to your own home. Click on the link below to find your nearest clinic.

Eye Laser Surgery: the truth uncovered

"Although modern-day contact lenses are very safe, statistics show that you are more likely to develop long-term eye problems from wearing contact lenses than from having laser eye surgery," says David Moulsdale, chairman and chief executive of the Optical Express Group. This is partly due to long-term contact lens intolerance which can cause painful, dry, red and itchy eyes, but also the increased risk of developing a serious eye infection, especially when storing in tap water or wearing the lenses overnight, when compared with laser eye correction.

Today, advances in eye-diagnostic techniques and surgical technology means that laser treatment is a viable option for more people than ever. iDesign technology, for example - a clever device that monitors the way light passes through the eye's cornea (the transparent layer that covers the front of the eye) and lens - takes more than 1,200 measurements of the eye to give incredibly detailed information from which ophthalmic surgeons can create a unique and customised treatment tailored to the individual. Optical Express clinics are one of the few places in the UK that use this highly advanced piece of kit.

Despite advances, many people still have misconceptions about laser treatment. Here we look at some of the most common ones.

My optician says my eyes are not suitable?

Not necessarily. Optometrists (or opticians) are not ophthalmic surgeons. They are skilled in prescribing glasses and contact lenses, but may have limited knowledge of eye surgery. "We often find patients with astigmatism are told they can't have laser treatment," says Moulsdale. "In fact, it's usually only if the astigmatism is very extreme that they would not be suitable for surgery. Up to five diopters of astigmatism is routinely corrected by way of eye laser treatment today."

I've been recommended surgery but it's only because they want my money?

While he can't speak for other organisations, Moulsdale says he'd be surprised if this is true. "We always want to do the best thing by patients because that's how we get recommendations and grow as a company. If the right solution is contact lenses or spectacles, that's what we recommend."

Laser treatment can't correct near vision (or presbyopia)?

Not true, says Moulsdale. "Laser eye correction surgery can facilitate both functional distance and near vision for patients, through individually tailored treatment plans. After surgery these patients can read menus, newspapers and their mobile phone without the need for reading glasses they used before."

Laser treatment wears off after a few years?

This isn't physically possible. However, eyesight, whether or not laser surgery has been performed, can change for other - usually age-related - reasons, such as cataracts or macular degeneration.

Laser surgery, like some cosmetic procedures such as Botox, is not always done by qualified surgeons?

This baffles Moulsdale. "To the best of our knowledge, all laser surgery in the UK is done by qualified ophthalmologists otherwise known as ophthalmic surgeons, registered with the GMC (General Medical Council).”

It hurts?

An understandable assumption, but not true. The surgery - which takes less than 10 minutes for both eyes, including preparation - is done under a local anaesthetic of "numbing" eye drops. In some people, these can cause a few moments of mild discomfort when inserted. There may also be a little soreness or scratchy feeling for a short time when the anaesthetic wears off, which can be relieved with over-the-counter painkillers.

There's bound to be a risk?

Over 90 per cent of procedures use what's termed the LASIK or "protective flap" method. Using computer-guided, precision lasers, a small flap of the cornea is raised, the cornea's surface reshaped and the flap replaced. In the past, the method was mechanical with more room for inaccuracy. "The process today is much more accurate," says Moulsdale. "It is reassuring that with modern technology the likelihood of a serious complication is much less than 1 per cent, which makes it very rare."

Laser Surgery for Eyes Is Painful

The procedure itself is actually painless. A patient may only feel a little discomfort as the eye is kept open throughout the 1-2 minute procedure. A small number of patients complain of itchy and irritable eyes in the first few days following surgery. This doesn't affect everyone and for the majority is certainly not considered painful.

Laser treatment was first practised in Canada in the Eighties and the current form of laser surgery since the early Nineties. "Worldwide, more than 30 million people have been successfully treated," says Moulsdale. "Optical Express set up its first eye laser surgery clinics in 2002, and since then we've treated more than half a million patients in the UK and Ireland. Our latest survey* of some 336,000 patients found more than 99 per cent reported 20/20 vision or better."

Laser Surgery for Eyes Is Risky

Over 20 million people worldwide have undergone laser eye treatment. The biggest risk from eye laser treatment is infection, however the chances of infection from contact lenses is about 10 times higher. If you are in good health and have a stable prescription it is one of the safest elective surgeries available.

Laser Eye Surgery is Too Expensive

As technology and methods have improved, the costs involved for patients have come down considerably. It is worth considering the amount you spend on contact lenses and glasses, and that laser eye correction surgery will remove this continued expenditure. Clinics such as Optical Express offer financing options, including 0% interest on payments.

The Treatment Isn't Permanent

The effectiveness does not wear off, contrary to what some people believe. In the vast majority the results are permanent and are intended to be permanent. If you have a very high prescription follow-up treatment may be required. This is due to eyesight levels changing naturally over time which would happen if you did or did not have the surgery.

I Am Too Old For Laser Eye Surgery

There is no upper age limit for undergoing laser vision correction. Many patients who are over the age of 45 feel they are just too old to have the procedure. In fact the contrary is true; around 98% of people over 45 are suitable for laser surgery. If eye laser treatment is not suitable for you it is worth remembering that alternative treatments are available to provide freedom from glasses and contact lenses.

It Could Burn Me If I Move

Laser eye technology is extremely advanced. The last thing that the equipment is designed to do is to burn the eye or cause needless discomfort. The laser itself is a cool beam laser, meaning that contact with the skin does not burn or scald. Furthermore, the laser is fitted with an eye tracker that detects movement and will pause treatment until stability returns.

The Results Are Not Instant

Many believe it takes days/weeks for the results to fully take effect. This could not be more wrong, in fact results are evident within seconds of having the surgery. For some, it may take a bit longer, however the vast majority will instantly notice the difference and be able to get on with their lives.

There Is No Aftercare / Follow-up Appointments

Aftercare is an important part of the entire treatment, and should be treated with importance. Leading clinics will offer an extensive and free aftercare programme. Patients who undergo the surgery should have a follow-up consultation at least three times in the one year following laser eye correction surgery.

The Recovery Time Is Long

When people think of recovering from laser eye correction surgery - the vision of someone walking around with bandages over their eyes comes to mind. The truth is that laser technology has increased so much over the last 20 years that results are instant. Normally no more than a day or two days are required off from work, and driving is - in the majority of cases - possible after 24 hours.

20 / 20 Vision Is Impossible To Achieve

The myth that accomplishing 20/20 vision is impossible is a notion that no longer exists, it is achievable and is within reach for more people than ever before - thanks to the medical advances in technology. 20/20 vision is, in fact, normal for a lot of people. The majority of patients can achieve better than 20/20.

Different Treatments Mean Different Service Levels

Despite common assumptions, there are no differing levels of service for treatment. Both LASIK and LASEK eye procedures use the same laser procedure and result in the same outcome - crystal clear vision. Your prescription level is the only determining factor behind which treatment you receive. Your clinical provider should explain the best options available to you at your eye consultation.

Laser Eye Surgery Could Make Me Blind

With over 20 million people worldwide having undergone successful laser vision correction surgery the myth that you could lose your sight from the treatment is unsubstantiated. Diagnosis and treatment is taken very seriously in the laser eye industry. With experienced and professional surgeons, and advanced technology, becoming blind from laser surgery for eyes is an extremely improbable consequence.

Laser eye correction surgery is the most frequently performed elective procedure in the world, where a cool beam of light from an excimer laser gently reshapes the outer window of your eye, known as the cornea. This procedure improves unaided vision and could give you freedom from glasses and contact lenses. Laser eye correction surgery has enhanced the lives of millions of people as over 24 million procedures have been carried out worldwide [Marketscope 2014].

Our Treatments

There are two types of laser eye surgery - LASIK eye surgery and LASEK eye surgery, which are both highly effective to correct low, moderate and high prescriptions. Both treatments can be enhanced with Wavefront - advanced and customised technology that maps and assesses the distinct characteristic of your eyes more precisely than standard treatment.
  •  Q: What is Lasik eye surgery? A: LASIK (Laser-Assisted-In-Situ-Keratomileusis) eye surgery comprises two computer-guided, cool lasers. The first creates a protective layer to allow your surgeon access to the inner layers of the cornea, the second to correct your vision.
  • Q: What is Lasek eye surgery? A: LASEK (Laser-Assisted-Epithelial-Keratomileusis) is similar, however only one laser is used to correct your vision without the need for a protective flap.

Optical Express offers iLASIK and LASEK treatment with Wavefront treatment powered by iDesign, the industry's most advanced, high-definition measurement device for wavefront treatment. This technology is available exclusively in the UK at Optical Express and Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Laser Eye Surgery at Optical Express

Duration of surgery: 10-12 mins
Risk of complication: 0.60%
99.1% Achieve 20/20*

As the technology behind laser eye treatment has evolved, patient safety and final outcomes have improved to a point where experts now consider it safe and effective. Although this can vary between providers and individual surgeons, the complication rate for laser surgery is less than 1.0%. Most complications can be successfully treated or will naturally resolve within the early post-operative time period.

Laser Eye Surgery Success Rate

We are proud of our 99.1%, 20/20 success rate* but as with any medical procedure there are risks which should be considered and outcomes cannot be guaranteed.

Laser Eye Surgery Risks

Many of the questions that are posed to our surgeons and optometrists are related to the risks and possible complications of laser vision correction surgery. And rightly so - our eyes are precious and we want you to understand the procedure fully so you can make an informed decision whether to proceed. While we routinely see it enhancing and improving the lives of the people we treat, we often hear from patients who are afraid or have reservations because they have seen sensational news articles. Let's dispel some of the common misunderstanding about the treatment and give you important information to allow you to make your own decision. A good starting point is to book a no-cost appointment with one of our expert laser consultants where you will have the opportunity ask questions and discuss your options. You can book a FREE consultation here.

What are the potential risks of Laser Eye Surgery?

Dry Eye - dry eyes are a relatively common condition in the population, especially older individuals, regardless of undergoing laser vision correction. Your optometrist will assess the dryness of your eyes and determine if you meet our standards, which not all patients do, in order to proceed with surgery. Despite meeting the standards, a feeling of dry eye can occur after the procedure and is the most common side effect. If it were to occur, the dryness is usually short lived and resolves within the first several months after surgery. It is managed with eye drops or artificial tears/gels which are provided at no cost to you during the first twelve months post operatively. However, in rare cases the dryness may persist and require long-term treatment.

Visual disturbances - Some people may notice visual symptoms after surgery, such as glare, rings around lights and hazy vision. These are usually mild and resolve soon after surgery. However, it is possible that they might not go away completely or be so noticeable as to impair daily activities. A signature advantage of our iDesign Advanced CustomVue technology is that it provides a significant improvement over standard treatment in the quality of night-time vision.

Loss of vision - It is important to appreciate that no one has ever gone blind from laser vision correction in the UK. But in very rare instances, patients may lose some lines of best corrected vision. This means if a person were able to read the 20/20 line with their glasses before the procedure, they may not be able to read the 20/20 line with glasses or contacts after the procedure. This loss of best corrected vision can be due to scarring or irregularities on the surface of the eye. There is also the remote possibility of infection or other rare occurrences that could cause loss of vision or even the need for a corneal transplant. However to provide some perspective, many people now believe that the risks of laser eye treatment are less than wearing contact lenses. To help minimize these very rare risks, it is important to attend follow-up appointments to monitor progress and take all medicines as directed.

You can find more information about how Optical Express stringently follow RCO industry guidelines in the RCO Standards vs Optical Express Standards Document (PDF, 364kb).
You can also read more about laser surgery in the NICE guidance, Photorefractive (laser) surgery for the correction of refractive errors.

*20/20 - Over 99% of patients achieved 20/20 vision or better
Based on a study of 336,381 Optical Express patients with the most common prescription ranges we treat, September 2014.


Laser eye surgery treatments available at Optical Express

iLASIK treatment

LASIK eye surgery treatment is the most commonly used method of eye laser treatment. Optical Express performs iLASIK, a revolutionary all-laser surgery that allows your surgeon to further customise your treatment.

LASIK has been performed for over 20 years and it is now more advanced than ever with the introduction of Femtosecond.  iLASIK comprises two computer-guided, ultra-fast, precision lasers that release cool laser beams. The first creates a thin protective flap and the second gently reshapes the cornea of your eye to correct your vision. iLASIK is performed under local anaesthetic (eye drops). The treatment itself takes less than 60 seconds per eye and patients experience little discomfort during or after the procedure. Both eyes can be treated on the same day. Your eyes are then free to recover naturally.  The combination of iDesign and iLASIK is incredibly precise and delivers amazing results. We are so confident in it, that if you are suitable and go for this option we will guarantee that you will get 20/20 vision or better... or we will give you your money back1.

STEP 1 iLASIK preparation
Anaesthetic drops are applied to numb the eye.

STEP 2 iLASIK protective flap
A thin flap is created using a laser and gently lifted by your surgeon to reveal the inner corneal tissue.

STEP 3 iLASIK vision correction
A second laser is then applied for a matter of seconds sending tiny computer controlled pulses of cool laser beams to gently reshape the inner layer of the cornea to correct your vision.

STEP 4 iLASIK completion
Your surgeon will gently fold back the protective flap securely to its original position where it heals naturally over the following few days. The healing process begins immediately and most patients will see immediate results.

LASEK treatment

An alternative treatment to iLASIK comprising only one laser to correct your vision. A temporary protective lens is applied for additional comfort as your eyes heal. LASEK treatment has been performed on millions of patients over the last twenty years. 

Performed under local anaesthetic (eye drops), LASEK comprises a single cool beam laser that is applied to the surface of the eye to correct your eye prescription. A protective soft contact lens is then placed on to the eye to remain for approximately four days following treatment to support eye comfort and promote healing. Both eyes can be treated on the same day and while many patients can see immediate differences in their vision, it may take a number of days for your vision to settle, followed by a period of refinement lasting several weeks. Long term visual outcomes are excellent.

STEP 1 LASEK preparation
Anaesthetic drops are applied to the eye to numb the eye and a lid holder is put in place to prevent the eye's natural blink reflex.

STEP 2 LASEK surface adjustment
The surface cells on the outer layer of the cornea are gently moved by the surgeon.

STEP 3 LASEK vision correction
A cool beam laser applies controlled pulses to reshape the cornea, thus correcting your vision.

STEP 4 LASEK completion
The surgeon gently places a protective 'bandage' contact lens on to the eye that will provide comfort during the healing process.

STEP 5 LASEK recovery
The protective 'bandage' contact lens is normally removed after approximately four days.

iDesign iLASIK

You can have your iLASIK or LASEK procedure enhanced with iDesign, state-of-the-art diagnostic technology that allows your treatment to be totally personalised to you. 

Much like a finger print, no two eyes are the same. Your own eyes are unique with each eye having its own unique characteristics. If you are eligible, you may choose to enhance your laser treatment for eyes treatment in combination with our revolutionary iDesign technology. This state-of-the-art diagnostic technology picks up even the minutest of imperfections of your eye. An iDesign scan captures over 1,200 unique measurements of your eye prescription in a fast and effective manner. That's twenty-five times more accurate than that of a standard glasses or contact lens prescription. This precision allows for totally customised treatment, tailored to the exact specification of your eyes. Thanks to iDesign, thousands of people who were previously unsuitable for laser vision correction are now suitable, enjoying life free from their glasses and contact lenses. 

Optical Express is the only national provider of iDesign technology.