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Laser eye treatment                                           August 2010  


Laser eye treatmentOur thanks go to Tim Harwood, an experienced optometrist who has been practicing in the UK for over seven years.

Tim said many of his patients had commented that they found information on laser eye surgery confusing and over complicated. So Tim has set up his own website ( to provide easy to understand information on all aspects of laser eye surgery .

He also has kindly prepared the following information for us to help anyone over 50 who might be considering laser eye surgery.

Laser eye surgery and the over 50’s
By Tim Harwood.

Laser eye surgery is one of the most common elective surgeries in UK with approximately 100,000 people each year choosing to undertake this life changing procedure. If you are one of the millions of people in the United Kingdom who have to wear glasses or contact lenses, then laser eye surgery is almost certainly something you will have thought about.

The two main types of laser eye surgery are Lasik and Lasek (similar to PRK) and these two account for around 99% of all procedures. Lasik is by far the most common treatment, accounting for about seven times more procedures than Lasek eye surgery. If you are considering having laser eye surgery then you will almost certainly be confronted with the decision as to whether to have Lasik or Lasek.

The main difference between the two procedures is related to the way in which the surgeon accesses the inner layers of your cornea, which are to be lasered during the procedure. The laser is used to reshape the cornea which acts to eliminate the prescription that you currently have for your glasses or contact lenses, hence giving you perfect vision. The following describes the difference in the two procedures:

  • During Lasik a ‘flap’ is created which is effectively an extremely thin layer of cornea. You can think of the flap as being like the lid of a jar which is removed and then put back in the same place straight after.
  • During Lasek there is no flap created. The top layer of your cornea is loosened using an alcohol solution and then gently moved to the side.

The reason Lasik is more popular is mainly due the fact that the recovery period is both quicker and more comfortable when compared with Lasek. Following Lasik, most people report only mild discomfort and they can normally drive and return to work with 24-48 hours of having the surgery.

The discomfort following Lasek is generally more pronounced and many people need up to 1 week off work following the procedure. There are certain instances when your surgeon will insist that you have Lasek instead of Lasik. Examples of this are if you are involved in contact sports or if you have a thin cornea.

Laser eye surgery has no real upper age limit and thousands of people over the age of 50 years old have successfully had the treatment. There are however a few things to consider when it comes to laser eye surgery if you are over the age of 50 and they are as follows:

  • As you get older you are more likely to develop cataract which can affect both your vision and your prescription. It is extremely important that you do not have cataract if you are having laser eye surgery as you could successfully have the treatment but end up a few years down the line finding your vision is deteriorating due to the cataract. This has nothing to do with the laser eye surgery not being permanent but is because something else is causing your vision to be blurred.
  • You may still need to use your reading glasses following laser eye surgery. If you are over 50 then there is a good chance you may be using either varifocals or bifocals which simultaneously correct both your distance and reading vision. Laser eye surgery normally corrects just your distance vision meaning you will be able to drive and walk around etc without glasses but you may need them for reading. There are some methods such as monovision which can mean laser eye surgery can correct both your distance and near vision but this should be discussed with your surgeon or optometrist.


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