Tired of wearing glasses? Contact lenses too much of an inconvenience?
Laser eye surgery is a life-changing operation.
It can provide perfect 20-20 vision using state-of-the-art laser technology that is cheaper and more reliable than ever before.
London has some of the best laser eye clinics in the world, with surgeons at the top of the industry, backed by decades of experience.
Where eyes and lasers are concerned, you definitely shouldn’t skimp on quality.
We’ve compiled a guide of everything you need to know about LASIK and laser eye surgery — before, during and after — as well as a list of the best London laser eye clinics.
- 1 A Guide to Laser Eye Surgery in London
- 2 Laser Eye Surgery: How It Works
- 3 Will Laser Eye Surgery Correct My Vision Permanently?
- 4 What Happens at a Laser Eye Consultation?
- 5 What Happens Before, During and After Surgery?
- 6 What Are The Side Effects and Risks?
- 7 The Best Laser Eye Clinics in London
A Guide to Laser Eye Surgery in London
Jump to the information you’re looking for below, or read on for our complete guide to laser eye treatment in London.
Laser Eye Surgery: How It Works
Any laser eye treatment designed to improve vision involves the same process: an extremely precise laser reshaping the cornea.
This alters the way light enters the eye, which helps to ensure clear and sharp vision.
A couple of decades ago, PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) became the first technology to use lasers rather than a blade to remove corneal tissue. However, instead of creating a flap, PRK resulted in the laser being applied directly to the surface of the cornea. This was a breakthrough from the previous blade technology, but it still led to long recovery times and considerable discomfort.
In 1996, LASIK emerged as a combination of flap technology and using an excimer laser to reshape the cornea.
LASIK went mainstream very quickly for three good reasons, all associated to it being less-invasive:
- Faster recovery times
- Fewer complications
- Crucially — less discomfort for the patient.
LASIK has become the default laser eye surgery for patients seeking perfect vision and a quick recovery.
Alternatively there is LASEK, a combination of LASIK and PRK, that is used to treat astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness. LASEK has similar results to LASIK, but longer recovery times.
LASIK vs. LASEK
Very few London eye clinics still perform LASEK.
LASIK is the default treatment for the majority of laser eye surgery candidates.
What is Wavefront technology?
You may have heard about ‘Wavefront technology’.
What is it?
It’s probably the reason why you are reading this article today.
When it arrived in 2003, Wavefront technology (also known as Customized Wavefront LASIK) marked the arrival of next-generation laser eye treatments. It was at this point that surgeons raised their ambition from ‘matching the vision achieved with glasses and contact lenses’ to surpassing it with perfect vision.
The results of Wavefront technology have been outstanding.
More and more patients are walking away from surgery with perfect vision, better than they could ever have imagined, as the procedure becomes ever more reliable with every passing year.
Why is wavefront technology so successful?
Like many medical advances, it boils down to personalisation.
Wavefront technology maps digitally generated measurements of your eyes to create an individualized treatment plan far superior to conventional LASIK surgery. It takes the guesswork away from the procedure (not that there was much of that anyway, mind you!).
Customized Wavefront LASIK is more expensive than the regular LASIK treatment.
But we’ll say it again: don’t skimp on quality if you’re having laser eye surgery.
The results are, as illustrated time and time again, life-changing.
Will Laser Eye Surgery Correct My Vision Permanently?
Yes, technically speaking.
Studies have shown that once the shape of your cornea is adjusted, the change is permanent.
However, your eyesight will still change over time as a part of the ageing process.
There is a misconception that even after successful laser eye surgery, your eyesight will eventually ‘fade’ back to it’s previous norm, resulting in poor vision in old age.
This is simply not true.
What Happens at a Laser Eye Consultation?
When you attend a laser eye consultation, your doctor will evaluate your eyes with a noninvasive exam that involves several tests. The doctor will test your existing prescription, take exact eye measurements, test eye pressure, and check for your suitability to undergo laser treatment.
As part of this consultation, you will get to ask any questions you have and discuss the risks.
Some of the tests will require artificial dilation of the pupils (unless they are already dilated). This is achieved through a simple eye drop.
Dilated pupils can result in short-term blurriness and sensitivity to light, so try not to arrange anything too strenuous for the hours immediately following the consultation. The consultation takes around an hour. By the end of it, your doctor will confirm if you are a suitable candidate for surgery.
You will then be asked to choose a date for surgery, and/or confirm the total payment based on what exact treatment is required.
What Happens Before, During and After Surgery?
Got a date booked in for your LASIK surgery?
Here’s what to expect before, during and after the operation.
What happens before laser eye surgery
You will be asked to arrive at least an hour before your scheduled surgery time.
You’ll have a final meeting with the doctor to discuss last minute questions and concerns. He/she will perform another nonintrusive examination of the eyes.
If you have arranged to take a calming medication (e.g. valium) — a good idea for nervous patients — then you will be given it now, along with a cup of water.
This is followed by a short wait for the medication to kick in, at which point you will be taken to the operating area of the clinic/hospital.
What happens during laser eye surgery
The best way to answer this is simply to say:
Nothing that you need to worry about.
When you arrive, you will change in to hospital-style pyjamas and lay on a bed while the nurses prepare you for the surgery.
Once you’re wheeled in to the operating room, your doctor will run you through the process of how the laser surgery works.
You will be given local anaesthetic eye drops to numb the eyes completely, at which point you’ll feel the sensation of the doctor opening them and drawing markings on them — despite not being able to feel anything more than a light tickle.
Each eye is treated by the laser separately.
The machine will be pulled over your face and you will be asked to stare at a solitary red dot, which will drift in and out of focus as the machine goes to work.
You may experience a ‘burst of stars’ sensation in whichever eye is being treated, along with the subtle smell of burning where the laser is reshaping your cornea: zapping cells away.
It takes a few minutes to treat each eye, one after the other, after which you will have protective eye masks taped to your face before being wheeled away to recover.
A short while later you will be re-introduced to whoever has come to take you home.
And if you’ve taken the Valium, trust us, you’ll be grateful you arranged for their assistance!
Head home and get some rest.
What happens after laser eye surgery
If your doctor has given you calming medication, like Valium, you will be drowsy and — with eye masks on — in no fit state to head home by yourself.
Your doctor will insist that somebody meet you at the clinic to get you home. You will not be able to drive, and public transport is generally not recommended coming home from eye surgery at a London clinic.
Will I see perfectly straight away?
You will see a noticeable difference in your vision, but it won’t be perfect just yet.
In either case, you’re probably not going to want to have your eyes open.
The best advice is to go home, go to bed, sleep off the initial scratchiness and you’ll wake up feeling much better.
Note: When you do wake up the day after treatment, your eyes will feel sticky, as if they’re bound shut like conjunctivitis. Trust us, just give it an hour. This stickiness passes quickly and shouldn’t be an issue on the second morning.
24 hours after surgery you will return to your eye doctor for an examination and a quick eye test. The inconvenience of this will be offset by the wonder and awe of being able to see clearly, even if it is from behind a pair of sunglasses!
(Which you should wear at all times for the first couple of days.)
Most clinics will schedule an additional checkup 7 days after the initial treatment, and further examinations if required.
The main points to remember after surgery are:
- Take your eye drops, as prescribed, at the correct intervals.
- Wear the eye protector masks in bed for the first three weeks after surgery.
- Wear sunglasses outside for the first month (and in sunny weather at all times for the first six months to avoid scarring).
- Avoid getting water in the eyes during the first few days of recovery (e.g. in the shower).
- No swimming for six weeks.
The healing process sounds worse than it actually is for most patients.
Many patients report that the initial discomfort has disappeared after 24 hours, and that besides the bruising around the eye, they couldn’t tell they’d undergone surgery after 48 hours. Except for the perfect vision.
Be sensible, though!
Treat your eyes with great care, especially during that initial recovery period where the cornea tissue is still healing.
Eye drops are good for any dryness you encounter, which is fairly common in the weeks and months following surgery.
London’s eye clinics offer some of the most comprehensive aftercare for laser eye surgery anywhere in the world. You will be in safe hands as long as you choose a reputable clinic.
What Are The Side Effects and Risks?
Possible side effects of laser eye treatment include:
- Glare / light sensitivity
- Seeing halos around images
- Difficulty driving at night
- Periods of fluctuation in vision
- Dry eyes
See your doctor if you still suffer from any of these effects 6 months after the operation.
One common side effect in the initial days after surgery is blurry close vision (if you had an operation to correct short-sightedness). You may find that you can see off in to the distance perfectly, but the newspaper in front of you is blurry.
This is because you are using eye muscles that have essentially been redesigned.
The close-up blurriness should improve within 2 weeks, but you may wish to purchase a cheap pair of reading glasses for those first few days while your eyes recover and build strength.
The Best Laser Eye Clinics in London
As treatments like LASIK have become more accessible and affordable, a number of ‘budget’ clinics have emerged offering cheaper laser eye surgery.
We advise extreme caution in choosing where you get this procedure done.
To help, we have provided a list of the most reputable and trusted laser eye clinics in London. If you feel that we have missed a clinic that belongs here, please do get in touch.
Best Places to Get Laser Eye Surgery in London:
- AccuVision Eye Clinic — 15 years experience in refractive laser eye surgery
42-48 New King’s Rd, London, SW6 4LS
- Focus Clinic — LASIK eye surgery specialists
22 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 8QG
- London Eye Hospital — Eye surgery; world leader in ophthalmology
London Eye Hospital, 4 Harley Street, London, W1G 9PB, UK
- Optimax — LASIK and LASEK specialists
Clinics in Finchley Road, Harley Street and Liverpool Street.
- The London Vision Clinic — LASIK specialists; pioneer of the minimally-invasive ReLEx SMILE treatment
138 Harley Street, London, W1G 7LA
For a complete guide of the best laser clinics in the capital, check our Clinics Directory page.
Have you had laser eye surgery performed in London?
How did it go? Is there a clinic you recommend?
We’d love to hear from you.