Can I go blind from a laser eye treatment?

Laser eye treatment (aka laser vision correction) is a type of refractive procedure performed to correct refractive errors which are short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism. The main aim of a laser eye treatment is to permanently change the shape of the cornea to correct refractive errors, thus reducing reliance on spectacles and contact lenses to see well. LASIK is the most known type of laser eye treatment. However, there are 3 main types of laser eye treatment available.

  • Type 1: ReLEx® SMILE 
  • Type 2: LASIK 
  • Type 3: Advanced Surface Ablation (PRK, Epi-LASIK, LASEK, TransPRK) 
ReLEx® SMILE
LASIK
Advanced Surface Ablation (PRK, Epi-LASIK, LASEK, TransPRK)

The differences between the 3 types of laser eye treatment are the surgical techniques adopted, the rate of recovery and the level of discomfort after procedure.

You will be lying down and awake throughout the procedure. The eye surgeon will use an eyelid holder to keep your eyes open. Numbing eyedrops will be instilled on your eyes to minimise any discomfort. During the surgery, you will experience coldness, touches and pressure around the eye area.

Below summarises the surgical process of each laser eye treatment:

Type 1:
ReLEx SMILE

  • A femtosecond laser creates a disc-shaped piece of corneal tissue (lenticule) just beneath the surface of the cornea. 
  • The same laser then creates a small incision of 4mm in the cornea, from which the lenticule is removed, resulting in a reshaped cornea that corrects the vision. 

Type 2:
LASIK

  • A femtosecond laser creates a 22mm flap which can be folded back temporarily. 
  • An excimer laser guided by Wavefront technology (maps your eye in 3 dimensions giving a reading for the laser to customise the treatment) sculpts the corneal tissue over a few seconds to correct the refractive errors. 
  • The corneal flap is repositioned and will stay in place until it is fully healed. 

Type 3:
Advanced surface ablation

  • Epithelium on corneal surface is removed. 
  • An excimer laser guided by Wavefront technology (maps your eye in 3 dimensions giving a reading for the laser to customise the treatment) sculpts the corneal tissue over a few seconds to correct the refractive errors. 
  • A protective contact lens is placed over the eye until the epithelium grows back within a few days. 

Immediately after the laser eye surgery, your vision will be blurry, and you may experience slight discomfort and a foreign body sensation. These symptoms will wear off gradually after the surgery. Therefore, it is important to comply with post-operation medication and to get as much rest as possible after the laser eye treatment.

With every surgery, there are potential risks and complications. A laser eye treatment is considered as a low-risk procedure. The biggest concern is the fear of blindness. Laser eye surgery itself does not cause blindness. It is an infection which could be contracted after the surgery that may cause impairment to vision if not treated timely. While there are vision threatening complications from laser eye treatments, the risk of vision loss is very rare. Most complications are non-vision threatening, minor and can be managed.

Common complications for laser eye treatment include:

  • Dry eye: This can be alleviated with lubricating eyedrops
  • Haloes and glare: Most cases are transient and will resolve gradually as time goes by (usually the first 3 months)
  • Over- or under-correction: Results can be fine-tuned through an enhancement surgery in most cases
  • Fluctuation of vision: Vision usually takes about 3 months to stabilise.
  • Flap-related complication: This occurs only in LASIK when the flap may be displaced if the eyes are rubbed rigorously or sports are engaged too soon after the surgery.

Not everyone is suitable for laser eye treatments. To ascertain your suitability, you need to go through a pre-laser evaluation. This evaluation consists of a series of eye tests including checking the eye prescription, corneal shape and thickness, eye pressure and examining the health of the eyes. This allows the eye surgeon to better understand the eye condition and recommend the preferred type of laser eye treatment.

There can be a lot of misinformation on the internet. If you are considering a laser eye treatment, take your time to research and read up, and list down the questions and concerns you may have during your consultation with the eye surgeon.

It is also vital for you to be informed of the benefits, possible risks and complications which come with the procedure. If you are deemed unsuitable, the results of the procedure may be less effective and there will be a higher chance of post-operation complications. Therefore, it is important to choose an experienced eye surgeon from a reputable eye centre to give the eyes the best possible surgical outcome and care.

At Atlas Eye Specialist Centre, we offer you a pre-laser evaluation to ascertain your suitability for the procedure. For more information on laser eye treatment, please contact us at +65 6737 9119 or atlaseye@atlaseye.sg.

ReLex Surgery