What are the short- and long-term laser eye surgery effects?

Learn more about vision correction


With any surgical procedure, including laser eye surgery, it’s important to address a number of principal issues and questions up front.

Is it the right option for you personally? What exactly will the procedure involve? And – most importantly for many people – what can you expect the outcomes to be? What are the laser eye surgery effects both short- and long-term?

The latter question is usually among the first one people ask when weighing up a decision about whether or not to have laser eye surgery. That’s completely understandable: it’s a significant step to take, both financially in the short-term, and in its potential impact on your personal lifestyle. Naturally, you want to be assured of the outcomes.

But can you be? And if so, to what extent?

Firstly, let’s acknowledge a few key facts:

  • Laser vision correction is among the most common surgical procedures performed worldwide
    – Since it became commercially available in the late-1980s, more than 35 million people have opted for the procedure!
    – Statistically, it’s also one of the safest medical surgeries you can undergo
  • The vision correction people gain from laser eye surgery isn’t temporary, as is often (wrongly!) assume
    – As a living organ, the human eye does of course continue to change with age
    – However, the structural improvements made to the shape and function of the cornea during surgeries are lasting, even in the context of ongoing age-related vision impairment
  • The likelihood of experiencing worse vision after laser eye surgery than before it is incredibly small
    – If you don’t already have corrected vision – i.e. you don’t currently wear glasses – there is very little chance at all that your vision could be worsened by surgery
    – If you do already have corrected vision, the chances that your best spectacle-corrected visual acuity (BSCVA) being reduced by surgery is extremely slim; somewhere in the region of 1:1000 (0.1%)
  • Laser eye surgery has proven highly effective at improving a wide array of vision issues, including astigmatism, presbyopia, short-sightedness and long-sightedness
  • Laser vision correction typically involves minimal discomfort, and offers very speedy recovery times compared to many other types of surgery
    – For the vast majority of patients, the procedure itself isn’t painful at all – the outer window of the eye is anaesthetised with eye drops prior to starting
    – It’s commonly described as a slightly ‘unusual’ sensation, with many people reporting a feeling of gentle pressure on the eye during surgery that is mildly uncomfortable at worst
    – It’s extremely common for patients to experience little or no inconvenience or discomfort within a day or two
  • In the long-term – over a period of anywhere between 10 and 30 years – laser eye surgery is a far more cost-effective vision-correcting measure than either glasses or contact lenses

The likelihood of experiencing worse vision after laser eye surgery than before it is incredibly small

Who should have laser eye surgery?

Today, laser eye surgery is a widely available and extremely popular method of vision correction for millions of people around the world.

Various groups have been instrumental in helping the procedure achieve such a positive reputation. Notably, the backing it received from the US military was a big step in helping to instil greater public confidence in the procedure:

  • During the early 2000s, it quickly rose to become the preferred Department of Defense method for improving the vision of around a quarter of a million soldiers and other key military personnel
  • US Navy and Marine Corps pilots who underwent the procedure further helped to underline this confidence, with test cases in one widely-reported 2008 field study delivering a 100% success rate for 20/20 post-op vision

Many more such studies have been conducted in the years since, and the numbers make for increasingly happy reading: one prominent sample group of over 100,000 individuals who opted for laser eye surgery reported just a single case of complications leading to early disability retirement

Perhaps most persuasively of all, a UK initiative was launched in 2013 enabling optometrists to undergo the procedure for free, for the purposes of developing their own first-hand understanding of the entire experience from a patient perspective. More than 800 qualified professionals took up the offer, and 99% subsequently said they would recommend it without hesitation to friends, family members and patients alike

Even so, laser eye surgery isn’t for absolutely everyone – indeed, one of the most crucial factors in achieving such fantastic success rates is the identification of suitable candidates.

Military laser eye surgery

The procedure itself: safety and likely effects

Now, let’s take some of the information outlined above, and examine it in a little more detail according to most people’s three most important criteria when considering laser eye surgery: safety, short-term effects, and long-term effects.

1)      Safety

As noted above, one of the main factors in achieving high success rates is appropriate patient selection. An expert surgeon who chooses suitable candidates to work on will inevitably see much lower complication rates even than the (already very low) statistical averages.

A great many people are perfectly well suited to undergo the procedure, but there are a few specific conditions and scenarios that can make it a less appropriate choice for certain individuals (see below).

Eligibility issues are more likely to arise in:

  • Patients with specific issues concerning the physical structure of the eye, such as thin or irregularly-shaped corneas
  • Patients with a very significant existing refractive error, or an unstable prescription
    – It’s important that laser surgery is performed when a patient’s vision is stable, even if it’s significantly compromised
  • Patients diagnosed with various medical or physiological conditions, including (but not limited to):
    – Diabetes
    – Immune system disorders
    – Pregnancy
    – Rheumatic conditions
    – Certain degenerative illnesses
  • Anyone under 18 – you’re ineligible for the procedure until this age

pregnancy eligibility for laser eye surgery

In any good practice, all potential candidates must be guided through a rigorous suitability consultation. GPs play a key initial role in helping identify suitable patients for laser eye surgery, while preoperative examinations from eye surgeons focus more specifically on any potential issues regarding the physical structure and condition of the patient’s eyes themselves.

In terms of laser eye surgery gaining official approval as an inherently safe and effective procedure, one of the strongest advocating reports to date came from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence:

  • Its 2006 paper, the Guidance Document on LASIK, identified ‘no serious concerns’ regarding the long-term safety of the procedure in cases where appropriate surgical techniques, modern equipment and suitable aftercare were all in place
  • Laser eye surgery has been widely available to the public for more than two decades now, meaning that medical bodies and industry watchdogs have begun to amass significant quantities of data on longer-term effects of the procedure
  • When large data samples are viewed in that context, the consensus remains very much that undesirable long-term effects are rare occurrences, and that a majority of those few complications tend to be treatable with subsequent procedures

There are also a number of precautions that patients can take following the procedure, to help speed up recuperation and reduce inconvenience or discomfort.

These include:

  • Arranging for someone else to take you home if possible
  • Booking an appropriate amount of recovery time off work (typically 3-4 days is ideal)
  • Wearing sunglasses temporarily, to help protect the cornea from heightened sensitivity to bright light
  • Avoiding rubbing or touching the eye area
  • Wearing eye shields at night to prevent inadvertent rubbing
  • Lubricating the eyes with antibiotic drops
  • Avoiding strenuous physical activity for 2-3 weeks
  • Avoiding submerging the eyes in water – particularly public baths, hot tubs or open waterways – for up to 8 weeks, to minimise the risk of secondary infection

precautions to take after laser eye surgery

2)      Short-term effects

There are various short-term effects that certain individuals might experience as the eyes heal following a surgical procedure.

The majority of these are fleeting, and may only last a day or two, while others can take slightly longer to calm down.

Some of the most commonly reported short-term effects include:

  • Foggy or blurred vision
  • Heightened photosensitivity (discomfort caused by bright light, particularly sunlight)
  • Sensations of dryness, redness, grittiness, itching or irritability
    – These can occur even when the eyes otherwise appear to be excessively watery, which is also fairly common in the hours after surgery
    – Alterations to the shape of the cornea can mean that tears don’t flow directly across the affected area during the early part of the healing process
    – This is easily corrected in nearly all cases with regular applications of lubricating eye drops until the ‘dry eye syndrome’ clears up on its own
  • Temporary increases in visual artefacts and disturbances – speckles, ‘floaters’, ghosting etc
    – These can occasionally be longer-lasting, taking anywhere from 2-6 months to fully clear

short-term effects of laser eye surgery

The halo effect is another relatively common phenomenon reported by a small minority of patients following laser eye surgery:

  • This most often manifests as a tendency for bright light sources to appear ringed with ‘halos’ of colour, ‘starbursts’, or secondary, blurrier lighting effects – see below for an example
  • They can be particularly noticeable in low ambient light conditions – when viewing car headlamps or street lighting in the evening, for example
  • Some patients find it helpful to avoid night-time driving for a period after surgery
  • Rather than being a true side effect per se, haloing is a sign that the healing process is underway, as it stems from slight swelling caused by an accumulation of fluids in the area of the cornea that has been operated on

laser eye surgery the halo effect

Many of the symptoms, side effects and healing processes involved in normal recovery from laser eye surgery will pass in around 2-4 days on average, while a few can take slightly longer on occasion.

You’ll have a follow-up appointment with your Surgeon / Optometrist in the first couple of days following the procedure, which is a great opportunity to ask questions and clear up any concerns you might have. After this, you’ll be expected to schedule regular check-ups for around 6 months or so, to help monitor the full healing process to completion.

3)      Long-term effects

As noted above, long-term negative effects occurring as a result of laser eye surgery are extremely uncommon.

In 95% of cases, the one commonly observed lasting effect is a marked improvement in vision clarity, and a much slower rate of age-related eyesight degeneration than would otherwise be expected for most conditions and prescriptions.

During follow-up appointments with your doctor, you should always feel free to ask any questions and raise any lingering concerns you might have about the recovery process and its projected timeline in your specific case.

long-term effects of laser eye surgery

For a very small number of patients, of course, there is a slim chance of laser eye surgery leading to complications or undesirable outcomes – but it’s important to remember that most of these can be treated effectively at a later date.

Some examples of unusual longer-term side-effects may include:

  • Corneal flap complications
    – During LASIK laser eye surgery, a small, very thin flap is created in the front of the cornea to allow access for the reshaping laser
    -In rare cases, this flap doesn’t quite align flush with the surface of the cornea when it’s replaced at the end of the short procedure
    – Over time, as the healing process continues, this can create a microscopic ‘wrinkle’ that subsequently interferes with vision clarity to varying degrees
    – The American Journal of Ophthalmology estimates this to occur after 0.3-0.57% of procedures and notes that all occurrences within its 2006 study group were later successfully corrected
  • Corneal bulging (Ectasia)
    This is an even less common complication, having been observed at a rate of less than 1 in every 5000 laser eye surgeries
    – It can cause impaired vision, arising from insufficient corneal thickness –
    – This complication is increasingly uncommon because ever-more stringent patient screening tends to eliminate most candidates who might be at risk
    – Acknowledged risk factors include abnormal corneal topography (unusually thin or degenerated corneas), severe myopia with astigmatism, advanced age, or previous eye surgeries
    – Even in cases of more serious complication where further surgical treatment is deemed necessary, the prognosis is regarded as excellent
    – According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, consensus reports indicate corneal grafts show a success rate of 97% over five years and 92% over a decade

laser eye surgery corneal bulging

It’s always sensible to manage long-term expectations to some degree when deciding to undergo the procedure. Some people who have laser eye surgery will still need to wear glasses or contact lenses to achieve optimum vision, although their natural eyesight should nevertheless be much improved over what it was before

It was once a popular misconception – thankfully much less widespread now! – that surgery was somehow a ‘temporary fix’. But, while the effects of laser eye surgery do indeed last impressively well, there is naturally a small risk of regression in some people.

In other words, there will always be a chance that, over time, certain refractive errors (short-sightedness or long-sightedness) can return to an extent:

  • This is a result of the natural healing process that takes place following the surgery
  • For a small percentage of these patients, a further benefit can be gained from undergoing a secondary procedure which can help to keep them out of glasses or lenses for longer

 However, the bottom line is that for most people, the only long-term effect of laser eye surgery is to provide an effective and lasting answer to a host of sight problems.

All around the world, hundreds of thousands of people every year now opt for the procedure, going on to enjoy dramatic improvements in their clarity of vision, much slower advancement of degenerative or age-related eye conditions, and a greatly enhanced quality of life as a result.

By: David

If you are interested in vision correction at Focus Clinic please call us on 0207 307 8250 and book a free consultation.

Book your FREE consultation
Related Articles
  • Why-it-is-time-for-laser-image

    Why It Might Be Time For Laser Eye Surgery

    Are you fed up with wearing glasses? Do you find contact lenses inconvenient to use in your day-to-day life? Are you over 21, in good health, have healthy eyes and have a stable prescription? If you answered yes to all of the above then it might be time to consider laser eye surgery.

    Learn more
  • contact lens problems

    Contact lens problems and how to fix them

    Serious problems with contact lenses are thankfully rare. However they can crop up when the recommended hygiene procedures aren’t adhered to, or when contact lenses are not ordered through a registered optician.

    Learn more
  • the dangers of wearing contact lenses

    The dangers of wearing contact lenses

    Around 3 million people in the UK wear contact lenses and they can provide a safe and effective way to correct vision when used with care and proper supervision – but you may not realise the full impact of the consequences if you don’t properly care for your contacts. A recent news story uncovered the dangers of […]

    Learn more
  • Eye Terms & Conditions Glossary

    Eye Terms & Conditions Glossary

    You might have heard of the term LASIK eye surgery, but do you know what it means? What about Amblyopia or Esotropia? When researching anything about eye care, eye health, laser eye surgery, or sight loss you are confronted by a long list of vocabulary that you may, or may not, understand. Here at Focus […]

    Learn more
  • floaters

    What are eye floaters & are they a concern?

    Most of us have seen strange shapes floating in our vision from time to time and those tiny spots, specks and flecks that drift aimlessly around our field of vision are otherwise known as floaters. What are floaters? Floaters are caused by small piece of debris that float in the vitreous humour of the eye. […]

    Learn more
  • driving sunset

    Driving into the sunset? Here’s how to do it safely…

    Why are sunrises and sunsets so dangerous when we drive? There is nothing more beautiful than watching the sun rise or fall, but did you know it can be one of the most dangerous times for driving? With many of us commuting to and from work at these times, it is important to make sure […]

    Learn more
  • blind people

    A blind world: Number of blind people could half with sight-saving surgery

    There are approximately 39 million blind people in the world. But did you know that more than half of them needn’t be blind? Their blindness is curable if they could only get the sight-saving surgery they need. Here at Focus, we want to raise awareness of world blindness. Using International Council of Ophthalmology data we have […]

    Learn more
  • shutterstock_343222016

    What is your eye colour telling the world?

    One of the most defining features of the face, your eye colour can also reflect some aspects of your personality too. Brown eyes? You’re seen as a natural leader. Green? One of the more rarer colours and seen as the sexiest of them all. Why do we have different eye colours? Eye colour is determined […]

    Learn more
  • laser eye surgery recovery

    Laser eye surgery recovery: how long does it take?

    Laser eye surgery recovery: how long does it take? If you are thinking of undertaking laser eye surgery, planning your recovery and a suitable time to have the treatment will be very important. Most patients (about 97%) who come to Focus Clinic choose to have LASIK treatment. This laser eye surgery recovery is a fast treatment, […]

    Learn more
  • Bionic lens

    Bionic Lens…you’ve never seen anything like it

    We all crave 20/20 vision and envy those that have it, but is it a thing of the past as technology finds something even better with the Bionic Lens? A Canadian company called Ocumetics Technology Corporation are in the stages of clinically testing their Bionic Lens. The device replaces the natural human lens with a […]

    Learn more
  • shutterstock_330511832

    Microbial Keratitis: Contact Lens infection vs LASIK

    New research has found that if you wear contact lenses for 10 years, you’re six times more likely to develop a sight-threatening infection than if you’d had laser eye surgery. Can you radically reduce these risks by ditching contact lenses and opting to go under the laser to correct your vision instead? According to scientists at […]

    Learn more
  • Comparing Surgery Times

    Comparing Surgery Times: Laser Eye Surgery vs Other Surgeries

    The idea of any surgery, no matter how big or small, can be daunting. Laser eye surgery may seem like a scary option, your eyes are precious, but in reality, the procedure time is a lot shorter than people think. The duration of a surgery of any kind cannot be predicted 100% accurately. Like a […]

    Learn more
  • how does lasik work

    How does laser eye surgery work?

    How does laser eye surgery work? To answer the question ‘How does laser eye surgery work?’ we’ll need to cover a few different topics: Overview Understanding the anatomy of the cornea How does the laser reshape the cornea permanently? Changing the corneal shape to correct vision How does LASIK work? How does PRK / LASEK work? […]

    Learn more
  • eye tests

    Eye tests needed before laser eye surgery

    What eye tests are needed before laser eye surgery? You will have a comprehensive set of scans and tests at Focus Clinic before you meet your specialist. These eye tests give a wealth of data on your eye health and vision, and help ensure you are a safe candidate to undergo laser eye surgery. The tests […]

    Learn more
  • Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness

    Glaucoma: A Leading Cause of Blindness

    Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness throughout the world, especially in older people, with estimates of suspected cases at over 60 million worldwide. What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is an eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, becomes damaged, usually as a result of an increased pressure […]

    Learn more
  • burning smell

    Burning smell during laser eye surgery? Don’t worry, your eyes aren’t burning

    Heard of a burning smell during laser eye surgery? Don’t worry your eyes aren’t burning! One of the main myths about laser eye surgery is that the burning smell many experience during their procedure means your eyes are burning.  You may have read comments such as “I could smell burning during the treatment” and been […]

    Learn more
  • brussels sprouts

    Brussels Sprouts: The Seasonal Superfood that will Save your Sight

    Your Christmas vegetables could be giving you more than you bargained for, as new research has found that the famously unpopular brussels sprouts could actually help save your sight. The tiny green vegetable has a bad reputation, but even if you’ve had a bad experience with them in the past, they’re worth giving another shot […]

    Learn more
  • world sight day

    Cataract surgery recovery

    Cataract surgery recovery Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure in the developed world. Recovery from a modern cataract operation is quick and typically uncomplicated due to the minimally invasive keyhole approach. No sutures are required and the procedure is performed as a day case without needing to stay in hospital. Who needs cataract […]

    Learn more
  • lasik 360

    Laser eye surgery (LASIK) 360: The world’s first ever video

    Here at Focus Clinic we are proud to share the world’s first LASIK (‘laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis’) eye surgery live video in 360 augmented reality. Performed by our very own Dr David Allamby, this footage is a great way for those thinking of getting laser eye surgery to get an idea of what to expect and […]

    Learn more
  • Laser eye surgery machine

    What kind of laser eye surgery is right for you?

    Until contact lenses were made popular in the 1950’s, the only way to correct vision problems was to wear glasses. Fast forward to 2016 and there is an abundance of different approaches to correct vision, from reshaping the cornea in laser eye surgery procedures such as LASIK and PRK, to refractive lens exchange surgery. So […]

    Learn more
  • Toxins in medicine can save your life

    From poison to potions: the toxins used in medicine that could save your life…

    Worldwide, the prevalence of myopia has been rising dramatically, and it is estimated that 2.5 billion people will be affected by myopia by 2020, but a new study offers sufferers hope. News research reveals that atropine, a toxic substance derived from deadly nightshade, can be an effective and sustainable treatment for progressive high myopia in […]

    Learn more
  • refractive lens exchange

    Refractive lens exchange cost

    The typical Refractive Lens Exchange cost is £5400 for complete treatment to both eyes, using a standard monofocal lens. This includes your FREE initial consultation and all post surgery appointments and eye drops. If you are found suitable at your initial assessment, a second consultation with your treating surgeon will be arranged and costs £100.

    Learn more
  • shutterstock_171523301

    Photophobia: symptoms, causes and treatments

    Photophobia literally means “fear of light”, and although it sounds like an intense fear or phobia it is, in fact, an intense intolerance towards light that affects your vision. Also known as light sensitivity, sources such as fluorescent light, incandescent light and even natural sunlight can all cause discomfort to sufferers of photophobia. Light is […]

    Learn more
  • glassesHeader-1920-1200

    Reading glasses and blended vision

    As we get a little older we all eventually suffer from something known as ‘Presbyopia’. It’s sounds complicated but it is simply a condition in which the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus, making it difficult to see objects up close. A lens’ ability to focus depends on its ‘elasticity’ – i.e. […]

    Learn more
  • 1920--1200

    What happens if I blink during laser eye surgery?

    The idea of having laser surgery can be a frightening thought. One of the most common concerns that we hear is whether you will be able to keep your eyes open for long enough, and then what happens if you blink? We would like to take this time to give you some reassurance. We all […]

    Learn more
  • high cholesterol

    High cholesterol: Did you know it can damage your vision?

    Most people are aware that high cholesterol causes health issues, but many aren’t aware of the impact high cholesterol can have on your vision.

    Learn more
  • What is Presbyopia

    What is presbyopia?

    Reading glasses and surgical options You can’t escape Presbyopia, the medical term for the loss of reading vision in middle age. Sadly, it will happen to us all eventually. Even if you’ve never had a vision problem before. It usually occurs around the ages of 45-50 in the UK, and earlier in warmer and more […]

    Learn more
  • Astigmatism In Children

    Astigmatism in children: what are the warning signs?

    Astigmatism is a common condition where the cornea or lens of the eye isn’t a perfect curve, causing blurred or distorted vision. Like nearsightedness and farsightedness, astigmatism is a refractive error, meaning it’s not an eye disease or eye health problem - it’s simply a problem with how the eye focuses on light.

    Learn more
  • Consultation to review suitability for laser eye surgery

    West End Star Beverley Knight’s Vision Transformation

    There sometimes becomes a time where neither contact lenses nor glasses are suitable for vision correction, as West End star Beverley Knight realised.

    Learn more
  • Gene therapyy

    Gene therapy, the new cure for blindness?

    Have we really found a cure for blindness? Earlier this month, a gene therapy that treats an inherited form of blindness was approved unanimously by the U.S. Food and Drug Administered (FDA) panel.  If they get final approval in January, this will be a major breakthrough in gene therapy, as it will be the first […]

    Learn more
Get in touch
Thank you for getting in touch with Focus. Your message is on its way and one of our friendly team will be in touch shortly!


17th Jun


'The staff are really friendly and cool and David Allamby was amazing’

big close

Book a free* consultation

There is a refundable admin fee of £25 for consultations during the week and £50 for consultations in the weekend. This will be returned to you when you attend the appointment.
Thank you for getting in touch with Focus. Your message is on its way and one of our friendly team will be in touch shortly!

Would you rather speak to someone?

*Opening Times:
Monday - Friday: 9am – 6pm Saturday: 9am – 3pm

Would you rather speak to someone?

Call: 0207 307 8250

to arrange your free* consultation
There is a refundable admin fee of £25 for consultations during the week and £50 for consultations in the weekend. This will be returned to you when you attend the appointment.
Mr Samer Hamada
laser and lens eye surgery specialist
 Samar Hamada