It is common for patients in my clinic to ask ‘do I need cataract surgery or laser eye surgery?’. In this post I will explain each procedure, their differences, and which may be better for you.
Both cataract surgery and laser eye surgery are great options for improving your eyesight. They are extremely safe and hundreds of thousands are performed each year in the UK. However, the reasons or indications for having one or the other are different.
How does laser eye surgery compare to cataract or lens surgery?
Both procedures take around 15 minutes per eye and are performed under local anaesthetic. The recovery time is similar; with laser surgery you can return to work within a few days, for lens surgery I would recommend a week. Both procedures are very safe, but overall laser eye surgery is the preferable option as it is an external eye procedure; laser surgery is performed on the surface of the eye, whereas lens surgery within the eye.
Generally, laser eye surgery is recommended when the quality of the optics of the eye is normal. When the quality of the lens of your eye is affected, such as with the presence of cataract, laser eye surgery is not the best option; cataract or lens surgery would then provide a greater improvement in the quality of your vision.
Laser eye surgery can help you if:
you are fed up with the inconvenience of glasses or contact lenses
your eyes are becoming uncomfortable with contact lenses
you are developing contact lens intolerance or infections
you keep swapping between distance and reading glasses
you keep losing your reading glasses
Cataract or lens surgery may help you if:
you have cloudy or blurred vision despite wearing glasses
you are struggling to see detail for distance and/or near
you have noticed a gradual fading of colours
are finding night driving increasingly difficult or are experiencing glare
you are repeatedly needing new spectacles to see clearly
Laser eye surgery
LASIK and ReLEx SMILE are the most common laser vision correction procedures. They can improve your vision so that you do not need to wear distance glasses, reading glasses or contact lenses. Laser eye surgery is performed on the cornea, reshaping its surface to allow light rays to bend and come into focus on the retina. It can correct near-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism (shape of the cornea not being regular) and the need for reading glasses (presbyopia).
In LASIK, a femtosecond laser is used to create a thin layer on the corneal surface, called the flap, which is lifted by the surgeon. An excimer laser is then used to sculpt the cornea, correcting the underlying refractive error. SMILE is a keyhole laser vision correction procedure that does not involve the creation of a flap. The laser is used to create a disc of tissue within the cornea, called the lenticule, that is then removed by the surgeon.