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Surgeon David Allamby FRCS(Ed), FRCOphth
 David Allamby

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

Learn more about vision correction

25
Mar
2014

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 put off entirely, which is no wonder as it really does sound rather scary!

But now, we would like to take this opportunity to ease any fears or concerns you may be having about laser eye surgery, and provide some reassurance about this particular aspect of refractive surgery.

Why is there a burning smell during laser eye surgery?

What causes the burning smell during laser eye surgery?

To begin with we would like to reassure you that there is NO burning involved. The excimer laser is so precise that it can split apart molecules of collagen, releasing carbon atoms into the air. The smoke-like smell that some patients notice for a few seconds during the procedure is from these carbon atoms. It is these atoms that cause the burning smell we associate with normal smoke!

So with excimer laser treatment, we could say there really is ‘smoke without fire’. The burning smell is the carbon and is without heat or fire - a myth from a popular saying has been busted!

What to expect from the surgery itself

At the beginning of your treatment the advanced Ziemer LDV femtosecond laser will create an extremely precise thin flap which is then lifted to reveal your cornea. The actual vision correction part of your treatment will then take place using the Wavelight Allegretto 400 excimer laser.

The vision is corrected by a process called ‘ablation’, which is the surgical removal of tissue from the cornea. The excimer laser is so accurate that it can remove minute layers of surface tissue (just one fifth of a thousandth of a millimetre!) with no change or damage to the tissue left behind. In fact the laser is so accurate that it can split a single red blood cell into six equal pieces!

The Wavelight Allegretto is know as a ‘cool beam’ laser meaning that there is no heat applied to the eye at all. Instead the concentrated light from the laser disrupts the bonds between the molecules and fibres in the cornea that hold them together, and without these cementing bonds the fibres are removed in a very controlled and precise manner.  So with no heat, that burning smell is nothing to worry about.

washed face

What to avoid the day before the surgery?

To ensure your surgery runs as smoothly and successfully as possible, it is important to take the following necessary precautions to protect your eyes from infection

  • Creams
  • Lotions
  • Make-up - this should be taken off a minimum of 24 hours before your treatment
  • Perfumes
  • Hairspray and mousse

clear vision

The burning sensation after surgery

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration go further to say that immediately after your surgery, your eye may burn, itch or feel like something is in it.  Again, don't worry, your eye isn't actually burning, but this may be a possible sensation you feel.  Whilst you will naturally want to rub your eyes, don't, as this could dislodge the flap which as a result will mean you may need to undergo further treatment.

We hope that this information relieves any concerns that you may be feeling, and gives you the confidence to come and see us at Focus Clinic to find out all the facts!

 


Sources

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Read more posts on laser eye surgery, eye health and vision, here

By: David Allamby
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