How Successful is Laser Eye surgery in the UK?

Laser eye surgery promises freedom from glasses and contact lenses. It’s largely successful, with around 80 percent of people benefiting from perfect, corrected vision. But there are several types of laser eye surgery so if you want to know the exact success rates, it’s best that we talk about the different procedures. Here’s how successful laser eye surgery is, according to the type of procedure.

The types of laser eye surgery we’ll be discussing are:


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LASIK is the most popular laser eye surgery procedure in the world. In 2016, it was reported that more than 40 million procedures had been performed around the world since it was introduced in 1991.

Even after all these years, the popularity of LASIK has remained consistent. This is largely down to four facts:

  • Suitable for the majority of patients - more than 90 percent.
  • High satisfaction rate among patients - surveys have found satisfaction rates of between 92 and 98 percent.
  • Extremely fast recovery times - patients often experience instant results and can return to work within one or two days of their surgery
  • Very high success rates - more than 99 percent of patients achieve 20/40 vision and more than 90 percent achieve 20/20.

The very high success and satisfaction rates are certainly things that deserve to be shouted about. A clinical review that examined over 4,400 LASIK eye surgery procedures performed between 2008 and 2015 found that patients were benefiting from better visual acuity than ever before and satisfaction rates were as high as 98 percent.

There are some potential side effects of LASIK, including dry eyes, minor discomfort and vision disturbances (such as glares and halos). However, these side effects are temporary and will usually disappear once you’ve fully recovered and healed from the surgery. Complications such as infections and reductions in vision are a possibility but the chances of these are rare - with rates being less than one percent.



LASEK eye surgery, also known as PRK, is another common laser eye surgery procedure (though not as popular as LASIK). LASEK (PRK) avoids the creation of a flap. The superficial skin layer (epithelium) is removed and the excimer laser is applied directly to the exposed collagen surface.

Hence only one laser is used, whereas LASIK requires two lasers, the first to create the corneal flap, and the second to reshape the cornea to correct vision.

LASEK usually involves more discomfort, recovery time is longer and the results are not instantaneous. Average vision recovery time is 5-7 days, although it may take as long as two weeks for some people to benefit from a functional level of vision.

LASEK is very effective and success rates are very similar to LASIK. Research has found that 96 percent of LASEK patients achieve adequate vision. 4 to 9 percent require follow-up corrective surgeries, though these are usually minor adjustments.

Like LASIK, side effects and complications can occur but they are rare. If they do occur, they are usually minor, like dry eyes, and are only temporary.

If a second enhancement procedure is needed, it will take another week to heal, whereas LASIK enhancements have a very fast recovery, seeing very well the next day.



SMILE, aka ReLEx SMILE, is a minimally invasive laser eye surgery procedure and avoids the need to remove the surface skin or create a LASIK-type corneal flap.

While the femtosecond laser application time is greater with SMILE, the corneal opening is small, just 2 to 4mm.

Because incision is so small, it’s said that the physical recovery time for SMILE is even quicker and typically, you’ll have healed by the end of the day or the next. This then means you can resume everyday activities like swimming and outdoor sports after a week following the procedure. In LASIK and LASEK, you usually have to wait at least one to two weeks.

However the visual recovery can take longer with SMILE compared to LASIK, but still faster than LASEK (PRK). With SMILE it can take several days for vision to settle, but more recent lower energy settings, as of 2018, have shortened this time.

Because no flap is created and a smaller incision is made, there is less dry eye in the first few months.. This is because fewer nerves are likely to be affected. However, by six months after surgery, there is no difference in eye lubrication measurements between SMILE and LASIK.

However, SMILE is currently only used to correct short-sightedness of up to -8.00 dioptres plus astigmatism. Early success rates were also lower, though these have improved as the technique is better understood. Clinical outcomes for short-sight are very close to that offered by LASIK and LASEK.

The technology is still evolving however. The only commercially available laser in 2018 is made by Carl Zeiss and lacks auto-tracking to the eye and the ability to adjust where the laser treatment is applied on the cornea.

New SMILE lasers are coming in 2019 from other manufacturers, including Ziemer, WaveLight and Schwind, which will incorporate the missing technologies above, so it may be worth waiting to see what is available in the coming months.


The Conclusion: Which is the Most Successful Type of Laser Eye Surgery?

Overall, laser eye surgery is very successful, boasting satisfaction rates of over 98 percent. However, it does depend on the type of procedure. LASIK is clearly the most developed procedure, with more than 99 percent of patients receiving 20/40 vision and more than 90 percent receiving 20/20 vision.

In addition, it also leads to very fast results and most patients are able to return to their normal daily schedule the following day.


Are You Interested in Learning More About the Different Types of Laser Eye Surgery?

These three types of laser eye surgery boast high success rates when it comes to vision correction. But sometimes another approach is needed, such as Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) or Implantable Contact Lenses (ICLs).

If you’d like to learn more about vision correction and the different types of laser eye surgeries available to you, click the button below to download our ultimate information pack.

Focus Clinic is the only laser eye surgery clinic in the UK with a published 100 percent success rate for 20/20 vision. This is why we’re rated #1 on Trustpilot, the independent review website. Get in touch with a member of our team to learn more.

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