Eye Health

Updated 13 February 2015

Frequently asked questions about laser eye surgery

All your questions about laser eye surgery.

Can you guarantee me 20/20 vision, and can you guarantee that I will be free of spectacles or contact lenses forever?

The results are excellent and usually by the next day you will notice a remarkable improvement in your natural (or uncorrected) vision. Please ask your ophthalmologist to show you on the eye vision chart what you can expect to see after the eye has healed. For those few people whose quality of vision is not sufficiently improved, enhancement surgery or thin glasses for some tasks such as night driving may be necessary. Most people do not need or want additional surgery, but the higher the amount of initial correction necessary, the greater the possibility of needing enhancement surgery for full correction. Sunglasses are recommended for bright sunlight, and when you are approximately 45 you will need reading glasses.

Does the surgery hurt?

The laser procedure itself does not hurt. For approximately one to three days after the procedure, you will feel minimal to moderate discomfort depending on whether you have PRK or LASIK.

What are the long-term effects?

The data since 1987 has revealed that the eye heals well, and there is no indication that you need to be concerned about the long-term effects. However, the long-term effects are unknown.

Is it possible to have surgery on both eyes on the same day?

Most people choose to have surgery on both eyes on the same day because the surgery is very safe. Also the inconvenience of having the surgery and recovering only occurs once. However, it is also acceptable to have each eye operated on separate days.

I'm over 50 years of age, will the surgery still work for me?

Yes, however, you will need reading glasses to see clearly up close. You will also be carefully checked for a cataract in both eyes because with cataract surgery you can also have your nearsightedness or farsightedness corrected for.

When can I drive and return to work after the operation?

Your vision is usually clear enough to drive within one to three days after the procedure. However, you should not drive until you feel comfortable with your vision. Most people can return to work within two to four days.

If I need to, can I wear contact lenses after laser surgery?

Most patients do not require the contact lenses afterwards. Generally if you were able to wear contact lenses comfortably prior to surgery, you will be able to wear them again after surgery. You may take some time to build up to the same number of hours that you were able to wear contact lenses before surgery (like starting with contact lenses all over again).

Does anybody’s vision ever turn out worse after laser surgery?

In very rare cases, yes. In order for vision to turn out worse than it was before the surgery, a significant complication would need to arise, which is rare. Your ophthalmologist will discuss these risks with you during the consultation.

Useful resources:

South African Optometric Association
Tel: 011 805 4517
South African National Council for the Blind
Tel: 012 452 3811
Retina South Africa
Tel: 011 622 4904
Ophthalmological Society of South Africa


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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