/ Health

Laser eye surgery: what do you see?

Laser eye

You’ll see lots of advertising for laser eye surgery, but what should you know before you decide to go through with it? Our latest undercover investigation finds laser eye clinics failing to clearly explain the risks.

We sent undercover researchers into 18 laser eye clinics across England for their initial consultation and an expert panel rated a third of those visits poor.

Independent clinics, smaller chains and hospital-based providers scored the best, with high street providers coming bottom.

If you’re a Which? member, you can see the best and worst laser eye companies here.

A dim view of laser eye consultations

The most striking problem was the lack of clear verbal information about the risks to the individual: everybody’s eyes are different, and however good the written information you get is, you need to know about any potential issues.

Serious long-term complications are rare but, in extreme cases, patients can have long-term problems, such as severe dry eyes. You could even end up with worse sight, so it’s important you’re aware of this before you commit.

Another problem we identified is a lack of centralised information, such as surgeons’ success rates, to help people make an informed choice. It’s up to the clinics what they reveal to you.

It’s also voluntary for surgeons to undertake the specialist certificate in laser refractive surgery run by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth), and only around half do. In effect, any doctor could carry out these operations, and the clinic decides if they’re competent.

Your views on laser eye surgery

Most people will have a good experience with laser eye surgery and we received many comments along the lines of; ‘I am one happy customer’ and ‘the best thing I ever did’. But we also heard from people who had had ongoing problems, one deeming it an ‘absolute disaster’.

We’re pleased that as a result of last year’s review into cosmetic surgery led by Sir Bruce Keogh, the Royal College of Surgeons will establish committees to review laser eye surgeon professional standards and information for patients. In the meantime we’ve given our findings to the Care Quality Commission.

Have you considered or had laser eye surgery? Did you feel well-informed?

Comments

I had surgery with optical express in January 2014 and ever since I have been in unbearable eye pain which they cannot even diagnose the cause of my eyes have never given me any problems before apart from having a slightly weak eyesight of about -2.5 in each eye. The last 7 months have been nothing but hell for me and have had to take so much time off work and also postpone my wedding which was scheduled for March!! Everyday is a challenge just to do basic everyday things like reading I wish I never had trusted and put my faith in OE and Infact have had several friends and family members go to morefields or elsewhere to have their procedures done because my experience has put them off so badly. I feel so let down by this company not to mention their surgeons.

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I had RLE surgery in Dec 12 with Optical Express. Beforehand I did my research, nothing but glowing reports. I was told I was not suitable for laser but a perfect candidate for RLE, where I would be left free of glasses and with 6/5 vision in both eyes (6/5 being 1 mtere better than average). They seemed very attentive and professional and from what I experienced I had no reason to question what they were offering.

After surgery I was left 6/19 in one eye and 6/24 in the other. It was then that it became very apparent that prior to surgery I had been very wrongly informed.

Once you sign their consent form, you are basically removing them of any resposibility for how you are left visually, you have signed to say you have accepted the risks. Remember you don’t know the risks. It would be easy now to say why did you sign!

I was advised I would need 2 weeks off work, try 18 months. Unable to drive, work and the mental strain of poor vision, pain and discomfort, no money and having charity handouts to keep a roof over my family’s head, far from ideal.

So far I have spent in excess of £10K on futher surgical procedures including having the lenses exchanged and YAG (not by O.E).and am now forced to wear varifocal glasses full time. I have seen many specialists since my original surgery and the common conclusion seems to be, I was too young for RLE (47) especially for the type of multi focal lenses used and the idea that they could achieve 6/5 vision was very unrealistic.

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Jane Harrison says:
20 August 2014

I had a consultation with an Optical Express optometrist at Meadowhall, Sheffield two months ago. He was very positive about surgery, completely failed to mention any risks, and advised I should have surgery in just one eye. A month later I met with my surgeon and was about to go into surgery when he asked if I had had a contact lens trial, I said this had not been mentioned at my consultation a month earlier, he said I should have been advised to undertake a lens trial before surgery and told me he wasn’t prepared to do the surgery until I had undergone the lens trial. I was really impressed with his honesty but very frustrated that the optometrist had failed to do his job properly. Optical Express said they would contact me to arrange the lens trial. They did not contact me. A week later I phoned to cancel the whole thing as I was becoming increasingly concerned about their lack of professionalism. I requested my £400 deposit back. They refused because it had been my decision to cancel!!!! I pointed out I had cancelled because of their shoddy performance but they still refused.

Thankfully I found Sasha’s website Optical Express Ruined My Life. Sasha was so helpful and supportive and after a week with both of us refusing to just go away and lose the £400 Optical Express phoned me and agreed to refund the deposit.

I am absolutely certain they would not have done this without Sasha’s persistence. I am so grateful for Sasha’s help and so monumentally relieved I did not go ahead with the surgery. I had such a lucky escape and would never recommend laser surgery to anyone following my experience and everything I have now read about how easily it can go wrong. Once again, thank you Sasha.

Colette Roberts says:
20 August 2014

I had Lens replacement done in July 2013 by optical express and have not been able to drive at ever night since because of starbursts and halos around lights it would be too dangerous.
This is something optical express did not to tell me that I might not be able to drive at night again, I am a 48 year old women who,s eyes can not adjust to different lights very easily and have very dry eyes I have to use drops all of the time this makes life very difficult.Thankyou optical express for ruining my life and for not explaining all the drawbacks to having lens replacement.

Polly says:
20 August 2014

I have had the lens replacement surgery, as opposed to the laser, from Optical Express in December last year. It was probably the worst decision of my life. It starts with the lack of continuity between surgeons, the lack of co-ordination, but more than that the fact that I have lost my independence since the surgery due to my drastic visual loss. I have not been able to drive my car since the operation, or go to work. I am about to lose my job due to the fact I can no longer function independently and consequently being absent from work. I have become disabled by my experience and my partner has become my carer. No one in Optical Express appears able to provide me with a diagnosis or proposed treatment plan. I am still waiting for more appointments, in the hope that someone can start to repair the damage done to my eyes. It has been and continues to be, a horrific experience with Optical Express and I am no nearer getting any treatment, life feels totally hopeless now.

Polly says:
21 August 2014

I was 50 when I had the operation, now 51. The optometrist who did the tests originally said that I was suitable for the treatment. I so wish I had never gone anywhere near Optical Express. How can they get away with damaging me like this and accepting no responsibility whatsoever. And it appears that they still expect payment for this complete disaster.

Ken todman says:
20 August 2014

Hi I went for consultation to undergo lazer eye surgery lazik and had to return to try lazek after going through so much pain I was unable to see absolutely nothing for days after, this might be considered normal but what wasn’t normal was my vision hadn’t restored I couldn’t see as I remembered seeing before these procedures, so I had a dilemma I wanted to sue for damages but I desperately needed the after care with the hope that they would be successful on the next procedure as they were alway optimistic and reassuring me I would get a better result next time,so I went ahead, now I having cornea scraps reason for this was my eye over-healed throwing layers of tissue over my cornea, leaving me with a scare in the centre of my cornea this scare was a result of to much lazer trying to correct the last procedure and ultimately ear to many scraps 4 in total now I could hardly see any thing through my left eye, it was trying to see through cling film. There justification for yet another failed procedure attempt was all of a sudden my age wasn’t on my side I was 48 then, after that I was sent to somewhere were they treat problems after surgery, Well it was talking to professor Rosen at that time when he actually revealed to me that optics express failed me right from the start, he said I should have had lens replacement from the beginning and the reason my lens replacement hadn’t worked was (I had lazer treatment first instead of having lens replacement first) now he was accepting liability for shaddy decision from the sales consultant from the start, I went on to Harley street to see another professor vendor he said my cornea now was in such a poor state he said it is like looking through a Payne of broken glass so in his view the only available treatment procedure left was to under-go a cornea implant operation and some-times this can have a low success rate, so I left deflated and in distress for my journey back home. Now I don’t know we’re to go or what to do I feel I have gone along with the so-called professions and extremely let down I now am partially blind a disability I never had before I went for lazer eye surgery.i feel I want some kind of justice and compensated if possable or some proper legislation in place to provent this unnecessary suffering happening to other folks in the future. Ken todman,

The remark you made about seeing through cling film is exactly what i told them after my procedures . It was the only way i could explain how it felt and it is no different now nearly 4 years after. I find wearing dark glasses help disguise the cling film effect.

Craig Mellor says:
20 August 2014

I had wavefront Lasik in 2007 with Optical Express. After a failed laser procedure and SEVERN yes SEVERN more operations to rectify the mess the laser had caused including R.L.E in both eyes I have more problems now than anyone could imagine.
I was never made aware of any possible complications and two things that I am sure many people have been told. YOU ARE AN IDEAL CANDIDATE and GIVE IT TIME TO HEAL.. and just pressured sales staff and doctors fobbing you off .

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Amanda says:
20 August 2014

In April 2007 I decided to have laser eye surgery done at Optimax in Newcastle. At first everything seemed fine until 2 months later I woke in excruciating pain and was unable to open my left eye, I was completely blind. My Husband then phoned Optimax in newcastle to tell them what happened. Their response was to go to my local hospital for them to have a look. A corneal erosion was diagnosed and I wasn’t entirely sure what it was as I had never experienced this ever in my life. Optimax never phoned back to see how I was and I laid in bed blind for 4 days which followed 6 weeks of blurred vision and pain until the eye had healed. Optimax have showed very little interest in my well being. Not ringing back knowing I was blind??. This has been the pattern of my life over the last 7 years, it’s so unbearable at times when I’m hit with a big blinding attack that I could put a gun to my head and end it all. This is no way to live, I’ve spent £3,500 on eye drops, gels, blephasteam googles, eye bags to try and ease this life changing disaster but nothing really helps.

Will says:
20 August 2014

I now have worse eye sight. So bad I can no longer wear standard lens or glasses. I just have to live with it.

I have had to have an extremely painful second procedure- coreal cross linking. Involving a lot of travel and follow up travel to London. I have to fight hard to get them to even pay my travel,

Follow up care has been of a poor quality – they don’t seem to care that they have hard a massive negative effect on my life

I’ve spent more time in a optician than I did before the treatment.

Undersold the risks . Even on the procedure designed to fix it… Industry needs regulating

Sarah says:
20 August 2014

Hi Will,

Sounds similar to my situation, were you treated by Optimax by any chance??

Robin says:
21 August 2014

Will,

You clearly are not the patient with “ectasia” that underwent corneal cross-linking described in the article from the Optical Express sponsored supplement in the Journal of Refractive Surgery,
September 2009

http://www.opticalexpress.co.uk/docs/journal_of_refractive_surgery.pdf

A Complex Case Management System Provides Optimal Care for All Patients
Jan A. Venter, MD; Stephen J. Hannan, MCOptom

Below is the last paragraph of the article.

BENEFITS OF THE COMPLEX CASE SYSTEM
As this example shows, the complex case management
system quickly and effectively provides the
appropriate level of care for each patient and ensures that
the patient is tracked and followed until the complication
has been resolved. Although the effective and rapid
provision of clinical care is the most obvious element
of this system—and arguably, the most important—this
system also provides other important benefits.
By offering a detailed and well-coordinated protocol
for continuous communication between the patient,
clinical providers, and complex case manager, this system
ensures that patients believe they are receiving ap-
propriate attention and the best possible care for their
condition. Given that these patients are likely to be anxious,
this dedicated communication is a key element in
maintaining patient satisfaction. In fact, many of these
patients become ambassadors for the practice following
completion of their care, regardless of their complication,
because of the care and attention they received.

My eyesight is so bad now after lens implants i don,t think i will see properly ever again. Glasses do not correct it and the money i have spent on drops and tinted glasses must run into hundreds of pounds.

RobbaBanks says:
26 August 2014

I was seen by Optical Express’ complex case team.

Individually tailored treatment, patient tracking, ‘appropriate’ care. This is sickening.

I was shoved from pillar to post attending numerous appointments many miles from home, but absolutely nothing was achieved.

Despite several reminders from me he took 5 months to send me this medication, and when I did receive it there was no indication as to how I should take it and no documentation in the box. if this is deemed “effective and rapid clinical care” then this must raise concerns about this company’s attitude towards its patients.

On another occasion I was seen, the optician diagnosed Recurrent Corneal Erosions which is a very frightening and painful condition. He prescribed Sodium Chlorine and told me to try it for 3 months and he would review my progress with a view to Bandage Contact lenses next and then further surgery, if the medication didn’t work. Again, despite several reminders, he took 12 months, yes an unbelievable 12 months to send it to me despite knowing how painful my condition was. “Effective and rapid clinical care”? of course not – “dire,abysmal,uncaring” would be more apt.
That was in August 2011 and now, 3 years later I still have not been recalled for a follow up.

Words are easy as we know because we have all heard them time and time again, but to us damaged patients, we know they are empty words. optical Express do not care one iota for their patients . They just want their money..they take it and just hope not too may people suffer problems.

Jacqui says:
20 August 2014

Trusting the surgeons knew what they were doing, in April 2010, I had Refractive Lens Exchange surgery (RLE) at Optical Express.

That was the day my life was wrecked!

My eyesight is worse than before surgery and I’m left with seriously disabling night vision, halos, grey curtain effect, and worse.

I was medically retired from my job after 11 years due to my vision being no longer fit for the computer work involved.

I suffer with depression and need medication just to stabilise.

I’m living an ongoing nightmare!

Health care professionals are supposed to provide a duty of care to their patients, which Optical Express failed to do as they did not carry out the correct pathology.

If they had done so I would never have had surgery!

I began legal action more 3years ago and my lawyer recently sent me for an examination with an independent specialist.

We are now in litigation and I will keep Fighting

If you’ve been damaged by Optical Express my message to you is fight back!

annie says:
20 August 2014

My experience is much the same as most of you. Mine was with Optical Express and I had both Lasik and Lasek then they wanted me to have RLE which I declined as I had too many problems after the first two surgeries. I am now 4 years down the line and I am worse off than I was before I had the surgery, and no-one informed me of all these problems before hand. They start with the hard sell then your rushed through, even the introduction of your surgeon is done in the corridor on the way into the procedure room. Then you never see them again, its shocking you feel like your on a conveyor belt. Then comes the shock wave of all the added extras you get for your money, severe dry eyes, the use of drops constantly every day for the rest of your life, not been able to go outside without wearing sunglasses because your eyes are so sensitive to the light, not been able to see properly in dim light, blurred vision, double vision……….the list just goes on and on, and to think I paid for these things. I have also spent a fortune on specs but to no avail as the specs cannot help make my vision any better. The government should be ashamed of themselves for letting this go on for so long. I personally wish I could turn the clock back and go back to wearing my specs at least I would have perfect vision with them and none of the suffering I have now. I like many more will have my day in court.

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annie says:
21 August 2014

Hi there, I would have been 55 it was 3 years ago. when I was offered RLE.

Tommy says:
20 August 2014

I feel so sorry for all the people having issues with their eyes after undergoing laser eye surgery. Sharing your thoughts on internet website like this can only help others. You should consider leaving your stories on impartial review websites also.

I entered a competition to win free laser eye surgery after I received an email from Optical Express last month and I confess that I fell for their marketing promises of better than 20/20 vision.

Have you considered leaving a review here?

http://www.opticalexpresschangedmylife.co.uk

Also would like to know of any good laser companies in Sheffield if you have any personal recommendations?

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The OE ‘changed my life website was presumably set up to compete with this one – http://www.opticalexpressruinedmylife.co.uk/

It was published not so long ago and within an hour hundreds of reviews immediately appeared! Hmmmm?!

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Not an impartial site. CANNOT leave negative reviews ONLY positive ones 🙁

Kay d says:
22 August 2014

No you are right JD. only glowing reports found on their site any negatives are not printed.

RobbaBanks says:
22 August 2014

This is Optical Express’ site.

And it is extremely difficult to post on independent websites like Trustpilot and Review Centre. If you do manage to get your post on it will be reported and you have to go through hoops to have it reinstated. Yet positive reviews come in thick and fast (already verified?) in response to any negative.

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I worked for OE…. I am not proud of this fact! I saw and heard things that grated on my conscience and just didn’t turn up one day… (I heard the surgeon called me unprofessional! Never a case of POT KETTLE BLACK has been known…..

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Yes …I am in touch with her thanks

Ashley says:
20 August 2014

In a nutshell –
My name is Ashley and Optimax Laser Eye Surgery Ruined My Eyes in 2011.

As a result I setup the following websites to support victims.

http://www.optimaxruinedmylife.com

http://www.optimaxreviews.co.uk

Please view these sites where you can get real patient opinions on how they were treated.

My story is unreal but true and it is on the website! You will not believe the cost to my health and that of my family.

eoinjess says:
21 August 2014

Good job Sacha for exposing this industry. I think its terrible that people like Daily Mail, Witch, and the BBC dont do anything about law breaking actiions until a Sacha rodoy comes along and makes them listen. If it was for her, they wouldnt be doing anything Ppeople power works.

ROFL imagine was Sacha could do for anti-Fracking campaigns. Fancy starting an anti-Frigging campaign in the north wEst?

Kay-d says:
21 August 2014

To cut a long story short.I am much the same ,I suffer with rheumatoid arthritis and approached Optical Express in 2013 to see if laser would be an option for me as I knew in the past it wasn’t a possibility.I was told after an examination that technology had moved on,I was an ideal candidate for RLE which I underwent in July 2013 Problems started immediately , I had YAG treatment in January 2014 and been having problems ever since.my eyes are constantly on mind mind all day long very painful and having to apply drops 20-30 times a day. But keep being told don’t worry we can sort it !!!!

Kay d says:
21 August 2014

Not at all I was 54

My eyes burn like fire, i think its because they are so dry, i love reading but cannot read for more than 30 minutes. I am noticing that i cannot read small print without the help of glasses now, it doesn,t help that they have made one eye for distance and the other for reading, very disorientating. Problem i have is when i read everybodies problems on this site it stirs an anger in me that they are doing this to so many people and do not have a consciense because they are still doing it!

I have noticed some comments referring to OE giving cut price costs so we as patients should have seen alarm bells. However I paid £4k for LASIK on both eyes, and this is certainly not cut price! The £595 per eye that they advertise is absolute rubbish and only applies to a very small amount of people with a prescription that probably wouldn’t even warrant surgery.

The only discount I received was £150 off because my cousin gave me a voucher where I get £150 off the procedure and she gets £150 for referring a friend. My cousin has confirmed she never received any such payment, and it’s been 2 years now.

I was given a few options, varying in price, and I went for most expensive, which was wavefront Lasik as I was assured that with this procedure I would get the best outcome. I know of people that have had the same procedure performed at moorfields and paid the same as me.

My reason for going to OE was NOT because it was cheaper as I researched the price was the same, I went OE as it’s local to me so if any complications occurred I could easily be seen. Obviously I didn’t expect to still be suffering with dry eyes and other side effects 2 years on. Personally I don’t trust the procedure and the sooner the industry is regulated – the better. Please please support Sasha Rodoy with her campaign!

Looking at Moorfields site for private patients they state “Modern refractive surgery is very safe. Indeed, in the right setting, the risks involved are probably no greater than for contact lens wear – the main functional alternative for people wishing to pursue a healthy, active lifestyle. But choosing a clinic and a surgeon can be very difficult.”
It would be interesting to hear if anyone has suffered similar problems to those reported above when using a specialist hospital. I’d like to know whether it is the procedure that is risky, or, as comments here suggest, incompetence at these high street vendors.

victim of laser surgery says:
21 August 2014

Moorfields also have patients whose laser eye surgery with them, leads to complications and serious problems. Perhaps their success rate is better, but patients with complications have reported being treated with contempt and arrogance from the consultant, as these surgeons frequently don’t want to admit that the surgery can cause so much harm to eyes and lives. When asked by one of his damaged patients, why he had thought that she was a suitable candidate for surgery, when clearly she had not been, a Moorfields surgeon is alleged to have said that if he had said no to her, he would have to say no to 50% of the people who come through his door. If this is true, it is truly shocking, as this means that half the people treated have a higher risk of complications, and should be turned away…….instead they are treated, without realising that they are playing Russian roulette with the health of their eyes. A too nice little earner for NHS private trusts perhaps? At any rate, the NHS is all too often left to pick up the pieces and expenses needed to help the victims, wherever they have been treated.

Anonymous says:
21 August 2014

Laser and RLE are both safer procedures when carried out at specialist hospitals, however both still carry significant risks which NO surgeon selling the ‘product’ will admit to. If you were selling a used car would you tell the buyer he might have a problem with the engine 6 mths down the line?

A Moorfields surgeon is discussed on the OERML website Dry Eyes forum and one of their top surgeons was sued a few years ago for over lasering a patient’s eye and burning away the cornea, which apparently left him with approx 20% vision.

Google “Musgrove Park Hospital refractive lens” for details of a very recent incident.

Is the procedure risky? I leave you to make up your own mind.

I am utterly disgusted that 14 years after my eyesight was ruined, this industry is still butchering peoples most precious sense in the ruthless pursuit of business profit ! As the outright horror cases posted here show, this industry should have been strictly regulated right from the start and ‘high st shop’ businesses should never have been allowed to aggressively sell eye surgery.
I also believe that criminal charges should be brought against companies and individuals that have ruined patients eyes in cases where the individual should have been medically ‘screened out’ and where totally wrong surgeries have been performed.

I have been short sighted since I was 10 years old and have always hated wearing glasses, mostly because, in all of those years, I have never found a pair I liked which were comfortable. So, at age 56 (last year) I decided to investigate laser eye surgery. My partner had his done in 2007 with great success. Also, several colleagues had the treatment, also with great success. What could go wrong ? I had read a couple of articles about people in their 50s having elective cataract surgery to correct vision as well as preempt cataracts in later life. I approached Optical Express who talked me out of that but into laser surgery instead. I agreed to it but then decieded to see my optician to get their view. She said to be careful and to get a second opinion, and she recommended Sight For Eyes which is located at Sunderland Eye infirmary. She also said to bear in mind that Optical Express is a business and they work in their interests and not yours -she had worked for them previously too so she knew what she was talking about. Both Optical Express and Sight for Eyes checked my eyes, declaring them to be very short sighted (about -7) but also healthy with no signs of cataracts.
I had the procedure on 7/6/2013 at Optical Express in Newcastle. Within months post surgery, I had flashing in my left eye followed by the presence of loads of floaters. This was investigated by Optical Express and I was told this was due to my being very myopic. My vision was also not 20:20 post procedure and I was told I would need a top up. Many things were tried, to work out my prescription for this top-up. I was most concerned at this point about the floaters, as I certainly did not want this condition to be made worse. Optical Express kept telling me the prodedure had nothing to do with the floaters. However, another visit to them had the optician telling me that the top up procedure could not cause more flaoters as it did not use the suction as in the first procedure. An Optical Express surgeon also confirmed this so the top up was arranged for 31/05/2014 with pre-op assessment on 19/05/2014. The pre-op assessment showed early cataracts in both eyes. The optician involved stated this was rare but not caused by the laser wavefront surgery. I have looked this up on the internet and now feel both the floaters and cataracts might have been caused by my surgery – neither of these being mentioned as a risk pre surgery. Optical Express have said they will perform cataract surgery free of charge, but I am not going back to them as I now don’t trust them and think I would get better treatment on the NHS.
In short, I now need reading/driving glasses now, but my distance vision is much improved but not prefect. I have floaters in both eyes, which obscure my vision. Now, I also have the start of cataracts and I feel this is more than just coincidence. Now I am scared for the future. What else could this have caused ? Cancer ?