/ 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?

Debbie says:
16 November 2014

Hi Fred,
I was very worried to hear that after all the information on this website your son is still considering laser eye surgery. I also went to a top consultant and thought I was in safe hands, however I now know that despite the expertise of your surgeon if your eyes are not suitable for the procedure there is nothing they can do to stop the inevitable happening! For the lucky ones laser eye surgery can be a success, but trust me it is not worth the risk! There is not a second that goes by that I wish I had not walked in to the surgeon’s office in November 2012! My eyes were almost intolerant of contact lenses so I went expecting to be told that my eyes were too dry for the procedure, instead I was given no cause for concern, risks were not discussed with me despite the fact that I questioned them about my dry eyes, my worries were simply brushed to one side and I was told that there were excellent drops on the market these days! I was given a detailed booklet on the risks to read on my way out of his office, but as these had not been brought to may attention during the consultation I believed I was safe to proceed. I clearly was not and should have been warned of the increased risk I was taking!
I now live with severe dry eyes that burn constantly, reduced clarity of vision ( feeling like I spend my life looking through dirty contact lenses!) and floaters. I cannot begin to explain what this has done to my once happy life. Going to a top consultant will not guarantee success or the truth! The real risks of laser eye surgery are documented here, I wish I had had the opportunity to read such stories before proceeding with an elective operation which has ruined my eyes and had a devastating effect on my life. I battle through each day, trying so hard to stay positive and strong. Please do not allow your son to take the risk I took, these consultants are very good at glossing over the many, real risks of this surgery.

[This comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods]

fred warwick says:
17 November 2014

Hi Debbie

Thank you for this information. May I ask have if you went back to the consultant/hospital that you mentioned before it was edited out, and if so what did they say?

Thank you

Debbie says:
17 November 2014

Hi Fred,
Yes I have returned to Moorfields many times, and to be fair the consultant spent a good deal of time with me, but the damage had been done! There is very little that can be done for dry eyes, and believe me I have tried everything! Nothing alleviates the pain and discomfort. I have tried countless over the counter eye drops, steroid drops, omega eye tablets, doxycycline tablets, heating my eyes with a blephasteam and massaging the glands twice a day, keeping the eyelids clean with baby shampoo or blephasol… the list is endless! The bottom line is that I should not have had the procedure done! Aftercare means nothing if they are not able to put right what went wrong, unfortunately ( and this is something I am trying hard to come to terms with) I will have this problem for the rest of my life.
I was told that I had 20/20 vision, so on their books I may look like a success, however the fact is that I had to strain to make out the letters that were not crisp and sharp as they had once been with my glasses, most of the time my vision is blurred and I am constantly blinking to try to clear it. The optometrist and consultant are very clever in the way they manipulate what you tell them to make it sound as if what your are experiencing is completely normal and that most people would be pleased with the outcome! They basically do not want to admit that the procedure has not been a success. It took many meetings before the consultant finally agreed that he should have turned me away! My question is how many people worldwide are being subjected to laser eye surgery for which they are not suitable? If a top Moorfields surgeon can allow me to proceed with surgery that has permanently damaged my eyes it could happen to anyone! I firmly believe that this surgery should be stopped in its tracks and not offered to the public unless it is the only option left to save your sight!


Hi Debbie,

Did you ever consider going down a legal route?
I got the same reaction from my surgeon and his team and was made to feel that what I was experiencing was the norm and that I ought to be grateful(!) for the outcome.
How are your eyes today?

fred warwick says:
17 November 2014

Thanks Debbie

I have passed your posts to my son to read.

I do so hope something comes along to alleviate your suffering.

Best wishes

Julie says:
17 November 2014

Hello Fred,

Just to add to what Debbie has been telling you, I also have damaged eyes as a result of RLE with Optical Express. I had a retinal detachment (repaired on the NHS) in the left eye followed by further surgery to correct complications from the detachment. I now technically have 20/20 vision, just like Debbie, but I struggle every day with getting my eyes to work together, they’ve been so distorted by the original surgery and then the complications from the detachment. The OE optom failed to recognise the limits of his competence and declared there was nothing wrong with my eyes when in fact, I had a retinal tear in situ. If he had referred me to the local eye hospital for a proper assessment, the tear would have been found long before it became a detachment and it would have been repaired without the damage my eye has now sustained.

The point of my post, though is to say that I saw a refractive specialist privately who warned me off having laser surgery and I am so glad I did. I was due to have laser on my right eye at OE (I still trusted them at this point) but cancelled at the last minute. I owe my mostly decent right eye to his advice. I could have been having similar problem as Debbie had I gone ahead. I am sure you won’t be considering any voluntary eye surgery now, but if you still were, please heed our advice! Wearing glasses is preferable to having your eyes mucked up for life. I now have to wear them most of the time again, so I’ve spent £3,500.00 on having my eyes damaged for life. I so wish I could turn back the clock.


I received this email from an obscure address, with an unsubscribe PO Box number in Athens. Invited to win a prize of laser eye surgery.
Don’t know what all the fuss is about – clearly a professional business. I wonder if its statistics have been audited though? And is the laser eye surgery 2nd prize – with first prize not winning it?

“Make laser eye surgery one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2015.

More than 99% of patients achieve 20/20 vision or better* following surgery and based on a survey of 252,179 patient responses, over 99% of our patients would recommend Optical Express to their friends and family.**

Many treated patients said it was one of the best decisions that they have made in their life. Why not make it yours!

*99.1% of Optical Express patients achieve 20/20 vision or better following laser eye surgery. Based on a study of 336,381 patients, September 2014.
**Based on a study of 252,179 patients, September 2014 “

Emily Merrell says:
12 February 2015

Thank you so much for this information. I think that it is always good to see both sides of the issue. I have been thinking about getting lasik eye surgery for a couple of weeks now. On tv you hear only good things about it. I assumed that there was some risk, as there is in every surgical procedure. This really helps me to know what I’m getting myself into better.