Laser Eye Surgery

Can I Have Laser Eye Surgery If I Have Diabetes?

Laser eye surgery is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people look to free themselves from their glasses or contact lenses. There are two main types of laser eye surgery, Lasik and Lasek. The vast majority of people choose to have Lasik because it has a far quicker and more comfortable recovery period. Most people can return to work and normal activities within 48 hours of having Lasik, whereas it can take up to a week to recover from Lasek surgery. In some instances your surgeon may insist that you have Lasik–if, for example, you are involved in contact sports.

Can people with diabetes have laser eye surgery? The simple answer is “It depends.” The concerns are as follows:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: People with diabetes are normally assessed annually for diabetic changes (retinopathy) at the back of the eye. If you have central diabetic retinopathy, your vision may be slightly impaired. Laser eye surgery will not improve vision that is reduced as a result of retinopathy, and many surgeons will not treat such people.
  • Slower healing: Because people with diabetes may heal more slowly, the cornea, which is what is treated during laser eye surgery, can take longer to recover. Some laser eye surgeons insist that diabetics have Intralase, which is the premium type of Lasik surgery and is thought to have a quicker recovery time.
  • Fluctuating prescription: If your diabetes is not well controlled, your variable blood sugar levels can result in your prescription changing. This means that your optician or surgeon will not be able to get an accurate measurement of your prescription for your laser eye surgery correction. This could lead to the laser vision treatment not being accurate.

The only way you can learn for certain if you are suitable for surgery is by going for a laser eye surgery consultation. Different clinics and different surgeons have slightly different criteria as to what is acceptable and what is not. Most surgeons will at least expect diabetics to have the following:

  • Minimal diabetic retinopathy: Some surgeons may insist that you have no diabetic retinopathy, but they will be most concerned with any retinopathy affecting your central vision.
  • Well controlled blood sugar levels:  All surgeons absolutely insist that this is the case, as it is the only way to ensure that they are getting accurate measurements of your prescription. Your surgeon is likely to ask for a letter from your general practitioner stating that your blood sugar levels are stable.

Thousands of diabetics have successfully had laser eye surgery, but it comes down to the surgeon to decide if he/she is willing to carry out the treatment under your particular circumstances. If you have no diabetic retinopathy and your blood sugars are well controlled, chances are that you will be suitable. The only way you will know for certain is by seeking a consultation.

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