What are the alternatives to laser eye surgery?

By "laser eye surgery," I imagine you mean LASIK. Although there are several variations on this (e.g. PRK, Epi-LASIK, SMILE), they are all meant to treat refractive vision problems like myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism by removing tissue from the cornea (not the lens) of the eye. The manufacturers of the different lasers, along with the ophthalmic surgeons using them will understandably stress the superiority of their favorite version, but there are not (IMO) major differences. These are called collectively "laser kerato-refractive" procedures. ["Kera-" means cornea.]

The most prominent alternative is a "phakic intraocular lens." The best known of these is the Intraocular Collamer Lens (ICL). This is a soft lens implant, similar to a contact lens, that can be inserted into the eye to treat similar refractive visual problems as LASIK. There are reasons why one might be more suitable for a particular person than the other. For example, if there is something odd about a patient's cornea, it would make sense to bypass it by using an ICL.

Finally, you should understand that no laser vision procedure can treat some conditions affecting vision after age 45 or so, such as presbyopia or cataract. These conditions may be better addressed by a true intraocular lens (IOL). This differs from an ICL in that it involves the removal and replacement of the eye's natural lens.

Which of these might be the best for a particular person can only be determined after a thorough eye and visual function assessment and consultation with an experienced eye doctor.

_Written by J. Trevor Woodhams, M.D. - Chief of Surgery, Woodhams Eye Clinic