Q: I am considering refractive laser eye surgery. How safe is this procedure and what are the risks?

A: Refractive laser eye surgery is a treatment to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Short pulses of invisible ultraviolet light remove a small amount of tissue from the front of the eye - the cornea - to correct the curvature. By correcting the curvature, images are better focused on the retina and the images are clearer. The surgery may reduce or eliminate the need for contact lenses or glasses.

Millions of people in North America, Europe and Asia have had successful laser eye surgery.

As with any medical procedure, there are risks involved. However, the chances of having vision-reducing complications are minimal. Some potential complications include dryness, night glare, haloes, under or over correction, and loss of best corrected vision. All these risks should be discussed fully with your eye doctor prior to the procedure. The best way to help prevent complications is to choose a surgeon who is experienced and respected in the community.

People 21 years of age or older with healthy eyes and stable vision are possible candidates for this procedure. A visit to an eye doctor will help determine if laser correction for nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism is right for you.

The Expert:

Color photo of Dr. W. Bruce Jackson, MD, FRCSC.

Dr. W. Bruce Jackson, MD, FRCSC is a professor and chair in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Ottawa and is director general at the Eye Institute in Ottawa, Ontario. He started the excimer laser program at the Eye Institute, which was the first excimer laser in a university training program in Canada.