Contact lenses versus refractive surgery 

Contact lenses are the first choice for many people who wish to correct their visual needs. For many, they provide flexibility and convenience and they are a safe way to correct shortcomings in vision. However, they must be used correctly and your eyes should be checked regularly.

Refractive surgery is a relatively new and constantly evolving technology. Most people are very pleased with the results of refractive surgery. Once the procedure has been undertaken, there can be independence from spectacles and lenses. However, like any medical procedure, there are no guarantees. It is important to understand the risks and the limitations of the procedure.

Risks of contact lenses


There is a small but very significant risk of developing an infection if the lenses are not worn correctly. It is important to recognise and act upon the early signs of infection and to have regular checks.

Risks of refractive surgery

• Reduced vision. A small number of patients lose lines of vision as a result of treatment
• Debilitating visual symptoms such as haloes, glare and reduced night vision
• Under or over-treatment. Occasionally a second procedure is undertaken
• Dry eye syndrome. This condition may be permanent. Intensive drop therapy and use of plugs or other procedures may be required.
• Large refractive errors. The outcomes are not as reliable with larger refractive errors and glasses and contacts may still be required.
• Ongoing-spectacle use. Glasses may still be required for some distances, usually near and intermediate distances.

If you are interested in refractive surgery, the first step is to consult your eyecare practitioner who will advise you on all the options available for correcting your vision. Your surgeon should be prepared to discuss their personal success and complication rates. Think carefully about the risk and benefits of each procedure. Don't base your decision purely on cost.

Contact the British Society for Refractive Surgery for a list of surgeons in your area. More information on laser refractive surgery can be found at Lasik Eyes.