Several different types of eye surgery exist, including laser or traditional surgery and minimally invasive options. The specific treatment you need depends on many factors such as your eye condition and overall health.

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Eye surgery is a very precise specialty. Like many types of surgeries, these procedures fall into a few major categories, including traditional open surgery, minimally invasive surgeries, and laser surgeries.

Ophthalmic surgeries are highly specialized based on the technique, the part of the eye involved, and what specific condition is being treated.

In this article, you’ll learn about the main types of eye surgeries, how these surgeries are performed, and why you might need to have one of these procedures.

There are many surgical approaches that may be applied to different types of surgery based on your individual anatomy, eye condition, or overall health. For this reason, eye surgeries are usually grouped based on the type of condition they treat.

Some of the main types of eye surgery are:

Each of these types of eye surgery is discussed more in depth below.

Some of the most common eye conditions that demand eye surgery include retinal detachment and glaucoma. Cataract surgery can certainly improve your vision and quality of life, but apart from a few exceptions, it’s still not performed until a person is unable to tolerate worsening cataract symptoms.

Most other eye surgeries are performed to treat a potentially sight threatening condition. Examples are trauma, glaucoma, crooked eyes (strabismus), and tumors of the eye and orbital socket. These are optional, elective surgeries that can eliminate refractive errors, rejuvenate your facial appearance, and boost quality of life rather than your overall health.

Learn more about common eye surgeries

Healthline offers information on a variety of eye problems and solutions, including:

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Importantly, make sure to consult a healthcare team and eye care professionals to understand what surgical procedures might be best considered for your own situation.

Each type of eye surgery addresses a specific type of eye issue or condition.

There are some common techniques used for each of these surgery types, but the specifics of your procedure will be up to you and your surgeon.

Refractive surgery

Refractive surgeries are designed to correct or improve deficiencies in your vision. One of the most commonly performed types of refractive surgery is laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK), a type of laser surgery that reshapes the cornea to improve visual acuity.

Although there are conventional forms of refractory surgery where layers of the clear cornea may be removed or reshaped with cutting instruments, laser techniques are the most common approach used today.

Learn more about laser eye surgeries.

Glaucoma surgery

Glaucoma surgery is a type of procedure designed to relieve a buildup of pressure in your eye that can damage the optic nerve. These surgeries are usually done with tiny, traditional incisions. These incisions are made in the surface of the eye, and a tiny tube is implanted to help relieve pressure by draining excess fluid.

Read more about glaucoma surgery.

Cataract surgery

Cataract surgery can be done using traditional incisions or laser surgery. With this type of surgery, the clouded natural lens of your eye is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. This type of surgery can sometimes be combined with other surgery types such as refractive surgery or surgery to correct astigmatism.

Read more about cataract surgery.

Retinal surgery

The retina is the layer of nerve tissue that covers the back of your eye. It’s where images are sharpened and focused before nerve signals are sent to the brain by way of the optic nerve. The clear vitreous gel fills 80% of the volume of the eye.

Not all problems with the retina can be fixed with surgery, with macular degeneration being a prime example. Retinal detachment is one condition commonly treated with retinal surgery.

A vitrectomy is another common retinal procedure that removes the vitreous fluid and any related abnormalities. It’s often used to treat a detached retina and other issues such as a vitreous hemorrhage from diabetic retinopathy.

Plastic and reconstructive surgery

Plastic and reconstructive surgeries in and around the eyes might be done for a wide range of reasons. Some of the most common include:

Some procedures that are considered reconstructive in nature may crossover with other types of eye surgery. In some cases, you may need several procedures or surgery types to correct a major ophthalmic problem such as a major eye injury.

Muscle surgery

There are six separate muscles that assist each eye in altering the gaze in different directions. Surgery may be performed to correct specific muscle problems in your eye. Strabismus (misalignment of the eyes because of a muscular imbalance) can be corrected by altering where specific eye muscles attach to the eyeball. Some forms of strabismus are because of degenerative or neuromuscular disorders such as stroke or acquired eye muscle weakness from degenerative or neuromuscular disorders such as myasthenia gravis.

Eye muscle surgery itself isn’t always a cure. Instead, if may be used to help treat eye symptoms related to a larger, systematic condition.

Learn more about degenerative diseases that may be treated with this type of eye surgery.

Trauma or injury repair

This is a very broad range of surgeries and can include any type of surgery designed to treat or repair severe trauma or injuries to your eye or the area around it.

These surgeries may be performed as one step in recovery from other problems such as brain or neurological trauma or severe bleeding. They’re usually performed with the goal of preserving your sight and restoring a more natural appearance after a serious injury.

These surgeries are usually done as an emergency or are planned procedures to repair previous injury or damage.

There are always risks with any surgery, even laser surgery. With laser eye surgeries, one risk is that the procedure will be unsuccessful or need to be repeated in time.

There are also risks of things such as:

In some cases, it’s possible to lose your vision after surgery. Talk with a surgeon about specific risks and proposed benefits of any planned procedures.

Eye surgeries are grouped based on the type of problem they address, and there are both conventional techniques involving surgical incisions as well as minimally invasive techniques, such as laser surgeries, for almost every type.

If you need to have eye surgery, talk with a surgeon about your options and what techniques may be best for you. When available, laser and other minimally invasive techniques often lower healing and recovery time.