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(LASIK) Laser eye surgery – short for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis – is a form of laser eye surgery that is performed with the intention of correcting common vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. This procedure is usually performed as an alternative to photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), because it involves less recovery time and less overall patient discomfort. Many patients choose LASIK surgery over alternatives such as wearing corrective lenses or contact lenses.
LASIK surgery has resulted in making clear vision a reality for millions of individuals who used to rely on glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision problems. Due to increased experience and technological advances, the reliability and predictability of LASIK outcomes have improved greatly. Complications with LASIK still exist, as with any surgical procedure, but these risks are getting less common.
LASIK eye surgery changes the shape of the patient’s cornea. After the procedure, the patient’s cornea should bend and refract light rays in a way that makes them focus more precisely on the retina, rather than at some point beyond or short of the retina.
LASIK eye surgery may be an option for those who suffer from common vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism. Most eye doctors will recommend that patients try other ways to correct their vision problems before opting for LASIK surgery or other type of corrective surgery. There are some doctors who may be reluctant to endorse the use of corrective surgery, reasoning that the eyes are basically healthy even if the patient suffers from a vision problem and that surgery might jeopardize the overall health of the patient’s eye. Glasses and contact lenses are a patient’s first option. In some cases, these options may help vision problems correct themselves over time. As with most surgical procedures, a good outcome with LASIK surgery is largely dependent on a careful evaluation of the patient’s eyes before the procedure.
Here are some things that one should think about when considering LASIK eye surgery:
- You should be at least 18 years old (21 for some lasers), since younger people’s vision is liable to change.
- You should not be pregnant or nursing as these conditions might change the measured refraction of the eye.
- You should not be taking certain prescription medications such as oral steroids or Accutane.
- Your eyes must be healthy and your prescription stable. If you are myopic, you should postpone LASIK until your refraction has stabilized since myopia can continue to increase into your mid-to-late twenties.
- You should be in good general health.
- You should weigh all risks and rewards of having LASIK surgery.
- Ask your doctor if you are a candidate for monovision (correcting one eye for distance vision and the other for near vision). LASIK cannot correct presbyopia, but it can be used as stated above. If you can adjust to such a correction, LASIK may eliminate or reduce your need for other corrective measures such as reading glasses, etc.
Before the surgery, your doctor or surgeon should explain the risks and complications that could arise during the procedure or as a result of the procedure. These risks include:
- Over or under-correction. This problem can be dealt with in some cases with an additional procedure, but are usually improved by using glasses, contact lenses, or other enhancements.
- Corneal scarring, irregular astigmatism (permanent warping of the cornea), and an inability to wear contact lenses
- Corneal infection.
- Loss of “best correct visual acuity” – that is, you will not be able to see as well after the procedure, even with glasses or contacts, as you did with glasses or contacts before the surgery.
- Decrease in contrast sensitivity, “crispness,” or sharpness. That means that even though you might have 20/20 vision, objects may appear fuzzy or grayish.
- Problems with night time driving that may require glasses.
- Flap problems, including irregular flaps, incomplete flaps, flaps cut off entirely, and ingrowth of cells under the flap.
The following side effects are possible, but generally disappear over time. In rare instances they may become permanent.
- Discomfort or pain
- Hazy or blurry vision
- Haloes or star bursts around lights
- Light sensitivity
- Small pink or red patches on the white of the eye