Lasik Eye Surgery
If you suffer from nearsightedness, farsightedness or an astigmatism (a curved cornea resulting in blurry vision) and prefer not to wear glasses or contacts, consider Lasik eye surgery. It’s simple and effective.
It’s been done globally since 1990. About 20 million procedures have been performed worldwide. Each year, over one million Americans choose Lasik surgery to improve their vision.
Discover the basics of Lasik.
An outpatient surgical procedure, Lasik (laser in situ kertomileusis) refers to the procedure where an eye doctor or ophthalmologist uses a laser to reshape the cornea. The cornea is the transparent tissue that covers the iris (the colored part of the eye) the pupil (the dark middle of the eye) and the anterior eye chamber.
It’s as smooth and clear as glass. It’s as tough and durable as plastic. Reshaping it with a laser helps improve vision. In fact, more than 90 percent of Lasik patients realize somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40 vision without glasses or contacts.
(Note: Lasik cannot correct the age-related diminishing of close-up focusing ability)
How do you know if it’s for you?
Lasik surgery is an option if you:
- Are 18 years old or over
- Are In good health
- Have adhered to a stable vision prescription for at least a year
- Have no eye disease
- Possess sufficient corneal thickness
- Can take a few days off work for recovery
Although prices have somewhat stabilized (from about $1500 to $2500 per eye) for Lasik surgery, make sure you can afford it. In fact, since cost can be a major obstacle, many ophthalmologists offer financing plans for Lasik surgery.
Visit Your Eye Doctor
If you think you might be a Lasik candidate, it’s time to visit an eye surgeon to verify it. After a thorough eye exam, have a frank conversation with your doctor covering the following points:
- Whether or not you’re a good candidate
- Side effects
- What to expect before, during and after surgery
- Whether the laser is FDA approved
- Ask how many Lasik procedures the doctor has done and what the outcomes were
As suggested, Lasik surgery can significantly improve vision. While no national database for Lasik surgeries currently exists, results of many individual studies are available.
They suggest that:
- 55.3 percent of Lasik patients achieve 20/20 vision (some studies place this figure as high as 85 percent)
- 92.6 percent of Lasik patients achieve 20/40 or better vision and do not have to wear corrective glasses or contact lenses
- Worldwide satisfaction rates among Lasik patients is 95.4 percent
Make sure you get results specific to your eye surgeon. If possible, talk with a patient.
Lasik Risks and Side Effects
The Eye Surgery Education Council (ESEC) places serious, vision threatening problems at less than one percent of Lasik surgeries. Other complications include eye infections, chronic dry eye and Lasik cornea flap problems. Most of these can be remedied by medications.
There can be some side effects from Lasik:
- Blurry vision
- Night vision difficulties
- Dry eyes
- Glare, halos or starbursts around light
- Light sensitivity
- Discomfort or pain
- Pink or red patches on the white of the eye
If these symptoms don’t disappear or don’t respond to treatment, a retreatment, or a second surgery may be required. This is necessary in about 10.5 percent of cases.
Prior to Surgery
If you decide to go forward with Lasik surgery, prepare as follows:
- Stop wearing hard contacts four weeks prior to your baseline evaluation; three weeks for rigid lenses and two weeks for soft contacts. Contacts alter the cornea’s shape.
- Stop using creams, lotions, makeup, and perfumes the day before surgery
- Arrange for a ride to and from the surgeons office
Each Lasik laser pulse removes less than one hundred-thousandth of an inch to alter the cornea’s shape. This occurs in about 12 billionths of a second. The whole procedure takes 15 to 30 minutes for both eyes.
As the patient reclines under a Lasik Laser the eye is numbed with drops of a topical anesthetic. Then-
- An holder is placed between the eyelids to keep the eye open and prevent blinking
- A suction ring keeps the eye still (You may feel pressure from these devices. It’s similar to having a finger pressing on the eyelid.)
- When the cornea is flattened, a hinged flap is created with a microsurgical tool. It’s lifted then folded back.
- While you look at a special pinpoint light, the ophthalmologist sculpts the cornea with the laser
- The surgeon then re-adjusts the flap. It sticks to the main cornea in two to five minutes, eliminating any need for stitches.
To help protect the healing cornea from an accidental rub, you may be asked to wear a transparent eye shield for a short time.
Your eye may itch or burn. It may feel like there’s something in it. You may experience mild discomfort, pain, blurry vision, light sensitivity, halos, glares or blotches of pink or red in the eye.
These symptoms should subside considerably within the first few days after surgery.
See your doctor in the next 24 to 48 hours. He’ll remove the eye shield, examine your eye and test your vision. Consult regularly for the next six months for instructions on any activity you’re permitted or not permitted to do.
It may take three to six months before your vision stabilizes and the side effects disappear.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
A note about the Lasik laser. The FDA regulates the sale of medical apparatus including the Lasik laser. This means, the device has to be approved by the FDA for safety and effectiveness.
Check and see if the device your doctor uses is FDA approved. You can also go to the FDA website, see a list of FDA approved Lasik lasers (currently at 14) and read a summary of the safety and effectiveness of each one.