LASIK or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis is a refractive surgery that is used to correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism as an alternative to eyeglasses or contact lenses. LASIK is currently the most common of the refractive eye surgeries, largely because of the relatively low risk and the quick recovery and improvement in eyesight.
Also known as laser eye surgery or laser vision correction, LASIK uses a laser to reshape the cornea which is responsible for clear vision. The procedure is quick and relatively painless and eyesight is usually improved to 20/20 vision within one day of the surgery.
How Does LASIK Work?
LASIK is an outpatient procedure, which takes about 15 minutes for the actual surgery on both eyes and an hour total with recovery. A topical anesthetic drop is used and there is no need for bandaging or stitches following the procedure. The doctor will start by stabilizing the eye and then making a small flap in the outer layer of the cornea. Then with access to the underlying tissue, he uses a laser to reshape the corneal tissue and re-closes the flap, which will heal on its own. The nature of the corneal reshaping depends on the type of refractive error.
Wavefront LASIK uses computer mapping technology to guide the laser treatment based on the precise shape of the cornea. This can correct very precise issues, provide much sharper vision than non-wavefront LASIK and can reduce complications such as halos, glare and problems seeing at night.
What to Expect During and After LASIK?
During the procedure you may feel some pressure on your eye while the laser is working. Immediately following you will likely experience some blurriness and may feel burning or itching (be sure not to rub your eyes!). For your journey home you will be given protective shields to guard your eyes and will need someone to drive you. You will also be prescribed medicated eye drops for a week or so to aid in healing and prevent infection. Your doctor may also recommend artificial tears to moisten the eyes and keep them comfortable in the days following the procedure.
The day after the surgery you will be asked to visit your eye doctor (or the surgeon) for a follow up visit and to evaluate whether you are able to drive. Most people experience an improvement in vision by then, although for some it can take a few days or even a week. Your eyes may be sensitive to light for a day or two as well. You will likely be advised to rest for a day or two and to refrain from strenuous physical activity for about a week until further healing has taken place.
Most people achieve at least 20/20 vision following the surgery, although this can vary and there are cases where 20/40 vision is obtained or where people continue to wear glasses or contacts with a much lesser prescription. Some patients have light sensitivity, particularly when driving at night, also suffering from seeing halos around lights or glare. There are glasses and lenses available to reduce this glare and assist with night driving.
For some, it can take weeks or even months until the vision completely stabilizes. Occasionally, after a few months, patients who do not experience perfect results will schedule an enhancement or touch up surgery to correct the vision even further.
Am I a Candidate for LASIK?
The ideal LASIK candidate is a patient over 18 with generally healthy eyes. Since the procedure involves shaping the cornea by removing some of the tissue, it is not ideal for individuals with a thin cornea or any sort of corneal condition or disease. Patients with chronic dry eyes might also be disqualified as LASIK can often exacerbate these symptoms.
During a comprehensive eye exam your eye doctor will assess your eligibility by looking at the general health of your eye including your cornea, your pupil, the moisture in your eye, the type of refractive error you have and whether you have any other eye conditions of concern.
For the right candidate, LASIK can offer a lifestyle improvement in giving clear vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses, however, the results are not guaranteed. You and your eye doctor need to weigh the benefits and the potential risks based on your personal needs.