LASIK is the most commonly performed refractive surgery procedure. LASIK is short for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis.”
It is very popular because it has advantages over other vision correction procedures including a relative lack of pain and that good vision usually is achieved by the very next day.
An instrument called a microkeratome is used in LASIK eye surgery to create a thin, circular flap in the cornea. A newer way of making the flap is with a laser. This flap is then folded back out of the way and then the laser removes some of the corneal tissue underneath and reshapes it.
When the cornea is reshaped it is able to focus light onto the retina, giving you clearer vision than before. The flap is then laid back in place, covering the area that was reshaped.
LASIK can be used to correct short-sightedness, far-sightedness as well as astigmatism.
Before the LASIK Procedure
Your ophthalmologist will first have to determine: if you eyes are healthy enough for the procedure, what type of vision correction will be suitable and also how much laser is required.
Certain conditions like dry eye disease will first have to be treated and cleared up before LASIK can be performed. Also, all health problems and medications you are on needs to be disclosed to the surgeon. Certain health conditions will disqualify you altogether for LASIK, but others may just postpone the procedure for a later date.
Numbing eye drops will be placed onto your eyes so you don’t feel any discomfort during the procedure. You will lie down with your eye directly under the laser.
During LASIK Surgery
An ink marker is used to mark the cornea before the flap is created. The flap is then created with either a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser. You won’t actually see the creation of the flap, which is very thin.
A computer is used to adjust the laser for your particular prescription. You will be asked to look at a target light while the surgeon watches your eye through a microscope as the laser sends pulses of light to your cornea. This will painlessly reshape your cornea. You will hear a steady clicking sound while the laser is operating. You may also smell a mild odor during the laser treatment which is normal.
The higher your prescription is, the longer the surgery will take. The surgeon has full control of the laser and can turn it off at any time.
The actual procedure takes about 5 minutes, and you’re awake the whole time. You walk into the surgery centre, have the procedure done and walk out again. You may receive an oral sedative beforehand.
After the procedure is finished, you will rest for a while. If you are having both eyes done the same day, the surgeon will normally begin working on your second eye immediately after the first. Some people choose to have their second eye done a week later.
Even though the surgery is quite quick, LASIK is a very delicate procedure and it’s important to have it performed by a highly skilled surgeon with proper equipment. You should also have someone accompany you to the surgery centre and drive you home afterward.
As with any kind of surgery, it’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions. Get proper rest, use all prescribed medications as directed and call your surgeon immediately if you suspect a problem.
You may be able to work the next day, but many surgeons advise a couple of days of rest instead. Also, no strenuous exercise for up to a week an avoid rubbing the eyes.
Most people’s vision improves right away, while others may have a gradual improvement over the next few days or even weeks. Most people achieve 20/20 or better vision after LASIK. Some may only achieve 20/40. Some people still need glasses or contact lenses following LASIK vision correction but their prescription will be lower than what it was before.
Complications can include infection, night glare (haloes around lights at night) and rarely, people will experience clear vision after LASIK, then notice a gradual worsening of vision over time. This is called regression and if this happens, the surgeon will determine if a ‘touch up’ will be necessary.
If you are over 40, you will still need reading glasses for all your near tasks. This is due to presbyopia which is age related.
LASIK Criteria for Success
While many people are good candidates for laser eye surgery, these procedures are not for everyone.
Your eyes must be healthy. With dry eyes, conjunctivitis or an eye injury, you must wait for until the condition is resolved. Eye diseases like cataracts, keratoconus and uncontrolled glaucoma may disqualify you completely.
You must be an adult
Your vision must be stable for at least a year. Vision usually stabilizes in your 20’s. Your optometrist will be able to tell you if your vision is stable.
Pregnancy, affects the fluid levels in your body and this could cause your vision to fluctuate. You would have to wait for your hormone levels to settle down which may take a few months after giving birth.
Degenerative and Auto-immune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis; Type 1 Diabetes, HIV and AIDS will disqualify you.
Your prescription must be within certain limits. Very high short-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism may require a different type of refractive surgery.