Glasses or contacts aren’t the first choice for everyone, and that’s understandable. If you want to have clearer vision without the need for corrective lenses, your eye doctor may suggest laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgery.
On the other hand, LASIK isn’t suitable for absolutely everyone. While it can help patients kick their dependency on glasses or contacts, some eye conditions can’t be fixed by surgically reshaping your cornea. We’ve put together a few points to consider if you’re wondering about LASIK.
Which Refractive Errors Can be Helped by LASIK?
This common type of refractive surgery eliminates the need for contact lenses or glasses. People with moderate degrees of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism often qualify as candidates for this procedure. Doctors sometimes recommend this procedure for patients with presbyopia as well.
How LASIK Works
Laser eye surgery has been around since 1987, and LASIK has largely overtaken earlier surgeries. To illustrate the difference, not all laser eye surgery is LASIK, but all LASIK is laser eye surgery.
The key breakthrough that made LASIK the preferred methodology lies in the energy produced. The laser uses hyper-focused ultraviolet light, which vaporizes targeted cells, but causes no damage to immediate areas. For this reason, it’s called a “cool laser.”
Surgical incisions allow an eye surgeon to fold the top of the cornea back so that precisely mapped corneal tissue underneath the outer flap can be targeted. Then, they vaporize unnecessary tissue, so that when they fold the corneal flap back down — it conforms to a shape granting better focus.
What to Expect from LASIK Surgery
Better focus through a LASIK procedure only works on a case-by-case basis, however. For example, if your myopia is due to an elongated eyeball due to pressure stemming from glaucoma, reshaping the cornea won’t help. You’ll need the all-clear from your eye doctor to proceed with LASIK.
Who Can’t Benefit from LASIK?
While your eye doctor is the best person to make the call, some factors make laser eye surgeries inadvisable. If you fall into the following categories, you might not be a candidate for LASIK:
- Under 18 years old
- Multiple changes in prescription within the year
- Extreme myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism
- Severe dry eye
- Cornea that’s too thin
- Cornea abrasions or disease
- Keratoconus (cone-shaped cornea)
- Advanced glaucoma
- A cataract affecting vision
- A history of having certain eye infections
- Diabetes that is not controlled well
- Pregnant or nursing women
Prior to LASIK, your eye doctor will perform a comprehensive eye exam. The consultation includes checking vision, signs of infection, dry eyes, inflammation, high eye pressure, and large eye pupils. Pre-existing conditions like dry eye can sometimes worsen, so your eye doctor pays special attention to how LASIK might affect the health of your eyes.
Doctors at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care will also measure each cornea, taking note of their contour, shape, irregularities, and thickness. Part of this consultation determines how high your refractive error is and whether LASIK can correct your vision.
After consulting with our eye doctors, we can refer you to an outpatient surgery center. Your eye surgeon uses a laser to reshape your cornea. LASIK procedure goes like this:
- You’ll get some local anesthetic eye drops.
- Your surgeon will fix your eyelids in place to keep you from blinking.
- They’ll also apply a suction ring on your eye to keep your eye from turning away. You’ll feel slight pressure from the ring.
- At this point, your vision will subside.
- Using either a device called a microkeratome or a laser, your surgeon makes a very thin flap in the cornea tissue. Lifting the layer formed by the flap back.
- You’re to stare at a target light so that your eyes will not move while a surgical laser does its work.
- The laser is a special instrument that has been programmed with measurements for your eye.
- The ophthalmologist then reshapes your cornea using the laser.
- While your ophthalmologist is using the laser, you will hear a clicking sound.
- After reshaping the cornea, your eye surgeon folds the flap back down into position and smoothes the edges.
- The flap attaches on its own in 2–3 minutes, where it will heal in place.
- You may be asked to wear a see-through shield over your eyes to protect your eyes better while they heal.
- We don’t recommend doing anything besides relaxing or sleeping on the day of the surgery.
- For a few hours after the surgery, you may feel itching or burning in your eyes. But many patients receive individual eye drops to reduce dryness and help their eye heal. It’s important to apply eye drops properly for best results.
- After a few days, your eyes should feel healthy, and your vision will have improved.
What Complications Can Arise from LASIK?
While full recovery is likely (for an average 95% of patients in some 300 peer-reviewed studies), a handful of patients experience unpleasant complications from LASIK surgery. Most of these symptoms are temporary, but they can be alarming if you haven’t experienced them as side-effects of this kind of surgery.
Temporary side-effects can include:
- Hazy or blurry vision
- Difficulty with night vision or driving at night
- Scratchiness, dryness and other symptoms of dry eye
- Glare, halos or starbursts around lights
- Light sensitivity
- Discomfort or pain
- Small pink or red patches on the white of the eye
While these side-effects might seem severe, the surgery has been streamlined over the years. Newer laser technology has improved patient recovery significantly. For the best chances at recovery, prepare for the surgery as best you can.
How to Prepare for LASIK Surgery
To prepare for your LASIK treatment, visit your eye doctor and prepare for the big day:
- Arrange for a ride to and from the clinic. You might still feel the effects of the medicine given during the procedure. It might lead to temporary blurred vision, so make sure you have someone drive you home safely.
- Skip the eye makeup.It’s advisable not to wear any eye makeup, lotions, or cream perfume the day before and on the day of surgery. We recommend that you clean your eyelashes daily (or more often) days before the treatment to minimize the risk of infection.
- Stop wearing your contact lenses. Lose the contact lenses and switch to eyeglasses for at least a few weeks before LASIK surgery. Sometimes contact lenses can distort the shape of your cornea, affecting measurements and surgical outcomes.
Your LASIK optometrist and your eye surgeon may have further instructions.
Ask Your Eye Doctor About LASIK
Only a professional eye doctor like those of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care can recommend the right treatment for your vision problem. Depending on your eye condition, you may need LASIK, clear lens extraction, intrastromal corneal ring segments, or even new contact lenses.
Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care can help you treat different vision problems using the latest technology. We’ll talk with you about the procedure, risks, and potential outcomes of LASIK or other types of procedures right for you.
Call us at (301) 859-4060 to learn more about LASIK. If you’re coming from Washington, Alexandria, or Rockville, you can also schedule a visit through our contact form.