What is LASIK surgery?
LASIK, or laser in-situ keratomileusis, surgery is used to correct nearsightedness. When a person is nearsighted (myopic), his or her eye is too long or the cornea is too steep, resulting in too much focusing power. The light rays entering the eye come in focus before hitting the retina, resulting in blurry vision when looking in the distance. The procedure, which should be performed by a skilled eye surgeon, involves reshaping the cornea using an excimer laser. LASIK is replacing many of the other refractive eye surgery techniques.
A promising new technology, called wavefront-guided LASIK, provides an advanced method for measuring optical distortions in the eye. The Eye Surgery Education Council states that physicians can now use this technology as a roadmap to evaluate the eye by measuring how light is distorted as it passes into the eye and then is reflected back. This creates an optical map of the eye, highlighting individual imperfections. In addition, the wavefront technology allows the surgeon to tailor the laser beam settings for a more precise procedure. This provides a patient sharper, better quality vision as well as a reduction in nighttime vision difficulties.
How is LASIK surgery performed?
Although each procedure varies slightly, in general, LASIK surgery involves using a computer-controlled excimer laser (a cold, ultraviolet laser) and a microkeratome (a surgical instrument). With these instruments, the surgeon cuts a flap in the center of the cornea to remove a thin layer of tissue. By removing the tissue, the cornea flattens, reducing the myopia. The flap, which is replaced without using sutures, adheres back to the cornea within minutes.
Recovery after LASIK surgery:
In most cases, recovery from LASIK surgery is fast and involves minimal discomfort. Mild pain relievers may be recommended by your surgeon to relieve discomfort during the first day after surgery. Patients typically take eyedrops for a week after the procedure.
Possible side effects of LASIK surgery:
Generally, LASIK has a high success rate. However, side effects do occur. The following are the most common side effects and complications. Each individual may experience side effects differently. Side effects may include:
- dry eyes (during the healing process)
- eye discomfort (mostly during the first 24 hours following surgery)
- irregular astigmatism, which can decrease the corrected vision (astigmatism means blurring caused by an irregularly shaped cornea)
- corneal haze or glare
- overcorrected or undercorrected vision
- inability to wear contact lenses in the future
- loss of the corneal flap, requiring a corneal graft
- vision loss
Benefits of LASIK surgery:
For most candidates, LASIK surgery usually involves little pain and recovery is rapid. Other benefits may include:
- LASIK can correct a wide range of myopia, up to 15 diopters (unit of measurement of the refractive power of a lens).
- LASIK can be repeated to correct the vision further.
- The eyes stabilize between three and six months after LASIK surgery.
- The eye is not weakened, because only one flap is cut into the cornea.
- LASIK usually causes little or no scarring of the cornea.
- Post-operative care is usually limited to using eye drops for a week after surgery.
Who is a potential candidate for LASIK eye surgery?
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), potential candidates for corrective laser eye surgery must meet the following criteria. However, it is advised that potential candidates consult his/her physician before undergoing any type of corrective eye surgery. The criteria include:
- The candidate must be at least 21 years old if being treated with the Summit laser (one brand of excimer lasers), or 18 years old if being treated with the VISX laser (another brand of excimer lasers). This age requirement is necessary to ensure the eyes have finished growing.
- The candidate must have mild to moderate nearsightedness (myopia).
- The candidate must be free of eye disease, problems with the retina, or scarring of the cornea.
- The candidate must have the financial ability to pay for this costly surgery, since insurance may not cover the procedure.
- The candidate must be aware of all the side effects, risks, and benefits of the surgery. Candidates should also be aware of the alternative treatment options available.
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