LASIK has been a buzzword in the search for improved eyesight since it was approved nearly 20 years ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. From then on, millions of people have taken advantage of this vision-sharpening procedure and more are looking into having it done. Still, the mere notion of having a blade or laser near the eyes is enough to make some people run the other way. For others, LASIK seems like a godsend solution to all their vision problems. Let’s explore what this eye surgery is all about and correct some popular misconceptions about it in this guide.
What is LASIK eye surgery?
LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis and it’s the most commonly performed laser eye surgery to treat astigmatism, farsightedness, and nearsightedness. People who are tired of relying on glasses and contact lenses turn to this solution to correct their eyesight. Post-surgery, most people who have undergone LASIK surgery enjoy a 20/40 vision (the level majority of states require for driving without corrective glasses) or better.
Radial keratotomy became widespread in the 1980s. This procedure involved creating small radial incisions in the cornea to correct nearsightedness. In 1988, the Kremer Excimer Laser technology helped with biological operations and ramped up the eye surgery progress quickly. A year later, the first LASIK surgery was performed prior to its official approval.
In 2001, IntraLase or “bladeless” LASIK gained approval from the FDA. This eye surgery foregoes the microblade and instead uses a lightning-quick laser to slice a flap. While traditional LASIK is quicker, IntraLase generally forms more precise corneal flaps. There are pros and cons to both, and a specialist will choose the best option depending on the patient’s circumstance.
The surgery is a two-part process that can be done in less than 30 minutes. You will be assisted to the exam room containing the laser system. This equipment comes with a microscope and a computer screen. The doctor will administer a numbing drop so you don’t have to feel any pain. You may also request for an oral agent to help you relax.
The surgeon will then start the operation by creating a small flap off the top layer of the cornea. The second part of the process involves the reshaping of the cornea with a laser so that your retina can accurately focus on the light and help you see better. The lasers used in LASIK are cutting-edge and they use the same tracking technology NASA uses to dock rockets at the International Space Station. You will be on the operating table for only 15 minutes, and while you’re awake, you still won’t feel any of the slicing or lasering.
The advanced technology used in LASIK surgery ensures that the procedure goes according to plan, ensuring each patient’s safety. No surgery is 100 percent effective, but LASIK shows an incredible success rate of 95 to 98.8 percent. Some patients may still require an additional procedure, often called an enhancement. Meanwhile, those who are expecting perfect vision without contacts or glasses may be disappointed.
Determining If You Are A Candidate
Unfortunately, LASIK is not for everybody. In fact, most surgeons report that more than 20 percent of their LASIK consultations are not eligible. Certain eye diseases like glaucoma and irregular or thin corneas are likely to disqualify a patient for the procedure. Several autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, as well as certain medications, can also impair the healing process. These conditions can make the laser vision correction surgery a less-than-ideal option.
If you decide to go ahead with the surgery, your eye doctor will give you an initial evaluation to see if you are a good candidate. If you wear contact lenses, you might be advised to switch to your eyeglasses full-time. This helps your cornea to assume its natural shape to avoid complications during surgery.
Some of the consequences of continuing to wear your contacts before the procedure include inaccurate measurements, unsound surgical mapping, and poor vision post-surgery. The FDA recommends taking a break from soft contact lenses for two weeks before your baseline evaluation, three weeks for toric soft lenses or rigid permeable lenses wearers, and four weeks for those who use hard lenses.
After your eye exam, your doctor will discuss whether you are a good candidate. You will be informed of the benefits, risks, and alternatives of the surgery. You will also learn about what your responsibilities and the things you should expect before, during, and after the procedure.
Recovering from a LASIK surgery is surprisingly fast. Just four hours after the operation, you’ll already be comfortable and be able to see well. However, it’s important to be careful with your eyes for another week to give it enough time to heal. It is normal to feel some discomfort within the first 24 hours post-surgery, but it’s nothing you can’t manage with over-the-counter pain-relievers. Your doctor will also prescribe a lubricating eye drops to promote healing, prevent infection, and keep your eyes comfortable.
LASIK typically requires a follow-up with your doctor after a day of your operation. Here’s where you’ll get the go-signal to return to your normal daily activities. You might have to come back again after a week, a month, three months, six months, and one year after surgery.
As part of the healing process, patients might experience temporary side effects, including sensitivity to light, tearing eyes, halos around the eyes, and puffy eyelids. These should all subside within a week, but the healing will not stop for another three to six months. Make sure to attend your follow-up checkups so your doctor can monitor your progress.
LASIK surgery might be an ideal choice if you are a good candidate, but only you can decide if it’s right for you. If you are determined to go for it, find a surgeon you trust and feel comfortable with. LASIK technologies and outcomes are better than they’ve ever been, aiming to help those who want to be less dependent on contacts and glasses.