In a previous blog we talked about the basics of LASIK eye surgery, including talking about one of our own doctors who is the proponent of the surgery. In this blog, we would talk about what you can expect when you actually have the surgery.
How it works
The surgery is performed by using a laser that permanently reshapes the cornea to help the patient regain sharper and better vision. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains the procedure as, “A mechanical microkeratome (a blade device) or a laser keratome (a laser device) is used to cut a flap in the cornea. A hinge is left at one end of this flap. The flap is folded back revealing the stroma, the middle section of the cornea. Pulses from a computer-controlled laser vaporize a portion of the stroma and the flap is replaced.”
Depending on the patient’s eye condition (nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatism), then the treatment can involve the flattening of the patient’s corneal curve, or making it steeper. It is normally an outpatient procedure wherein both eyes are treated on the same day.
Risks and complications
While LASIK is considered as a non-invasive procedure, it is nonetheless a surgery that may have risks and complications. It is the retinal surgeon’s responsibility to explain the risks and complications thoroughly so that the patient would be prepared for any scenario. Some of the complications include undercorrection, overcorrection, damaging the cornea, inflammation, infection, and making the pupil off center.
Some of the risks are:
- Vision loss – Patients may have blurred vision that would require them to wear their eyeglasses a few days post-surgery. This is normal and their vision would gradually become better once the eye recovers sufficiently.
- Blindness and irreversible eye damage – In very rare cases, there can be errors in the surgery (such as a malfunctioning laser device) or complications (such as inflammation and infection) that can cause irreversible damage to the eye. In some cases, this can lead to permanent blindness. More often than not however, the problems could be corrected with additional surgeries and/or additional treatments. Statistically, this only happens in about 2% of the cases.
- Severe dry eye syndrome – Patients are given special eye drops to keep their moist post-surgery. This is usually needed up to six months after the surgery, as the eyes are experiencing a decrease in tear production. However, there are cases wherein patients would experience severe dry eye syndrome that is permanent.
- Undercorrection – This means too little tissue is removed from the eye and it wasn’t enough to give you the clear vision you wanted. More common among people who are nearsighted, they would need an enhancement surgery within a year to make their vision better.
- Overcorrection – On the other hand, there is also a risk that too much tissue would be removed from the eye. This would also mean that the patient would not have the crisp vision he is hoping for.
- Glare, double vision, and halos – Some patients experience having difficulty seeing at nighttime. They may see halos around bright lights, glares, or double vision. This can be difficult when driving.
- Vision blurring – This happens when the patient has certain conditions that would trigger the eyes to slowly return to the level of vision they had before having the surgery. These conditions include hormonal imbalances, abnormal wound healing, or pregnancy.
Again, these risks and complications are not the norm and occur among the minority of patients. Retinal surgeons are equipped to handle even the most complex cases and would do their utmost to ensure that their patient would get the best possible care. If you are afraid of the risks or if you are having any doubts, talk to your doctor to get their feedback.
Once you decide to undergo LASIK eye surgery, you would be asked to stop wearing contact lenses, as they could change the shape of your cornea. Your cornea needs to be on its original shape as possible as any deviation can lead to inaccurate measurements.
Likewise, ladies would be asked to avoid putting on eye makeup, lotion, or creams on their face to minimize the risk of infections. This also removes the risk of debris getting into the eye.
Finally, LASIK eye surgery is often considered as an elective surgery and is not covered by most insurance companies. This being said, patients usually have to pay for the procedure out of their own pocket. Yet somehow, it is all worth it particularly when they are able to see clearly for the first time, without the aid of glasses or contact lenses.
The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to complete. Patients are asked to lie on their backs on a reclining chair. They are given a relaxant and numbing drops are placed in the eye.
The procedure is typically painless although patients may experience a little pressure. Once a flap has been cut on the cornea, the doctor would fold it back to reshape the cornea with the laser. The flap is returned in place and it usually heals without the need for stitches.
After the surgery, you will be given painkillers and eye drops to help you feel more comfortable. You may also be required to wear an eye shield at night. Some patients experience extreme sensitive to light, while others are okay with just wearing sunglasses indoors.
While you will immediately be able to see after surgery, the effects of the surgery aren’t felt immediately. Your vision will gradually improve as the eye heals, typically within two to three months. There is generally a follow-up checkup two days after the surgery to ensure that the eyes are healing properly and there are no complications or infections.
The success of the surgery would depend upon how good your vision and eye health was prior to the surgery. However, it is worth pointing out that majority of patients who underwent a LASIK eye surgery are very happy with their results, as they are able to see clearly without the aid of contact lenses or eyeglasses.
Ultimately, the decision to have LASIK eye surgery would depend on you.