LASIK (Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is the most commonly performed laser eye surgery used to treat eye disorders, viz. myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. Like other types of refractive surgeries, this procedure can reshape the front surface (cornea) of the eye to enable light entering the eye to focus on the retina without the need for glasses or contact lenses.
LASIK is a pain-free procedure and it requires only around 15 minutes treating both the eyes. One’s vision can improve immediately and can stabilize in as little as 24 hours. During this surgery, a special type of laser is used to precisely change the shape of the dome-shaped clear tissue in the cornea.
The purpose of LASIK is to treat one of these vision problems-
- Myopia (Nearsightedness): When a person’s eyeball is slightly longer than normal or when the cornea curves too sharply, light rays focus in front of the retina and end up blurring distant vision. In this condition you can see close objects quite clearly but those that are far away can appear blurry.
- Farsightedness (Hyperopia): When your eyeball is shorter than average or your cornea is too flat, light focuses behind the retina instead of on it and this ends up making near vision and sometimes even distant vision quite blurry.
- Astigmatism: When the cornea curves or flattens unevenly, it results in a disorder called astigmatism which can disrupt the focus of near and distant objects.
Before LASIK you would need to meet with a coordinator or eye surgeon who can talk to you regarding what to expect during and after the procedure. You will need to provide your medical history and then undergo a full eye exam. Some tests to measure the thickness of your eye, refraction as well as eye pressure will also be included.
If you are wearing contact lenses, it is important not to wear them for at least three weeks until you have had your evaluation. LASIK surgery is considered an elective surgery which is why most insurance companies will be unwilling to cover its cost. You might need to pay the expenses out of your pocket.
It is also important that you don’t use eye makeup, cream, perfumes or lotions on the day before and after your surgery. You might also receive instructions from your doctor to clear your eyelashes daily or more in the days leading up to your surgery in order to remove the debris as well as minimize the risk of infection.
During the surgery
LASIK surgery usually won’t take longer than 30 minutes. During this procedure, you are supposed to lie on your back in a reclining chair. You might also be given medicine which will provide relaxation.
After some numbing eye drops are placed on your eye, your doctors will use an instrument to hold the eyelids open. Then a suction ring will be placed on your eye, before cutting the corneal flap. This might cause a feeling of pressure and your vision might dim a bit.
Your eye surgeon will next use a small blade or cutting laser to cut a small hinged flap away from the front of your eye. Folding back this flap can allow your surgeon to access the part of your cornea which needs reshaping.
Your surgeon will then reshape parts of your cornea using a programmed laser. You will be asked to put your focus on a point of light during the procedure. This helps keep your eye fixed, while the laser can reshape the cornea.
If you require LASIK surgery in both the eyes, generally your surgeon will conduct the procedure on the same day.
After the surgery
Your eyes will be dry and your doctor will give you prescription eye drops in order to prevent infection and inflammation, as well as drops to help keep the eyes moist. You might also experience a slight burning feeling or blurry vision for a brief period when are using them. Also remember not to use any kind of eye drops unless you’ve consulted your doctor about them.
Do not swim or use a hot tub for at least two weeks post-surgery. You can also consider getting a plastic shield for the protection of your eyes while you’re sleeping for a few days.
Though you will be able to see right after the surgery itself, you won’t experience a clear vision right away. It takes around two to three months after the surgery is performed and your eye can heal back to normal. Your chances for improved vision also depend on how good your vision was before your surgery.
Around 80 percent of people, who have undergone LASIK refractive surgery, haven’t required their glasses or contact lenses for the majority of their activities.
- LASIK has been around for over 2 decades and 96 percent of patients are able to reach their vision goals within a short time.
- There is almost no pain involved in the surgery.
- No bandages or stitches are involved.
- Even if your vision changes with age, your doctor will be able to adjust it.
- After the operation, you will hardly need to use your glasses or contact lenses.
- Dry Eyes- LASIK surgery can cause a temporary decrease in the production of tears. Due to this, for around six months after the surgery, your eyes may feel unusually dry as they heal. This can cause a reduction in the quality of your vision.
- Undercorrections- If the laser ends up removing too little tissue from your eyes, the clearer vision results you were expecting will not be achieved. Undercorrections are more common among nearsighted people. If this happens, you might need to undergo another LASIK Procedure within one year to remove more tissue.
- Overcorrections- It is possible that the laser will remove too much tissue from your eye which can lead to overcorrection. Overcorrections are more difficult to fix as compared to undercorrections.
- Glare, Halos, or Double Vision- Sometime after the surgery, you can have difficulty seeing during the night time and this might last for a few days to a few weeks. You may also notice a few problems like light sensitivity, glare, halos around bright lights or even double vision.
- Flap Problems- Folding back or removing your eye’s flap from its front can lead to complications such as infection or excessive tears. This can lead to the outermost corneal tissue layer to grow abnormally underneath the flap during your healing process.
- Regression- Despite the surgery, if your vision slowly changes back to your original prescription, it is called regression. This complication is less common.
- Vision loss or changes- Even though it is rare, in some situations, loss of vision can be caused by surgical complications. Sometimes people may also not see as sharply or clearly as they did before.