What is LASIK?
LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is a type of refractive surgery that reshapes the cornea, or the clear front surface of the eye, to help improve vision.
Who needs LASIK?
If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses to see clearly, LASIK might be an option for you. In order to see properly, light hits the cornea and refracts onto the retina, which then sends light information to the brain where it is interpreted as images.
There are several types of refractive errors, where light is not properly focused in the eye.
- Myopia: nearsightedness, where near objects are clear and distant objects appear blurry.
- Hyperopia: farsightedness, where distant objects are clear and near objects are blurry.
- Astigmatism: irregularity to the cornea that causes light to focus unevenly at different points on the retina.
- Presbyopia: a condition where the lens of the eye becomes thicker and less flexible with age so light is not properly refracted.
How does LASIK surgery work?
LASIK permanently changes the shape of the cornea and allows light to refract properly onto the retina at the back of the eye. This helps to correct your refractive error and improve vision. During the procedure, either a microkeratome blade or femtosecond laser is used to create a thin and smooth flap in the cornea. The flap is then gently lifted, and an excimer laser is used to reshape and change the curvature of the corneal tissue to match your refractive error. The flap is placed back into its original position and self-heals within a few days.
What are the benefits?
It’s safe and effective: Research shows that LASIK has a 96% patient satisfaction rate (the highest of any elective procedure), with over 90% of patients achieving 20/20 vision or better. (Source: Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.) While complications are rare, there are potential risks that you should discuss with your eye doctor. LASIK can reduce dependency on glasses or contact lenses: many patients find that they do not need glasses or contact lenses after the procedure. LASIK is quick and relatively painless: for most patients, the procedure takes about 5-10 minutes per eye. There is a dramatic improvement to vision within 12-24 hours. You may return to normal daily activities within 2-3 days.
Who is a good candidate for LASIK?
- You should be over the age of 18. Before 18, your vision can still change or deteriorate. Your cornea shape must be stable, which typically occurs after 18.
- Your prescription should be stable for at least 1 year. It’s best for your prescription to remain consistent for a reasonable amount of time before undertaking LASIK.
- Your refractive error must fall within a treatable range that can be corrected with LASIK. Your eye doctor will help to determine your prescription.
- Your eyes (especially your cornea) must be healthy. Your eye doctor can assess any eye conditions using special testing equipment. Additionally, certain health conditions such as glaucoma, herpetic eye disease, or diabetic eye disease may preclude you from being a suitable candidate for LASIK.
Other Refractive Surgery Options
- PRK: “Photorefractive keratectomy” is a laser treatment option for patients who are athletes or patients with thin corneas. Instead of creating a corneal flap like with LASIK, PRK involves the removal of the outermost layer of the cornea, called the epithelium, to expose the underlying tissue. The same excimer laser is used to reshape the corneal tissue. A bandage contact lens is placed over the eye for a week to promote healing.
- ICL: “Implantable Collamer Lens” acts in the same way as a traditional contact lens. This is a good option for those with high astigmatism or high myopia (nearsightedness) who are not candidates for LASIK or PRK. This surgery involves placing a small, removable lens implant inside the eye (behind the cornea) to improve vision. The procedure is reversible and does not remove the corneal tissue.
- RLE: “Refractive lens exchange” is a surgical option for those over 40 who want to reduce their dependency on contact lenses or glasses. RLE can be used to correct presbyopia, nearsightedness, or farsightedness. This is similar to cataract surgery in which the natural lens is replaced with an intraocular lens implant of your choice based on your visual needs. Unlike LASIK, the advantage is that these patients will no longer need cataract surgery in the future.