If you’re ready to throw out that digital alarm clock with the huge, oversized numbers, LASIK eye surgery may be right for you. But read on to see if YOU are right for LASIK surgery.
What is LASIK?
In a nutshell, LASIK is a surgical procedure that uses a laser to reshape the cornea so that it more clearly focuses incoming light, resulting in less dependence on glasses or contacts for good vision. LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, and is not a single company or brand, but rather an FDA-approved method for refractive surgery.
When people can see nearby objects more clearly and struggle to see objects in the distance, this is called myopia or nearsightedness. In this case, the cornea is too-steep and needs to be formed into a flatter shape during LASIK. Conversely, when people can see things far away better than they can see close objects, they have hyperopia or farsightedness and their cornea is too flat. Astigmatism refers to a cornea that’s just, well, oddly shaped. In the case of astigmatism, LASIK is used to actually shape the cornea into a mean, lean, focusing machine. Or in other words, LASIK returns the cornea to a more normal shape.
How does the LASIK Procedure work?
The procedure begins by the doctor numbing your eye, inserting a painless device to hold your eyelids open, and then making a tiny incision on the top layer of your cornea to create a flap. This incision is made either with a small blade controlled by a computerized machine called a microkeratome or by a computer-controlled laser called a laser keratome. You won’t see anything happening during the incision due to a small plate or suction device that is used to lift the flap. This effectively blurs your vision, which will continue to be blurry throughout the procedure.
The flap is folded back along its own hinge to expose your misshapen cornea. Prior to the procedure, the ophthalmologist has already taken precise measurements of your cornea and these are used to program the computer-guided laser. Laser energy vaporizes areas of your cornea tissue based on these measurements. When the shaping is complete, the flap put back into its original position, creating a natural Band-Aid of sorts for your eye.
No sutures are used, but a shield will be placed over your eyes to keep you from rubbing or scratching them, which could cause the flap to be moved out of position. Patients sometimes report burning, itching and feeling as if something is in their eyes immediately after surgery, but these symptoms usually fade within 48 hours. Improved vision is usually noticed within 24 hours. But it can take 3-6 months for vision to fully stabilize, during which time you may experience glares, haloes and difficulty seeing at night or in low light.
Who is NOT a Candidate for LASIK?
LASIK surgery carries certain risks, including worse vision than you had prior to surgery. The FDA suggests that you are not a good candidate for LASIK if:
- You are not comfortable with taking risks.
- Your job prohibits LASIK surgery. Check with your employer prior to your procedure.
- You cannot afford elective surgery. Most LASIK is not covered by health insurance.
- Your prescription for glasses or contacts has changed in the last year. If your vision still changing, it will continue to change after LASIK.
- You are taking medications that hinder proper healing, such retinoic acids and steroids.
- You are involved in contact sports like boxing, karate, wrestling, etc.
- You have dry eyes. LASIK can exacerbate this condition.
- You have large pupils or thin corneas. Your doctor will evaluate you.
Learn about Lasik Vision Correction
What is the Difference Between Standard LASIK and Wavefront LASIK?
Standard LASIK makes vision corrections by measuring your cornea for the “Big 3′ problems of myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism and then shaping the cornea from one of these three shapes into a normally shaped cornea. Wavefront LASIK is also known as “custom LASIK” because it accounts for the three common problems, as well as more subtle differences such as how an individual’s cornea bends light or how it processes images. With Wavefront LASIK, no two procedures are ever the same.
These days, most practices use Wavefront LASIK because it can improve not only how much you can see but how well you can see fine details and in contrasting lighting conditions. It may also reduce the risk of LASIK complications such as haloes, starbursts and flares.
How to Choose the Right LASIK Surgeon?
LASIK is a highly competitive industry. Beware of the “too-good-to-be-true” prices and questionable marketing techniques. Take the time to have a consultation with several experienced physicians (don’t just meet with one doctor), and rely on the recommendations of friends and family. Finally, be sure to ask the surgeons lots of questions. The good ones will be forthcoming with the benefits AND the risks of LASIK.
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