If you wear prescription eyeglasses or contact lens in order to see clearly, you may have considered having LASIK laser eye surgery. Perhaps you have myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or astigmatism (overall blurry vision)?
If you do have one of these conditions, a short, simple and painless LASIK procedure may be able to significantly improve your vision. It could even mean that you would no longer need to wear your glasses or contacts.
LASIK is one of the most popular medical procedures performed in the United States and millions of people have had their vision improved as a result of the surgery. Like any surgery, LASIK laser eye surgery is a procedure and there are many things you need to consider before you are able to decide whether LASIK is the right choice for you.
If you’ve researched laser eye surgery, you will know that there is a lot of information to digest. Many different articles will offer you different opinions, information and advice which can be very confusing.
You might have wondered:
This comprehensive article is designed to help you to understand everything you need to know about LASIK laser eye surgery so that you can make an informed and confident decision. If you’d prefer to come in and speak with one of our award-winning LASIK surgeons:
Now let’s begin…
In part one, we will provide some background on refractive error and the common causes and treatments available to correct refractive error.
In order to understand how LASIK laser eye surgery works, it is important to understand how the eye enables us to see and how refractive error in the eye can affect our vision.
At the front of the eye, is a clear, dome-shaped section called the cornea. In order to see properly, light must hit the cornea and then refract from there onto a collection of cells at the back of the eye called the retina. The retina then uses the information it receives from these light rays and sends messages to the brain that we recognize as images.
For a variety of reasons, light rays not properly focus on the retina and this will affect a person’s vision, making images appear blurry. This is called a refractive error.
Usually, a refractive error occurs because one part of the eye is not correctly shaped (typically the cornea or the lens) as a result of genetic or environmental factors. In the case of presbyopia, it is because the lens is not changing shape enough to refract the light correctly.
There are 4 main refractive error conditions:
How can the refractive error be corrected?
There are three main ways to correct refractive error and ensure light is focused on the retina correctly.
LASIK eye surgery is one type of refractive eye surgery available, and we will discuss this option further in Part 2.
Now that we’ve talked a bit about how the eye works, and how refractive error can cause problems with your vision, in Part 2 we will discuss how LASIK surgery can address and correct these problems, as well as the risks and benefits of the procedure.
How does LASIK laser eye surgery work?
At this stage, you’re probably wondering what the term ‘LASIK’ means. LASIK stands for ‘laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis’. It is a type of refractive eye surgery, and one of the most popular types of laser eye surgery available.
In a LASIK procedure, a laser is used to cornea. laser remove some of the corneal tissue to reshape and change the curvature of the cornea. After this is completed, the flap on the surface of the eye to allow the inner cornea to heal. (Source: National Eye Institute)
LASIK surgery permanently changes the shape of the cornea. This change will then allow light entering the eye to be properly focused onto the retina at the back of the eye. This should correct refractive error, and significantly improve a person’s vision.
Let’s look at some of the main reasons people choose to have LASIK:
The surgery is safe and effective.
Firstly, and most importantly, the procedure is very safe and has a very high success rate. According to WebMD, over 96% of patients who choose to have LASIK surgery will have their desired level of vision after they undergo the procedure (source: WebMD ).
The procedure can reduce a person’s dependency on glasses or contact lens.
Many patients find that they no longer have to use glasses or contacts at all. If for any reason you cannot or do not feel comfortable wearing glasses or contacts, LASIK surgery is a good alternative option to treat refractive error. (source: National Eye Institute)
The procedure is short and almost entirely painless.
For most patients, the entire surgical procedure only takes approximately 5 -10 minutes per eye. No stitches or bandages are required, and the corneal flap will heal on its own over the course of a few days. Patients are usually able to see dramatically better within 12 to 24 hours after the LASIK eye surgery procedure and are able to return to normal activities within a day or two without the need for glasses or contacts.
LASIK laser eye surgery is an extremely safe procedure and complications are very rare. Still, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and side effects that could occur. As with any surgery, complications are always possible, but
Some of the risks that you should be aware of are:
Undercorrection, overcorrection, or new or additional astigmatism.
There is a chance that vision will not be as good after the surgery as before, even with the use of glasses or contacts. This is typically because the laser has removed too little or too much tissue from your eye, meaning that you won’t get the clearer vision you wanted. Similarly, uneven tissue removal can result in astigmatism.
In some instances, you may need to have a second surgical procedure or ‘retreatment’ to achieve the desired vision correction. This is more likely for people who required a greater correction to their vision than normal. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), approximately 10.5 percent of LASIK patients in the United States require a retreatment. (source: American Academy of Ophthalmology)
Corneal flap problems.
Because LASIK surgery requires a flap of the outer cornea to be lifted during the procedure and then put back in place, some people can experience complications in this part of the eye including These problems sometimes mean that further treatment is necessary.
Some of the side-effects you may experience include:
Fluctuating or disturbed vision.
Some patients can experience changes in their vision after the surgery and notice that they have more difficulty seeing in certain situations. You might notice light sensitivity, glare, halos around bright lights or double vision, or difficulty seeing at night, particularly in situations such as driving. Some patients may have discomfort or pain in their eye; or small pink or red patches on the white of the eye. These symptoms will usually only be temporary and will pass with time as the eye heals. In a small minority of patients, some of these effects can be permanent.
Because LASIK surgery causes a temporary decrease in tear production you may find that even once your eyes heal, they may feel unusually dry. You may experience an increase in dry eye.
It’s important that you consider all of these potential complications and discuss any concerns you may have with your eye doctor before you decide to have LASIK surgery. Your doctor will be able to advise you if LASIK is right for you.
In Part 3 we will discuss what you need to know if you are thinking of having LASIK surgery including how to prepare for the procedure, what results to expect and how much the procedure will cost.
There are some important requirements you should meet in order to be eligible for LASIK surgery, as well as some additional considerations that you and your eye doctor should discuss in order to work out whether you are a good candidate for the procedure.
The FDA along with the AAO have developed a short list of guidelines you should meet to be a candidate for LASIK Let’s go through these recommendations now. (Source: Medline)
If you have dry eye, you will need to assess if LASIK will be a good choice for you. If dry eye has been diagnosed and adequately treated before surgery, you can have the same chance of a successful outcome as a patient without pre-existing dry eye. However, if you have severe dry eye, you may not be a good candidate for the LASIK. It is best to discuss your eye health and medical history in depth with your doctor when you are considering LASIK. (Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology)
Even if you are a suitable candidate for LASIK, it is a good idea to ask yourself the following questions, and discuss any concerns you have with your eye doctor:
“Am I comfortable and happy wearing glasses or contacts?”
If you are, then it may not be necessary to undergo surgery in order to correct your vision.
“Do I have realistic expectations of the surgery?”
It is important that you have realistic expectation from the procedure. If you are looking to obtain perfect vision, you may be disappointed. LASIK will normally deliver vision that is between 20/20 and 20/40 without the use of glasses or contact lenses. It is best to expect that the surgery will mean you are less dependent on glasses and contacts, but you may still need them from time-to-time if you need perfect vision.
“Would I be happy with ‘monovision’?”
For people with certain conditions, including presbyopia, LASIK cannot ensure that both eyes will have clear vision in all situations. If you have presbyopia, LASIK is performed to achieve something called “monovision” which means that one eye is able to see clearly at a near distance, and the other will see clearly for far distance objects. This can still be a good option that may allow you to not need glasses all the time, but it is important that you discuss the pros and cons with your doctor beforehand and understand if monovision will work for you.
Before the LASIK procedure is undertaken, an eye surgeon will need to carefully test and examine your vision as well as your medical history. Your doctor will be checking your eyes to make sure they’re healthy, and looking for any signs of eye disease and other eye conditions including dry eye.
If you have a medical history of any of these conditions or notice any unusual symptoms in your eyes before surgery you should make sure your surgeon is informed, as it may affect the desired outcome of your surgery.
The surgeon will also need to take measurements of your eye to ensure that the surgical procedure is precise. In order to make sure the surgery goes smoothly, your surgeon may ask you to take a few precautions before the procedure such as:
Although the LASIK procedure itself is relatively painless, and anesthetic eye drops will be used to ensure that you do not feel any discomfort, some patients will experience mild pain in the first day or two after the procedure as their eye heals. This pain is usually easily managed with painkillers and aftercare.
You should arrange to have someone take you home after the surgery as your vision may not be as good as it normally is immediately after the surgery.
After your surgery, you will need to look after your eyes carefully. Avoid rubbing your eyes, which could cause the corneal flap to move out of place. The surgeon may have placed a protective shield over your eye to help protect the cornea, but you may find that you only need this shield at night to prevent you from rubbing the eye accidentally during sleep.
You will receive eye drops to help care for your eye these will prevent infection, inflammatio, and dryness in the eye as it heals. It’s important that you follow the instructions that your doctor gives you and take these eye drops as often as prescribed.
You should rest, and recover after the procedure. M patients will be able to resume normal activities within a day or two, but your doctor may advise waiting several days before you resume a normal work schedule, exercise, or strenuous activity.
You should also keep in mind that it can take up to six months for your vision to stabilize completely. During this period, you should monitor your eye health carefully, and see your eye doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms.
We are often asked, “How much does LASIK surgery cost?” If you have private health insurance, it may cover (or partially cover) the cost of LASIK eye surgery. However, it is important to be aware that in the majority of cases, private insurance does not cover LASIK surgery costs. This is because the procedure is often considered to be elective or cosmetic surgery. However, there are some situations where you may be able to have part of the cost covered. In some cases, patients who are unable to wear glasses or contact lenses for medical reasons may be able to present a case to their insurer. So it is best that you discuss your options with your insurer.
If you find that your insurance will not cover the costs, you will need to pay for the surgery in full. The cost of LASIK will vary on several factors, depending on market conditions and the surgeon’s fee.
If you would like to know more about the cost of LASIK surgery, you can get in touch with Milan Eye Center today and book an appointment. Your initial consultation is free and will be used to determine whether or not you are a good candidate for this procedure.
LASIK laser eye surgery is one of the most common, safe and effective elective surgical procedures performed in the United States today. If you have a refractive error condition and are looking to have surgery to correct your vision and reduce your dependency on glasses or contacts, we would love to hear from you.