Using glasses or contact lenses forever seems a hassle. Everyone wants to get rid of them and enjoy clearer vision. LASIK is the most common surgical procedure for vision correction. If you are considering LASIK, then check these facts about the surgery first:
Laser in-situ Keratomileusis or LASIK is the popular surgery for treating vision problems such as farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism.
This vision correction surgery reshapes your cornea and the transparent front part of your eye so that the light that travels through your eye focuses on your retina, thus helping you see clearly.
For near-sighted people, an eye surgeon uses LASIK surgery to flatten their too-steep cornea. In the case of farsighted people, the surgeon aims for a steeper cornea. LASIK is used to correct astigmatism by smoothing your irregular cornea giving it a normal shape.
LASIK surgery was made possible due to the efforts of Spanish ophthalmologist Jose Barraquer. In 1950, he developed the keratome knife for performing keratomileusis or cutting the flap of the cornea for vision correction.
In 1980, researcher R. Srinivasan concluded that an ultraviolet excimer laser could be used on living tissues without causing any damage. Since this discovery, LASIK surgery has evolved a lot and has been widely used to improve the vision of millions of people all over the world.
How does LASIK surgery work?
At first, the ophthalmologist will apply numbing drops in your eye by pulling down your bottom eyelid. It takes a few seconds for the drops to work. The effect lasts for 10 to 15 minutes. A device is used to hold your eye lid open. This device is specially used during LASIK eye surgery. You won’t feel any pain.
During the surgery, the doctor uses an instrument called a microkeratome or femtosecond laser for cutting a thin flap in your cornea. The flap is then painlessly peeled back. Your vision is blurred during this time. The doctor uses another laser for reshaping and correcting the underlying corneal tissue so that it can properly focus light onto your retina. Once the cornea is reshaped and corrected, the flap is put back in place, and the surgery is complete.
The laser used for LASIK surgery is highly specialised; it uses a cool ultraviolet light beam for removing the microscopic amounts of tissue from the cornea and reshape it. For nearsighted people, the surgeon uses the laser to flatten the cornea while for farsighted people, the cornea is made steeper. For correcting astigmatism, the eye surgeon also uses Excimer lasers for smoothing the irregular cornea, giving it a normal shape.
LASIK is a painless procedure. No bandages and stitches are required for it. The entire process takes hardly a few minutes.
Advantages of LASIK
LASIK has a 96% success rate. The majority of the patients who have undergone LASIK surgery agreed to have an improved vision. Your vision improves immediately after the surgery or a day after the surgery.
You can make further adjustments for correcting your vision if it changes with age. You can do this even if you had LASIK surgery years ago.
Most of the people achieve 20/20 vision after a LASIK surgery. A very small percentage of people require a LASIK enhancement procedure, a few months after the primary LASIK surgery for achieving visual acuity.
After the surgery, you might experience problems with the corneal flap. This might need further treatment.
Some people might also experience minor side effects after surgery. However, these problems disappear with time. These side effects include hazy vision; dryness of the eye, difficulty with night vision; scratchiness, halos or starbursts around lights and halos; light sensitivity; small pink or red patches on the white portion of the eye; mild discomfort or pain in the eye.
Some people (a very small percentage) might also need a second surgery. This is known as an enhancement. An enhancement helps in achieving the desired vision correction. This is more common in people who were more farsighted, nearsighted, or had higher astigmatism before they underwent LASIK surgery. In other words, people whose vision required more intensive correction might need to undergo retreatment.
A few number of people experience discomfort after LASIK eye surgery. This usually continues till the first 24 to 48 hours. These include –
- Under corrections: If too little tissue is removed, then you won’t get the desired clarity in vision. This problem is common in people who are myopic.
- Overcorrection: If too much tissue is removed from your eye with the laser, then you will experience vision problems. Compared to under corrections, overcorrections are a bit tough to fix.
- Halos, Glares, and Double Vision: After the surgery, you may have problems in your night vision. You might also notice halos around bright lights, glare or have double vision. Even if you have a good visual result under standard testing conditions, your vision may be reduced in dim light (during dusk or in fog).
- Flap Problem: Since the corneal flap is folded back or removed from the front of your eye during surgery, it can also cause complications. This includes inflammation, excessive tears, and infection. Moreover, the epithelium (the outermost tissue layer of the cornea) may experience abnormal growth underneath the corneal flap during the healing process.
Certain health conditions can increase the risks associated with LASIK surgery. The eye surgeon may not recommend LASIK surgery if you have the following conditions:
* Persistent dryness of eye
* Eye conditions such as glaucoma, keratoconus, uveitis, cataract, herpes simplex (that affects eyes), keratitis, lid disorder or any other eye injury.
* Unstable vision due to pregnancy, age, medications, hormonal changes, breastfeeding, etc.
* Autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis
* Immunodeficiency conditions caused by HIV or other immunosuppressive medications.
The doctors may not advise you to undergo LASIK surgery if you have very thin cornea or very large pupil, a fair overall vision; have a job that might be affected if you undergo surgery, age-related changes in eye causing presbyopia (less clear vision); and if you participated in sports which is associated with blows to your face (such as boxing).
Can you consider LASIK?
If you are thinking of going for a LASIK eye surgery, first choose a good LASIK surgeon who will help you determine whether it’s right for you to undergo LASIK eye surgery or not. Your surgeon will first examine your eyes. He or she will first determine your eye health and see what kind of vision correction you need. He or she will then determine how much laser ablation or corneal tissue removal is required. Your surgeon might also inquire whether you have any specific health conditions or not (for determining whether you are fit for undergoing a LASIK surgery or not).
If the doctor doesn’t find it suitable to perform LASIK, then you can also try (if your doctor considers its feasible) other laser eye surgeries such as epi-LASIK, LASEK, and PRK (this is a process similar to LASIK eye surgery but without the flap). Your doctor may also prescribe other non-laser vision correction procedures. Your surgeon will check your prescriptions and your eye structure to determine which procedure is best for you.
LASIK is an outpatient procedure. This means you do not have to stay at the hospital overnight. The surgeon uses a computer for adjusting the laser. He or she will ask to look at a light for a while as the laser will send pulses of light to reshape your cornea.
How Should Patients prepare for LASIK?
You will meet your eye surgeon before the LASIK eye surgery is performed. The surgeon will discuss and explain what you can expect during and after the procedure. The surgeon will also go through your medical history. He/she will examine your eyes. The most likely tests that a surgeon might conduct before the surgery are measuring your corneal thickness, corneal mapping, refraction, pupil dilation, and air pressure. Once the initial evaluation is over, you can ask the surgeon any questions you may have. Following this, you can schedule an appointment for the procedure.
If you wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses, then you must stop wearing those 3 weeks before your eye examination for LASIK surgery. You should stop wearing any contact lenses at least three days before the evaluation. Do not forget to show your eyeglasses to the surgeon so that he or she can review your prescription.
Eat a light meal on the scheduled day of your procedure and before you go to the doctor and take all of your prescribed medications. Avoid wearing eye makeup or attaching any heavy hair accessories which might interfere with the position of your head when under the laser. In case you do not feel well in the morning before your surgery, immediately let the doctor know. This will help you determine whether the procedure can be done or needs to be postponed or not.
Healing and What to Expect after LASIK
Immediately after the LASIK surgery, you might feel itching and burning sensation in your eyes, and they may become watery. You might also experience blurred vision. You might experience a little pain. However, you will recover your vision quickly.
The surgeon might give you medication for pain or eyedrops to make your eyes comfortable for several hours after the surgery is over. Your eye doctor may also ask you to wear a shield over your eyes until it heals completely.
Right after the surgery, you will be able to see, but your vision won’t be clear initially. It might take about two to three months after the procedure for your eyes to heal completely and for stabilising your vision. Your chances for improved vision depend highly on the quality of vision you had before surgery.
Once your surgery is over, you will have a follow-up with your eye doctor a day or two after the surgery. Your doctor will review how your eye is healing after the surgery and whether there are any complications or not. It’s better to plan for follow-up appointments during the first six months after surgery.
After a few weeks of the surgery, you can start using cosmetics around your eyes. If you are into sports or other strenuous activities, you might need to wait for several weeks before resuming those activities.
You may feel a temporary dryness of the eye. Your doctor will prescribe you drops to prevent infection and inflammation. The doctor might also prescribe eye-drops to keep your eyes moist. The drops might cause slight burning sensation in your eyes or also blur your vision when you use them.
Your eyes heal rapidly after LASIK eye surgery. Most of the patients notice an improvement in vision within a few days.
Do not hesitate to ask the doctor about your post-operative eye routine and ensure that you follow each of them ardently.