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A Better View

Bring Your World Into Focus With LASIK Eye Surgery

Female eye with long eyelashes close up

By Annette Brooks

Wouldn’t it be great to stop relying on glasses or contact lenses to see clearly? Elective laser vision correction surgery can help you do just this. LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis), the most common type of refractive laser eye surgery performed, aims to correct vision problems such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism by reshaping the cornea.

The Cornea’s Role in Vision and How LASIK Works

Before we delve more deeply into the details of LASIK surgery, let’s look at the cornea and its role in our visual acuity. The cornea is a transparent, avascular (containing no blood vessels), dome-shaped tissue that covers the eye’s pupil and iris. It protects the eye against infections and bends (refracts) light rays so they pass freely through the pupil to help the eye focus.

The laser vision correction procedure, performed by a LASIK-trained ophthalmologist, involves using a highly specialized laser to remove a defined, thin slice of your cornea to improve how light hits your retina. This is the light-sensitive nerve tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into electrical and chemical signals to the brain for it to perceive a
visual picture.

Getting Started

Begin by selecting the best laser vision correction surgeon and understanding the vision correction options available to you. Be aware there are alternatives to LASIK. They include photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), EpiLASIK, a variation of PRK, LASEK, which is a combination of PRK and LASIK, implantable contact lenses (ICL), and refractive lens exchange (RLE), where the eye’s natural lens is replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). Ask what the doctor recommends for you and why.

What to Expect

You’ll start with a comprehensive, preoperative exam. The doctor and their team will review your medical history, evaluate your overall eye health, and measure your cornea’s thickness and curvature to assess your refractive errors and determine if you’re a good candidate for LASIK.

Expect your surgeon to discuss potential risks and benefits specific to your situation, including the pros and cons of having one or both eyes done on the same day. Please don’t be shy about asking questions.

On the day of your outpatient LASIK procedure, anesthetic drops will be administered in the office to numb the eye so you can feel comfortable during the surgery.

Laser eye surgery

During the LASIK procedure, your surgeon will create a thin, hinged flap on the cornea’s outermost layer using a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser. After carefully lifting and folding the flap back, a precise amount of corneal tissue is reshaped using a different laser to reshape the cornea’s curvature. After this, the corneal flap is gently repositioned. It acts as a natural bandage and generally promotes faster healing. Eye drops and protective shields may be prescribed to aid recovery and prevent infection.

The procedure itself usually takes under 30 minutes, and you can generally expect to leave your LASIK surgeon’s office in about two hours. You will need to be driven home, so please plan to have someone pick you up.

Many patients experience improved vision immediately, although you should expect it to take a few days or even weeks for your vision to stabilize. Everyone’s recovery experience will differ. Be sure to carefully follow the aftercare and recovery instructions provided by your LASIK surgeon.

According to the National Institutes of Health, around 25 million eyes have been treated with laser vision correction. As for outcomes, the NIH reports that per multiple studies, 90 to 95% of patients achieve 20/20 vision or better.  

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