LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is a type of laser eye surgery used to improve an individual’s vision. It works by permanently changing the shape of the cornea, the clear covering on the front of the eye.
Impaired vision in an individual occurs when light rays aren’t focused clearly on the retina—owing to an imperfectly-shaped eyeball, cornea, or lens—resulting in blurry images and the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses. LASIK corrects this impairment by using an ultraviolet laser to reshape the cornea for improved focusing.
What to Expect During LASIK Surgery
During the LASIK procedure, an ultra-fast femtosecond laser is used to create a thin flap in the cornea. This flap provides access for the laser to target the corneal tissue underneath, removing precisely enough tissue to achieve the desired results. Once the surgery is completed, the flap falls back over the eye and naturally grows back in its original position.
The procedure, which is performed on an outpatient basis, takes no longer than about 15 minutes for each eye. The surgery does come with risks, however, some of which include corneal infection, dry eyes, and light sensitivity. Nevertheless, the surgery has proved very popular since its introduction and surveys of LASIK find rates of patient satisfaction between 92 and 98 percent.
Anyone considering LASIK surgery will undergo an eye examination before the procedure to ensure that their eyes are healthy. Additional tests are carried out to measure the curve and thickness of the cornea, the size and position of the pupils, and the shape of the eyes. A patient needs to give consent to the procedure, fully acknowledging the risks and possible complications involved.
The patient is awake during the entire procedure. The only necessary anesthetic is a solution to numb the surface of the eye.
The surgeon uses a an ultra-fast femtosecond laser to create a flap, facilitating access to the underlying corneal tissue, which is then reshaped with a laser. The corneal tissue is not cut away completely, but left attached by a small “hinge” of tissue.
Once the surgery has been completed, the flap of corneal tissue falls back into place, protecting the eye until it has fully healed. Surgical stitches aren’t necessary to secure the flap.
What to Expect After the Procedure
Patients may feel a little discomfort immediately following the procedure. It’s important, however, that a patient refrains from rubbing his or her eyes to avoid dislodging the corneal flap. While a patient might experience blurriness immediately after the procedure, vision should start to improve the following day.
Who is Eligible for LASIK Surgery?
According to the US Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines, suitable candidates for LASIK surgery include healthy individuals who are at least 18 years of age and those with a stable eyesight prescription.
Patients with health conditions such as diabetes, lupus, and glaucoma may not be suitable for this type of eye surgery and should discuss the matter with their physician.
The pros and cons of LASIK eye surgery should always be weighed by anyone considering the procedure. Expectations should be questioned and patients should have a clear understanding of what is involved, not only in the procedure itself, but also in the likely results.