he miracles of modern technology have brought us many wonderful things. In the realm of eye care, laser vision correction has opened up the way for many to enjoy wonderful vision with less reliance on glasses or con- tact lenses, giving them the opportunity to participate in activities that may not have been possible before. Let’s describe the procedure and see if it is something in your future.
Laser in situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, is an outpatient surgical procedure used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. LASIK surgery is used to correct these vision problems and it can help reduce the need for a patient to wear prescription glasses or corrective lenses.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, seven out of ten LASIK patients achieve 20/20 vision, but 20/20 does not always mean perfect vision. If you have LASIK as a way to correct your distance vision, you will still most likely need reading glasses by around the age of 45. Therefore it is important that you understand that LASIK may not give you perfect vision.
With LASIK, your ophthalmologist will use a laser to reshape the cornea. The cornea is the clear front part of the eye. By reshaping the cornea, it will improve the way the eye focuses light onto the retina, which is the back part of the eye.
LASIK is a good option for patients if they are experi- encing one of the following:
- Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is when the patient has an eyeball that is shorter than average or a cornea that is too flat. This results in light being focused behind the retina instead of directly onto it. This makes it difficult for a patient to see an object that is nearer.
- Nearsightedness, or myopia, is the opposite of hypero- pia. This is when the eyeball is longer than average or the cornea is curved too sharply. This results in light being focused just short of the retina and therefore falling in front of it instead of onto it. This makes it so the patient can see near objects clearly, but they have a hard time focusing on things that are farther away.
- Astigmatism is a condition where the cornea is distorted and it flattens unevenly in some places. This creates dif- ficulty in the patient’s ability to focus and therefore near vision and even distant vision becomes difficult to use.
Not everyone is a good candidate for LASIK. The ideal candidate is over 18 years of age, not pregnant or nursing, and free of any kind of eye disease. Ideally a patient should not have had a change in their eye prescription in the last year. Also, the patient should have a refractive error within the range of correction for LASIK to be considered. A pa- tient must also be willing to accept potential risks, complications, and side effects that may be associated with LASIK.
It is important to know that LASIK, like any other surgery, has risks and therefore complications should always be considered. It is possible that LASIK can sometimes result in overcorrection or undercorrection. These problems, how- ever, can luckily be improved with glasses, contact lenses, or additional laser surgery. Most of the complications can be treated without any loss of vision.
Some people have experienced temporary side effects after they have had LASIK surgery. These usually disappear over time. In very rare situations they may be permanent. These side effects include:
- sensitivity to light
- halos or starbursts around lights
- hazy vision
- blurry vision
- discomfort or pain
- small red patches on the white part of the eye
Almost every patient will experience some dryness and fluctuating vision during the day. Usually within one month these symptoms fade.
Infection is a small possibility with any surgical procedure and LASIK is no exception. In the case of infection, antibiotics can usually clear it up.
Before LASIK surgery is performed, you will have a thorough eye examination with your ophthalmologist. During this exam the doctor will measure your prescription and check for any abnormalities that could possibly affect the procedure. Your doctor will check your eyes for any unusual dryness because this could cause some dry eye symptoms after the surgery is performed. The doctor will also check for unusually large pupils, which could affect low-light vision or night vision.
LASIK surgery is considered a simple, routine outpa- tient procedure that can be completed within 30 minutes or even less, depending on the patient’s requirement.
- During the procedure, the patient lies on his back as numbing eye drops are administered directly onto the indicated eye.
- The lids will be held open as a suction ring is placed directly onto the eye prior to the incision.
- Using a laser cutter, a small, hinged flap is created in front of the eye. This flap can then be folded back to give the doctor access to the part of the patient’s cornea that requires reshaping.
- The doctor then proceeds to use a laser to reshape the indicated parts of the patient’s cornea.
- All throughout the surgery, the patient will be asked to focus on a pinpoint of light. Keeping the eyes fixed on one point during
the procedure helps to make it stable while the doctor works with the laser to reshape the cornea.
- If the patient requires LASIK surgery for both eyes, it can be conducted on the same day.
Right after LASIK surgery, the eyes may feel itchy, have a burning sensation, or be watery. The patient will also possibly have blurred vision. Pain medication or medicated eye drops will be prescribed to manage discomfort after the procedure. It is also normal for the doctor to ask the patient to wear protective eye shields that will cover the affected eye during the recovery period. The patient’s vision is expected to improve significantly after the surgery, but it takes be- tween 2 to 3 months before the eye heals completely and the patient’s new visual acuity is tested.
It is important to have realistic expectations when considering LASIK. Most people will be able to perform their everyday tasks without corrective lenses after they have LASIK. However, if you are looking for perfect vision with- out contacts or glasses, you risk being disappointed.
LASIK cannot correct presbyopia, which is the age-related loss of close-up focusing power. Almost everyone who has excellent distance vision will need reading glasses by the time they are 40-50. This is the case even with or without refractive surgery.
As you can see, LASIK and other laser vision correction procedures offer an exciting chance to improve your vision. Having undergone the procedure myself over 14 years ago, I can say that the benefits, even though not perfect, have been worth it. I would undergo the procedure again in a heartbeat. Talk to us about LASIK, now available in Tooele, as well as other procedures that can enhance your view of the world.