LASIK – What is it? Do I qualify? What are the risks? These are just a few of the questions you may have if you have been thinking about LASIK eye surgery. LASIK eye surgery may mean no more corrective lenses, but it’s not right for everybody. Learn whether you’re a good candidate and what to consider as you weigh your decision.
At Kisiolek Eye Center we can help. If you are interested in LASIK, please call our office and schedule an appointment. One of our Doctors will be happy to answer your questions and set you up with a surgical consultation when you are ready to proceed. We are able to work with your surgeon performing most of your pre and post-operative care in our office.
What is LASIK vison correction?
It is a surgical procedure that uses a cool (non-thermal) beam of light to gently reshape the cornea to improve vision. The laser removes microscopic bits of tissue to:
- Flatten the cornea – to correct nearsightedness
- Steepen the cornea – to correct farsightedness) and/or
- Smooth out corneal irregularities – to correct astigmatism
The goal of laser eye surgery is to change the shape of the cornea so it does a better job of focusing images onto the retina for sharper vision. LASIK and PRK are two types of laser vision correction.
Is LASIK surgery correct for you?
If you’re tired of wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses, you may wonder whether LASIK surgery is right for you. LASIK is a type of refractive eye surgery.
In general, people who have laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) eye surgery achieve 20/25 vision or better, which works well for most activities. But, be aware that as you age, glasses might still be necessary for reading or driving at night.
LASIK surgery has a good track record. Complications that result in a loss of vision are rare, and most people are satisfied with the results. Certain side effects, particularly dry eyes and temporary visual disturbances, are fairly common. But these usually clear up after a few weeks or months, and very few people consider them to be a long-term problem.
Your results depend on your refractive error and other factors. People with mild nearsightedness tend to have the most success with refractive surgery. People with a high degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness along with astigmatism have less predictable results.
What does LASIK eye surgery involve?
Traditionally, blurry vision is corrected by bending (refracting) light rays with glasses or contact lenses. But reshaping the cornea (the dome-shaped transparent tissue at the front of your eye) itself will also provide the necessary refraction and vision correction.
Before a LASIK procedure your eye surgeon will assess detailed measurements of your eye. Then he or she will use a special type of cutting laser to precisely alter the curvature of your cornea. With each pulse of the laser beam, a tiny amount of corneal tissue is removed, allowing your eye surgeon to flatten the curve of your cornea or make it steeper.
Most commonly, the surgeon creates a flap in the cornea and then raises it up before reshaping the cornea. There are also variations in which a very thin flap is raised or no flap is used at all. Each technique has advantages and disadvantages.
Individual eye surgeons may specialize in specific types of laser eye procedures. The differences among them are generally minor and none are clearly better than any others. Depending on your individual circumstances and preferences your surgeon will help you decide which is best for you.
Candidates for Laser Eye Surgery Should Generally Meet the Following Criteria:
Age: Candidates must be at least 18 years old.
General health: LASIK candidates must be in good general health, and should not have certain health problems, including uncontrolled diabetes, autoimmune or collagen vascular disease, or take any medication or have any condition that compromises the immune response.
Eye health: Candidates should be free of eye diseases including keratoconus, glaucoma, cataracts, corneal disease and certain retinal and optic nerve diseases. LASIK surgery candidates should not have certain eye conditions including herpes simplex and herpes zoster.
Eye problems: LASIK patients should make their eye doctor aware of certain eye problems including amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (muscle imbalance), or any recurrent, residual or active eye conditions that may influence healing. Other conditions that should be discussed with the doctor include keloid scarring with previous surgical healing, back problems and claustrophobia. Please make your eye doctor aware of any mental health conditions, as these may also affect your LASIK surgery or recovery.
Eye injury: Patients should not have any eye infections or injury.
Nursing/pregnancy: Candidates should not be nursing or pregnant when undergoing the LASIK procedure. Hormones may affect the stability of your prescription, so pregnant or nursing women are not eligible to pursue LASIK surgery until three menstrual cycles after nursing has been discontinued.
Dry eye condition: Patients should not continuously suffer from dry eyes.
Stable vision: Candidates’ vision must be stable for at least one year prior to the procedure date.
Contacts: Prior to your LASIK surgery consultation and LASIK procedure, you must not wear contact lenses for a certain length of time. The precise length will be determined by your doctor on an individual basis. This ensures corneal stability and accurate assessment of your prescription prior to the LASIK surgery procedure.
Corneal thickness plays an important role in determining proper candidacy for LASIK. Due to the nature of the procedure, candidates must have a minimum corneal thickness of approximately 0.5 mm.
In general, laser eye surgery is most appropriate for people who have a moderate degree of refractive error and no unusual vision problems.
Do you understand the possible side effects and complications?
While complications that result in a loss of vision are rare, certain side effects, particularly dry eyes and temporary visual disturbances are fairly common. But these usually resolve after a few weeks or months, and very few people consider them to be a long-term problem.
Dry eyes – LASIK surgery causes a temporary decrease in tear production. For the first six months or so after your surgery, your eyes may feel unusually dry as they heal. Even after healing, you may experience an increase in dry eye. Your eye doctor might recommend that you use eye drops during this time. If you experience severe dry eyes, you could opt for another procedure to get special plugs put in your tear ducts to prevent your tears from draining away from the surface of your eyes.
Glare, halos and double vision – After surgery you may have difficulty seeing at night. You might notice glare, halos around bright lights or double vision. This is due to light bending differently now that the corneal shape has changed and generally lasts only a few days to weeks.
Vision loss or changes – Rarely, you may experience loss of vision due to surgical complications. Some people also may not see as sharply or clearly as previously.
LASIK versus reading glasses
By their early to mid-40s, all adults lose some ability to focus on nearby objects (presbyopia), which results in difficulty reading small print or doing close-up tasks.
One possible benefit of having been nearsighted most of your life is that this condition actually compensates for the presbyopia that inevitability develops as you get older. A nearsighted eye will focus near objects by itself without reading glasses. LASIK surgery removes this near focus because the nearsightedness has been corrected. This means that as you get older you will need to use reading glasses. Many people are happy to trade clear distance vision when they are younger for having to wear “cheaters” for reading when they are older.
If you are an older adult considering LASIK, you might choose to have your vision corrected for monovision, to maintain your ability to see objects close up. With monovision, one eye is corrected for distant vision, and the other eye is corrected for near vision. Not everyone is able to adjust to or tolerate monovision. It’s best to do a trial with contact lenses before having a permanent surgical procedure.
What are your expectations for LASIK?
Most people who undergo LASIK surgery will have good to excellent vision in most situations, for many years or decades. You’ll be able to play sports and swim, or even just see the clock first thing in the morning, without having to worry about your glasses or contact lenses. But as you get older or in low-light conditions, you may still need to wear glasses.
Over time your refraction may slowly worsen with age and your vision may not be quite as good as it was immediately after surgery. This does not seem to be a large problem, but the exact degree of change to be expected is sometimes unpredictable.
How do you choose an eye surgeon?
Most people don’t have firsthand knowledge about LASIK or an eye surgeon. A good starting point when choosing an eye surgeon is to talk with the eye professional you know and trust.
Your eye surgeon will probably work with a team, who may help with your initial evaluation and measurements. But it is your surgeon who takes the ultimate responsibility for determining whether LASIK is an appropriate choice for you, who confirms the measurements to guide the procedure, who performs the procedure, and may provide postoperative care.
Talk with your eye surgeon about your questions and concerns and how LASIK will benefit you. He or she can help you understand the benefits and limitations of surgery.
Upon completion of your LASIK procedure there are post-operative exams throughout the following months to ensure your eye is healing as expected. Conveniently, these exams can be done at your optometrist’s office. After your surgery there are medicated eye drops one must take to promote healing and decrease the risk of infection, but only for a few weeks. In very rare instances do people report pain following the procedure, and most can go back to work or normal activities the next day.
The Final Decision
When it comes to LASIK eye surgery, there are no right answers. Carefully consider the factors outlined here, weigh your preferences and risk tolerance, and make sure you have realistic expectations. Talk to an optometrist in whom you feel confident and get your questions answered. In the end, if it feels right, then proceed, but if it doesn’t, don’t rush into anything.