Laser refractive surgery has seen a significant increase in popularity over the past decade. This popular procedure is done as a corrective measure for those suffering from nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Millions of these procedures have been performed throughout the country with an overwhelming rate of satisfaction.
If you wish to be free from glasses or contacts, or just want to greatly improve your vision, corrective laser eye surgery could be the solution. There are many different types of laser surgeries offered today. Consult with your doctor on which option is best for you.
LASIK (laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis) is the most commonly performed and well known vision correction surgery. Using an excimer laser, the doctor re-shapes the cornea (the stationary refractive element at the front of the eye) so that images are focused to the correct spot on the retina (the light receptor of the eye). The success rate with this procedure is excellent, with most patients achieving 20/20 vision or better upon completion.
The LASIK procedure itself involves little or no discomfort (or pain) both during the procedure and through the recovery process. Also, eyesight improvement is almost immediate, and maximum vision is typically achieved within a few days.
Reasons to consider LASIK:
Farsightedness ( hyperopia)
Astigmatism (irregularly shaped cornea)
Desire to decrease or eliminate dependence on glasses or contacts
Once the laser has been properly calibrated, your surgeon will place an eyelid holder in your eye to keep it open throughout the procedure. Your surgeon then uses a microkeratome (an automated microsurgical instrument similar in design to a carpenter’s plane) to create a corneal flap.
Once the microkeratome has been removed, the corneal flap is carefully folded back to expose the inner layer of the cornea. This stromal layer of the cornea is now ready to be re-shaped by the excimer laser.
A cool beam of light from the excimer laser is then used to precisely and gently reshaped the cornea.
Nearsighted: The cornea must be made flatter. This is accomplished by removing tissue from the center of the cornea.
Farsighted: The cornea must be made steeper. This is accomplished by directing the laser beam to remove tissue from around this area.
Astigmatism: The cornea must be made more sperical. By changing the pattern of the beam, tissue is removed in one direction more than the other.
Once the surgeon is finished, the flap is carefully put back into place and the eyelid holder is removed. Over the next few days, the flap will heal and bond more securely. The entire procedure only takes about five minutes to complete and the laser is on each eye for less than one minute for an average prescription.
The patient may go home shortly after the procedure; however, someone else must drive or alternate transportation must be arranged. Patients will be asked to get lots of rest, avoid any strenuous activities, and avoid rubbing the eye area for a period of time. There are follow up appointments with the doctor 24 to 48 hours after the procedure and periodically over the following weeks and months. Vision should dramatically improve in the first few days following surgery. The patient often may return to work in a day or two, though it is best to take a few days off to ensure a smooth recovery.
PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) was at one time the most common laser eye surgery. It uses the same excimer laser as the LASIK procedure to reshape the outer layer of the cornea to correct for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. These days LASIK is more common, but PRK is still an alternative for patients who cannot undergo LASIK Surgery.
Reasons to consider PRK:
Farsightedness ( hyperopia )
Astigmatism (irregularly shaped cornea)
Cornea too thin for LASIK
Pupil too large for LASIK
In preparation for surgery, anesthetic eye drops are administered. Next, a speculum is placed in the eye to keep the eyelids open, which is normally not uncomfortable. While the patient fixes his or her gaze on a target, the laser reshapes the cornea by removing tissue (a process called ablation), which is controlled and closely monitored by the doctor. The laser is actually guided by a detailed map of the patient’s eye which has been programmed into a computer beforehand. The ablation usually takes around a minute for each eye, depending on how high the patient’s vision prescription is. Most patients feel no pain during the procedure. After the procedure is complete, a bandage contact lens is placed on the eye. The patient may go home shortly after the procedure; however, someone else must drive or alternate transportation must be arranged.
The doctor may prescribe pain medication for recovery; however, most patients don’t require it since only minor discomfort is experienced. The doctor will also schedule several check-up appointments to monitor the healing process, followed by periodic visits over the next several months. During the recovery process, the patient should rest, and refrain from any strenuous activities for at least a week. Most patients can return to work in a day or two, though it is best to take a few days off to ensure a smooth recovery.