LASIK can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. With a special technique called monovision, it can also reduce the need for reading glasses among patients over age 40 who wear bifocals.
Am I a good candidate for LASIK?
Chronic dry eye problems, corneal diseases and other abnormalities may disqualify you from having LASIK surgery. In order to know for sure if you are a good candidate, a comprehensive eye exam is required. For your convenience, we are happy to provide LASIK pre-operative exams and consultations at our office. Call us for details.
Important considerations when deciding whether or not to have LASIK are your expectations and your ability to accept a less-than-perfect outcome. LASIK can reduce your dependence on glasses and almost always gives you the ability to function well without the need for glasses or contact lenses. But there are no guarantees, and LASIK doesn’t always create perfect vision. In some cases, your vision after LASIK may be permanently less clear than it was with glasses before the procedure. You have to ask yourself if you’re willing to accept the risk of such an outcome before you decide to have LASIK surgery.
Remember: LASIK is an elective procedure, not a required one.
The LASIK procedure
LASIK is an ambulatory procedure. You walk in the surgery center, have the procedure and walk out again. The actual surgery usually takes less than 15 minutes for both eyes, but expect to be at the surgery center for an hour or more.
LASIK is a two-step procedure. In the first step, the surgeon creates a thin, hinged flap of tissue on your cornea with an instrument called a microkeratome or with a laser. This flap is folded back and the second step – the laser reshaping of your eye – begins. After the laser treatment, which usually takes less than a minute, the flap is repositioned and the surgeon moves on to your other eye.
What is wavefront LASIK?
Wavefront LASIK (also called wavefront-assisted, wavefront-guided or custom LASIK) means the laser treatment (or “ablation”) is determined by a computerized mapping of the power of your eye called wavefront analysis. Wavefront-guided procedures are more precise than ablations determined by using only an eyeglasses prescription, and they can correct subtle optical imperfections of the eye called “higher-order aberrations” that regular ablations can’t treat. Several studies show wavefront-guided ablations provide sharper vision than conventional, non-wavefront LASIK and may reduce the risk of nighttime glare and halos.
After LASIK surgery
After the procedure, your surgeon or an assistant will apply medicated eye drops and clear protective shields over your eyes. You can open your eyes and see well enough to walk without glasses, but you must have someone drive you home.
You will be expected to use medicated eye drops several times a day for a week or so to protect your eyes from infection and help them heal properly. You will also be told to use artificial tears frequently to keep your eyes moist and comfortable.
You should rest and not use your eyes much when you get home from surgery that day. You may also be more comfortable if the lights in your house are dimmed.
The following day, you should be seeing well enough to drive and can resume most activities. Be careful, however, not to rub your eyes until your eye doctor tells you it is safe to do so.
Usually, you will be asked to return to the surgery center the following day so your surgeon or another eye doctor at the center can check your vision and make sure your eyes appear as they should. At this visit, you typically will be given additional instructions about using eye drops and artificial tears, and you will be able to ask the doctor any questions you have.
From this point forward (and sometimes for this “day one” visit as well), your post-operative care may be performed by an eye doctor other than your LASIK surgeon. When your post-operative care is provided by a doctor other than your surgeon or another doctor at the surgery center, it’s called co-management. We are happy to provide post-operative care for you at our office through a co-management agreement with your surgeon. Call our office for details.
What if my vision is still blurry after LASIK?
Though most patients see quite clearly in a matter of days after LASIK, it can take several months before your eyes are completely stable. Until then, improvements in your vision can still occur. But if several months pass and your vision is still blurred, see your LASIK surgeon. Usually a second LASIK surgery (called an enhancement) can sharpen your eyesight further.
If for some reason an enhancement is not indicated or desired, eyeglasses or contact lenses may help. We will be happy to examine your eyes and discuss the different options with you.
Eyewear after LASIK
Keep in mind that, even if your vision seems perfect after LASIK, you still need eyewear.
When outdoors, it’s important to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays with sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection. If you play sports when wearing sunglasses, make sure the lenses have polycarbonate lenses for extra protection. And any time you’re working with power tools or doing anything else when an eye injury is possible, you should wear safety glasses with polycarbonate lenses.
If you’re over 40 (or soon will be), it’s likely you’ll need reading glasses after LASIK. Also, many LASIK patients can benefit from a pair of prescription eyeglasses for night driving. Though these lenses may have only a mild prescription, they often can make your vision sharper for added safety and comfort.
Eye care after LASIK
And don’t forget to continue to have routine eye exams after LASIK. Even if your vision is perfect, you still need to have your eyes checked for glaucoma and other potential problems on a regular basis. Routine exams also help you make sure your vision stays stable after LASIK. We are happy to serve all your eyewear and eye care needs after your LASIK surgery.
LASIK – Criteria for Success
Certain systemic and autoimmune diseases may be disqualifiers, too. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, HIV and AIDS. Basically, if your body has any trouble with healing, your corneas may not heal properly after LASIK. Opinions vary among surgeons as to which diseases are automatic disqualifiers and which ones might pose acceptable risks in certain cases.
Your prescription must be within certain limits. For example, very high amounts of myopia, which would require removal of too much corneal tissue, may preclude LASIK or make another type of refractive surgery a better option. For example, many surgeons feel a phakic IOL procedure provides a better visual outcome and poses less risk than LASIK for nearsighted prescriptions higher than -9.00 diopters.
To find out if you’re a good candidate for LASIK, visit our office for a comprehensive eye exam and refractive surgery consultation.
LASIK Risks and Complications
LASIK is the most common refractive eye surgery, partially due to the fact that the risks and complications are low. The majority of patients don’t experience any long term complications as a result of the surgery. Nevertheless, as with any surgical procedure there are some risks, however rare they are and it is important to know them and to discuss them with your eye doctor or surgeon prior to undergoing the surgery.
Side effects of LASIK
There are a number of side effects that are somewhat common immediately post-op and in some instances can last longer – sometimes indefinitely. Those include:
About half of LASIK patients experience dry eyes, which are usually a temporary side effect that resolves within 3-6 months after the surgery. Your doctor will likely prescribe artificial tears in the days and weeks following the surgery which should be continued as long as the symptoms persist. Because of this, it is usually recommended that patients with a history of chronic dry eyes opt for another type of refractive surgery such as PRK, another style of laser refractive surgery with reduced risk.
Eye Infection or Irritation
While not common due to the eye drops and checkups prescribed post surgery, there is a chance of developing an eye infection. If this does occur, it can be treated with antibiotic eye drops, anti-inflammatories or sometimes may require other treatment such as oral antibiotics. If you are experiencing symptoms of an eye infection such as redness, pain, discomfort, discharge or any change in vision, see your eye doctor immediately. As a precaution, it is imperative to follow your surgeon’s instructions for your post-operative care including prescription medications and doctor’s visits.
Following surgery, you may experience certain vision issues such as such as poor night vision, double vision, halos around lights or glare. These side effects are common and can last up to a few weeks, but typically go away. Some patients report a lasting reduction in vision in low light conditions and may require vision aids for seeing better at night.
Other risks of LASIK include surgical errors, many of which can be corrected by a follow-up surgery. These include:
Overcorrection or Undercorrection
The key to vision improvement in LASIK is accurate reshaping of the corneal tissue. If too much is removed or not enough is removed, your vision will remain imperfect and when possible may require a follow up procedure to obtain the clear vision being sought.
Perhaps the greatest risk involved in LASIK is the accurate creation and healing of the flap of the cornea that is lifted to reshape the underlying tissue and replaced after. If the flap in the cornea is not made accurately, cut too thick or too thin and not carefully replaced back on the eye, it can cause complications in the shape of the eye surface and therefore clear vision. Studies indicate that these complications occur usually in under 6% of cases and the experience and skill of the surgeon play a large role.
There can also be complications in the healing process of the flap which include infection or excessive eye tearing.
There is a chance, albeit small that the surgery can result in a loss of vision or reduction in visual clarity due to complications with the surgery.
It is quite rare for any permanent damage or vision loss to occur as a result of LASIK and usually any vision problems can be corrected by a follow-up procedure. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks, so it is important to reduce your risks by finding an experienced surgeon and carefully considering your suitability for the surgery in the first place.