LASIK is a commonly performed refractive surgery procedure that can safely and effectively improve vision by reshaping the cornea to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Patients of all ages experience these vision problems as a result of an abnormal corneal shape that blurs or distorts vision.
Short for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, LASIK uses targeted excimer laser beam energy to gently remove, or ablate, corneal tissue in order to correct refractive errors and help patients see clearly. Millions of patients choose to undergo LASIK each year, and achieve clear vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses, while also benefiting from minimal downtime and little to no post-operative discomfort.
Candidates for LASIK
Although LASIK is considered a safe procedure, it is not ideal for everyone. Your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation to determine whether LASIK is appropriate for you, or if you would benefit from another type of refractive procedure. The ideal LASIK candidate:
- Is over 18 years old
- Has had stable vision for at least six months
- Has a healthy cornea thick enough for a flap
- Has refractive errors that fall within the treatable range
It is also important for patients to fully understand the details and risks of the procedure, and maintain realistic expectations.
LASIK is performed on an outpatient basis using only numbing eye drops to reduce any potential discomfort during the procedure. The entire surgery takes less than five minutes to perform, although patients can expect to spend a few hours at the office. If requested, patients can receive an oral sedative prior to surgery to relieve any anxieties about the procedure.
During the LASIK procedure, the patient will lie down while the doctor positions the laser precisely over the eye. A speculum will be used to keep the eye open, the eye is cleaned and numbing drops are placed. LASIK can be performed with a microkeratome blade or a femtosecond laser to create a thin flap on the surface of the cornea, which is then gently lifted so that the excimer laser can reshape the curvature of the cornea.
Once the flap is created, the excimer laser delivers completely customized pulses of light energy for each patient’s individual prescription. This customization is determined prior to surgery, with the precise positioning confirmed prior to triggering the laser. The second eye is treated right after the first, after which patients will be given protective shields to keep the eyes safe from bright lights after LASIK.
Click here to see a short animated demonstration of a LASIK procedure.
Recovery After LASIK
After LASIK, patients will rest in the office for a short time before having someone else drive them home. Your doctor will likely recommend resting at home for a few hours, with most patients able to return to work and other regular activities the next day. Strenuous exercise should be avoided for at least a week. Medication may be prescribed to relieve any discomfort, but most tolerate this procedure well.
Your doctor will provide you with specific post-operative instructions to ensure proper healing and to help patients achieve the best possible vision.
Vision Results from LASIK
While it may take several months for full results to develop, significant visual improvement is noticeable immediately after the LASIK procedure. Most patients eventually achieve vision that is 20/20 or better, and are able to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses.
Although patients can achieve clear vision from LASIK, this procedure cannot prevent presbyopia, the age-related vision changes that occur after the age of 40. Many patients will need reading glasses for this condition, but their distance vision will remain clear.
Risks of LASIK
LASIK is considered safe for most patients who are considered ideal candidates. There is a risk of infection or complications such as night glare, halos or vision worsening, although these are considered rare. Patients can further reduce the risk of complications by choosing an experienced surgeon to perform their procedure.