LASIK eye surgery has become a very common option for those who want to correct their vision. This procedure can correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia, and astigmatism. In this article, we will focus on LASIK eye surgery for myopia.
We divided it into three main parts: things to consider before the procedure, what exactly happens during the procedure, and what to expect after the procedure.
Before the Procedure
The safety and efficacy of LASIK, combined with the quick recovery and minimal discomfort, have made this procedure one of the most popular for the treatment of myopia.
What is LASIK?
The word “LASIK” is an acronym for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis.” The term keratomileusis comes from the Greek words for “cornea” and “to carve.”
LASIK eye surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist who uses a laser to reshape the cornea and correct myopia. In a nutshell, myopia (nearsightedness) is when light focuses in front of the retina, instead of on top of the retina. The retina is in the back of the eye and is responsible for translating light into an image that the brain can read.
The cornea is the front part of the eye that helps focus light to create an image on the retina. LASIK makes the cornea more flat. This moves the focal point further back onto the retina, making vision clear and correcting myopia.
LASIK eye surgery uses a laser to precisely reshape the cornea in a controlled way. This makes it possible to have perfectly clear vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses. Studies suggest it can correct myopia as high as -9.00 diopters. Also, the procedure is quick, relatively painless, and has a quick recovery time.
Who Can’t Get LASIK?
Here are 9 conditions that make you a bad candidate for eye surgery:
- Unstable vision: This means your eye prescription changed in the past 1-2 years. Also, if you’re pregnant or have diabetes (because it may cause fluctuations in your vision).
- Practicing contact sports: If you train often in boxing, basketball, martial arts or other activities in which blows to the face and eyes are common.
- You are not an adult: People younger than 18 years old can’t get this procedure.
- Large pupils: This can cause symptoms such as glare, halos, and double vision after surgery.
- Thin cornea: The higher your prescription, the more corneal tissue the laser needs to remove to correct your vision. Performing this procedure on a cornea that is too thin may result in blinding complications.
- Dry eyes: LASIK tends to aggravate this condition.
- Previous eye injury or surgery: This increases the risk for complications. Therefore, additional surgery is not be recommended.
- Health problems: You have a disease or are on medications that may affect wound healing, such as autoimmune diseases and immunodeficiency states.
- You can’t stare at a fixed object for at least 60 seconds. This will be needed during the surgery to help you keep your eye fixed on one spot once the laser comes on.
This list includes the most common conditions that indicate LASIK is not the right thing for you. The FDA has published a more complete list.
The average cost of LASIK surgery in the United States is around $2,000 to $3,000 per eye.
Most health insurance plans don’t cover laser eye surgery, because it’s considered a cosmetic or elective procedure (not medically necessary).
During the Procedure
The entire LASIK surgery procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes for both eyes. Approximately 10 minutes is needed to complete the surgery on each eye.
The results — clear vision without glasses or contact lenses — may begin immediately after the procedure is done. Vision usually continues to improve and stabilize over a few days.
What Happens During the Procedure? (Step-by-Step)
The most accurate version of LASIK today uses a laser for the entire procedure. Both to cut a flap in the cornea that will act as a natural bandage for your eye to heal. And to perform the thinning of the cornea that corrects your vision. It can also be done with a small special blade (called a microkeratome).
You are awake and alert during the whole procedure. Here is a step-by-step overview of what to expect:
Step 1: Getting in Position + Eye Drops
You will lie on your back. There’s a large machine with a microscope attached to it and a computer screen. The doctor gives you eye drops that numb your eyes. Your eyelids will be held wide open with an instrument. They may also give you some medication to help you relax.
Step 2: Thin Flap
The doctor uses a laser to cut a thin flap in your cornea. They will then lift the flap and fold it back on its hinge, and dry the exposed tissue.
Step 3: Getting Eyes in Position
Your doctor will ask you to stare at a light. This is not the laser used to remove tissue from the cornea. This light is to keep your eye fixed on one spot once the laser comes on. As mentioned before, you’re not a good candidate for LASIK if you can’t stare at objects for a while and keep your eyes fixed.
Step 4: Laser
When your eye is in the correct position, your doctor will start the laser that gently reshapes your cornea. It is guided by a computer that is programmed specifically for your eye.
Step 5: Flap Back Into Place
After the laser finishes, the doctor puts the corneal flap back into place. If you are getting both eyes corrected, this process will be repeated on the other eye.
Step 6: Eye Shield + Recovery
That’s it, your LASIK eye surgery for myopia is complete! Once you’re finished, the doctor will provide you with an eye shield to keep the flap in place and to protect your eye. They will also give other more detailed instructions for recovery.
Is it Painful?
LASIK causes little to no pain during the procedure.
During the creation of the protective corneal flap (Step 2), many patients describe feeling a “slight pressure sensation” in the eye. But typically this is not painful, and the sensation lasts less than a minute.
After the Procedure
Right after the procedure, you may experience some discomfort or even mild pain. Your vision will probably be foggy or blurry. You will instinctively want to rub your eye, but don’t!
Rubbing your eye could move the flap, requiring additional treatment. Also, you may experience sensitivity to light, dry eyes, and haloes around lights. The whites of your eye may look red.
These symptoms should improve a lot after the first few days after the surgery.
You should see your doctor within the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery. After that you should see them regularly for at least the first 6 months. At the first visit, your doctor will remove the eye shield, test your vision, and examine your eye.
Here are some good practices to follow in order to avoid infections:
95% of people who get LASIK are satisfied with the outcome. However, those 5% of people who were not satisfied have reported some very serious complications after the surgery. Here are a few:
- Dry eyes forever: It’s a common thing right after surgery, but it may become permanent.
- Bad night vision: Halos around bright lights can make it difficult to see in in low light environments.
- More surgery needed: You may be overcorrected or undercorrected, and need additional surgery to fix it.
- Worse vision: Your vision may actually regress after LASIK instead of getting better, and you will need to wear glasses.
Here’s a more complete list of possible complications. The main idea you should get from this is that if you decide to get LASIK eye surgery, there’s a 5% chance of the complications mentioned above happening to you (or a 95% chance of everything going well).
In my own personal opinion, it’s a procedure that doesn’t really address the cause for myopia. Myopia happens because the eyeball is elongated, as explained here. It doesn’t have much to do with the cornea. It’s true that glasses don’t address eyeball elongation either, but they’re not a permanent correction like surgery.
Conclusion — LASIK Eye Surgery for Myopia
For most levels of refractive error, LASIK is the procedure of choice. While it has a high success rate, it’s important to know what to expect.
Now that you understand how LASIK works to correct myopia, the next step is to talk to a doctor you trust and discuss the best option for you, as well as any concerns you may have.
If you have any questions, leave them below in the comments!
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