LASIK laser eye surgery has been performed on tens of millions of eyes since it was first approved for use in the 1990s. This common form of laser vision correction is able to get rid of your dependency on glasses or contact lenses, surgically providing you with clear vision. Keep reading to find out more about the LASIK procedure, how it works, and what to expect.
What Does LASIK Eye Surgery Do?
LASIK surgery is a type of refractive surgery. LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. Like other forms of refractive surgery, such as SMILE (small incision lenticule extraction), LASIK surgery aims to correct blurred vision caused by refractive error. Refractive errors include short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism.
Techniques of refractive laser eye surgery are based on modifying the curvature of the corneal tissue at the front surface of the eye. This changes the way that light rays pass through this surface so that they can come to a sharp focus on the retina, providing improved vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses.
Before You Undergo LASIK Surgery
Prior to having any laser treatment, your eye surgeon needs to ensure that you’re a suitable candidate for the LASIK procedure. This means attending an initial consultation. During this appointment, your eye doctor will:
- Ask you questions about your medical history
- Perform a thorough assessment of your eye health
- Measure your refractive error
- Assess your potential for vision improvement with LASIK refractive surgery
- Take biometric measurements, such as the length of your eye
Factors that May Exclude You from LASIK Surgery
Though LASIK surgery is considered a safe and effective treatment for correcting blurry vision caused by conditions such as short-sightedness, not everyone will be suitable for this procedure.
Factors that can often disqualify a person from having LASIK eye surgery include:
- Thin corneas
- Severe dry eyes
- Age under 21 or over 45 years
- Vision problems that will limit the benefit of vision correction with LASIK surgery, such as lazy eye or retinal scarring
Your LASIK surgeon will advise you if they feel that the LASIK procedure is unsuitable for you. In many cases, they can offer you a different form of refractive surgery that would be more appropriate.
The LASIK Procedure
If you wear contact lenses in preparation for your LASIK eye surgery, your LASIK surgeon will ask you to stop wearing contact lenses in the weeks leading up to your procedure and to wear glasses instead. This is to avoid distortion of the corneal tissue and a more accurate laser treatment.
Your eyes will be numbed with topical anaesthetic. General anaesthesia is not used for LASIK, but if you’re anxious, you can be given a mild sedative.
Once you’re comfortable, the eye surgeon will cut a corneal flap from the outermost layers of the cornea. This can be performed either by using a bladed instrument called a microkeratome, or a laser tool called a femtosecond laser.
The corneal flap remains attached to the eye via a hinge of tissue but will be opened gently to one side. This allows another laser, known as an excimer laser, to be applied to the underlying cornea. The excimer laser is a cool ultraviolet light beam that vaporises precise areas of tissue to adjust the corneal curvature. The entire process of the laser surgery is controlled by computer, based on the biometric data taken at your initial appointment.
Once the excimer laser beam has done its work, the corneal flap is repositioned. Typically, stitches are not needed as the edges of the flap will self-seal. In total, the operation takes less than half an hour.
LASIK Eye Surgery Recovery
Immediately after your surgery
Immediately after your LASIK procedure, you may:
- Have a scratchy, gritty sensation in the eye
- Have watery eyes
- Feel light sensitive
In terms of your sight, you may experience some blurry vision.
A day or two later
Many people find their sight is quite clear within a day of their LASIK surgery, however, you may still experience some unstable vision during this time. If you are feeling mild pain in the eyes, you can consider taking painkillers and using lubricating eye drops.
Your first follow-up appointment is often within this time frame.
The following weeks
In the few weeks after your LASIK surgery, you’ll find your uncorrected vision (that is, your normal vision without glasses or contact lenses) continues to improve.
It’s common to continue to experience dry eyes even several weeks after your operation; this can typically be managed with artificial tears. You may also find yourself still slightly glare-sensitive during this time.
Optimising the healing process
Your eye doctor will have given you some post-operative guidelines to support your recovery. These will include:
- Avoid strenuous activity
- Don’t play contact sports
- Use your prescription eyedrops
- Avoid eye makeup
In addition to these, if you experience anything that doesn’t feel right after your LASIK laser eye surgery, such as vision loss, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.
Though laser vision correction with LASIK is considered safe with a low rate of complications, there are always risks with surgery.
- Complications related to the flap, such as dislocation or inflammation
- Uneven tissue removal and failure to correct vision fully
- Under- or over-correction (too much tissue was removed)
- Persistent dry eyes
Though LASIK is intended to be a permanent procedure, people over the age of 45 will still find they eventually need reading glasses to help their near vision. This is a normal change to vision with age called presbyopia.
Some people will also experience a phenomenon known as regression, which is when their uncorrected vision begins to blur again as their original prescription creeps back. In many cases, this can be retreated with a LASIK enhancement procedure or a different type of laser eye surgery.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
What to know about LASIK recovery and side effects. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-to-know-about-lasik-recovery-and-its-effects
LASIK eye surgery.