LASIK (laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis) is the most commonly performed 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 then properly focused on the retina (the light receptor of the eye). The success rate with this procedure is excellent, with most patients achieving 20/20 uncorrected vision or better upon completion. The LASIK procedure itself is generally comfortable, as is the recovery process. Improvement in eyesight is almost immediate, with maximum vision typically achieved within a few days.
Reasons to consider LASIK:
- Nearsightedness (myopia)
- Farsightedness (hyperopia)
- Astigmatism (irregularly shaped cornea)
- Desire to decrease or eliminate dependence on glasses or contacts
After administering a local anesthetic via eye drops, you will be asked to lie down on a table under the laser equipment. A lid speculum is placed to help you keep your eyes open during the procedure. During the first part of the LASIK surgery when the corneal flap is created you will feel pressure on the eye and may experience a brief period of darkness. This is normal and does not last long.
- During the second part of the LASIK surgery, you will focus on a point of light above you. This will help keep your eyes steady.
- The surgeon will begin by pulling back a thin flap of tissue from the cornea, exposing the underlying tissue so it can be easily reshaped. This will cause your vision to become blurry.
- Next, the surgeon will apply bursts of laser energy to carefully reshape the cornea, making the eye a more ideal shape for focusing light. During this part of the surgery, the Laser will track your eye movements and compensate for small movements. You will hear some buzzing sounds while the laser treats your eye. You may smell something like burnt hair. These are gases the laser produces and are a normal part of the surgery.
- Once the eyes have been reshaped - which normally takes less than a minute - the surgeon will lay the corneal flap back into place, where it acts like a natural bandage.
No stitches are needed.
The patient may go home shortly after the procedure and asked to get lots of rest, avoid 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. During the healing process, your surgeon will ask you to:
- Use prescription eye drops to prevent infection and reduce any swelling or irritation.
- Use over-the-counter lubricant eye drops to keep your eyes moist and comfortable.
- Wear eye shields, particularly during sleep, to prevent irritation and eye rubbing.
- Wear dark sunglasses if you experience sensitivity to bright lights.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes for a few weeks after surgery.
You may experience fluctuations in vision for up to six months after surgery. These tend to be more pronounced in the evening or after reading/working on the computer for extended periods of time.
Irritation after eye surgery is normal and tends to return to preoperative levels in six months.
Potential side effects for LASIK surgery may include watery eyes, a burning or scratchy sensation or mild discomfort. These symptoms usually subside within the first few days following surgery. Patients also commonly experience some glare or halos around lights which typically become insignificant over time.