What Is LASIK?
Since the late 1970's incisional refractive surgery (RK) has treated nearsightedness and astigmatism in patients all over the world, allowing them to experience a new kind of freedom. It's the kind of freedom that allows people to make lifestyle choices that were not options to them before because they were totally dependent on glasses or contact lenses. Now, refractive surgery is experiencing the dawning of a new era with the advent of the excimer laser. For nearly 25% of the population, excimer Laser in-Situ Keratomileusis, or LASIK, could represent the first step towards less dependence on corrective lenses. LASIK combines the precision of the excimer laser delivery system with the benefits of Lamellar Keratoplasty (LK) proven to treat a wide range of refractive errors. In the United States, LASIK is approved by the FDA. How successful is the procedure? The vast majority of people who undergo LASIK are able to pass a drivers' license test without their glasses or contacts. Since LASIK can be used to treat very high levels of refractive error, it is sometimes necessary to fine tune the initial procedure with additional refractive procedures to obtain the best final result.
What Happens During LASIK Surgery?
Utilizing the accuracy and precision of the excimer laser, LASIK changes the shape of the cornea to improve the way light is focused or "refracted" by the eye. First, a thin layer of the cornea, or corneal cap, is lifted up as an instrument called a microkeratome glides across the cornea. Then, in less than 60 seconds, ultraviolet light and high energy pulses from the excimer laser reshape the internal cornea with accuracy up to 0.25 microns. By adjusting the pattern of the laser beam, it is possible to treat high levels of nearsightedness, and moderate amounts of farsightedness and astigmatism. After the tissue has been reshaped, the flap is replaced in its original position. Because of the cornea's extraordinary natural bonding qualities, healing is rapid and does not require stitches. In most cases LASIK is performed as an outpatient procedure in the comfort and convenience of an excimer surgical suite. The entire procedure takes less than 30 minutes. The procedure is performed using "eye drop" anesthesia. Some patients report a slight, postoperative discomfort that can usually be alleviated with medications. Many patients see a dramatic improvement in their vision within the first day. For others, vision may be blurry and fluctuate for several weeks or more. Most patients return to their normal activities within a day or two.
The Ideal Candidate
In general, the ideal candidate for LASIK is over 18 years of age and has healthy corneas. Candidates must not have had a significant increase in their prescription in the last 12 months. People with certain medical conditions or women who are pregnant may not be good candidates for LASIK.
The First Step
Finding out more about your refractive error is your first step toward visual independence. This is accomplished by contacting Morrison Eye Care. Should your refractive error fall within the range of correction for LASIK, more comprehensive tests will be necessary.
The decision to have LASIK is an important one that ultimately, only you can make. It is important that you have realistic expectations and that your decision is based on facts, not hopes or misconceptions. The goal of LASIK is to reduce your dependence on corrective lenses. LASIK does not always create 20/20 or even 20/40 vision. It cannot correct a condition known as presbyopia, or aging of the eye, which normally occurs around age 40 which may require the use of reading glasses. In fact, people over 40 who have their distance vision improved may find they need reading glasses after the procedure. Your doctor will provide you with additional information that will allow you to make an informed decision.