Procedure, risks, recovery and side effects


What is LASIK eye surgery?

LASIK, which stands for laser keratomileusis in situ, is a popular surgery that can correct vision in people who are nearsighted or farsighted, or who suffer from astigmatism.

This is one of many vision correction surgeries that work by reshaping your cornea, the clear front part of your eye, so that the light is focused on the retina in the back of your eye.

Why is LASIK done?

When the light is not focusing on your retina the way it should, your vision is blurry. Doctors call it a refractive error. The basic types include:

  • Myopia (myopia). You see things clearly when they are close to you, but things further away are blurry.
  • Hyperopia (hyperopia). You can see faraway things more clearly, but nearer things are blurry.
  • Astigmatism. It can make everything blurry because of the shape of your eye.

Talk to your doctor to find out if LASIK is right for you. You should not have the surgery if you:

Benefits of LASIK eye surgery

The benefits of LASIK include:

  • It has been around for over 25 years. About 96% of patients achieve their visual goals afterward. An improvement can increase this number even more.
  • There is very little, if any, pain involved.
  • There are no bandages or stitches.
  • If your vision changes with age, your doctor may adjust it.
  • You probably won’t need to use as many glasses or contact lenses after LASIK.

Risks of LASIK eye surgery

As with any surgery, LASIK carries certain risks, including:

  • It is a complex procedure. It’s rare, but there may be issues that permanently affect your vision. This is one of the reasons to choose a surgeon who has a lot of experience with these surgeries.
  • Rarely, you can lose your “best” correctable vision, the highest level of vision you had while wearing contact lenses or glasses, after LASIK.
  • Most insurance does not cover LASIK.

Side Effects of LASIK Eye Surgery

Some patients experience discomfort during the first two days after LASIK eye surgery. Other side effects are rare and usually go away with time. They include:

How should I prepare for LASIK eye surgery?

Before LASIK, you will meet with a coordinator or ophthalmologist who will explain what to expect during and after the procedure. They will ask you questions about your medical history and do a comprehensive eye exam. This may include tests to measure the thickness of your cornea, refraction, and eye pressure. They can map your corneas and dilate your pupils. The surgeon will answer all of your questions. Then you can make an appointment for the surgery.

If you use rigid gas permeable contact lenses, do not wear them for at least 3 weeks before your assessment. Do not wear other types of contact lenses for at least 3 days before the assessment. Be sure to bring your glasses so the surgeon can review your prescription.

On the day of your surgery, eat a light meal before going in and take all of your prescribed medications. Do not wear eye makeup or bulky accessories in your hair that might interfere with your head position. If you don’t feel well that morning, call the doctor’s office to ask what to do.

What Happens During LASIK Eye Surgery?

Your doctor will give you drops to numb your eyes. You can also ask for a light sedative.

They will use an instrument called a microkeratome or femtosecond laser to create a thin flap in your cornea. They’ll pull it out and use another laser to reshape the tissue underneath. Then they put the shutter back in place and the operation is complete.

The LASIK procedure itself typically takes around 20 minutes. Arrange for someone to take you home after the surgery.

What to expect after LASIK eye surgery

Your eyes will be dry, even if they don’t feel it. Your doctor will prescribe prescription eye drops to prevent infection and inflammation, as well as drops to keep your eyes moist. You might have a brief, mild stinging sensation or blurry vision when using them. Do not use eye drops without talking to your doctor.

Your eyes will likely heal very quickly. Most patients notice better vision within a few days. Call your doctor if you have any problems or unusual side effects.

Do not swim or use a hot tub for 2 weeks after surgery. You could get a plastic shield to protect your eyes while you sleep for a few days.

Your doctor will tell you when to return for follow-up visits. The first will probably be a day or two after the procedure.

Your vision may still change after LASIK. You may need to use reading glasses as you get older. Over 10% of people need a second LASIK procedure sometime later to restore the effects. But overall, 90% of patients have 20/20 to 20/40 vision after LASIK surgery.

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