Questions about LASIK eye surgery?

Mountaineer and pilot Matt Moniz underwent LASIK eye surgery in Colorado. Here, Matt meets with his LASIK surgeon, Dr. Richard Davidson, for a follow-up appointment after his operation. Photo by Katie McCrimmon, UCHealth.

LASIK is the most common laser eye surgery to improve vision. To help answer your questions about LASIK eye surgery, we spoke to Dr. Richard Davidson, cataract, cornea, and refractive surgery specialist at UCHealth Sue Anschutz-Rodgers Eye Center.

Davidson, who is also a team doctor for the Denver nuggets and Colorado avalancheholder of an endowed chair in ocular innovation and is a professor of ophthalmologyto University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

What is LASIK?

LASIK is a quick, outpatient procedure in which surgeons use very precise lasers to reshape a person’s cornea and permanently improve their vision. LASIK means Laser assisted in situ keratomileusis. LASIK can give many people perfect vision and they will no longer need glasses or contact lenses (although normal aging may require reading glasses later in life).

Who can benefit from LASIK?

Laser eye surgery works best for people who have healthy eyes (outside of basic vision problems) and only mild to moderate vision loss related to myopia (seeing well up close, but not clearly from afar), hyperopia (having good distance vision, but seeing less clearly up close) or astigmatism (a curvature of the cornea that distorts vision).

What does the laser do?

The laser allows the surgeon to safely reshape the tissues of the eye.

“It’s like cutting fabric without a blade,” Davidson said.

How long does it take to have LASIK surgery?

“It’s a very quick procedure,” Richardson said. “It takes about 15 minutes in total: about five or six minutes per eye with the laser.”

I heard that LASIK is minimally invasive. What does it mean?

It’s correct. LASIK is minimally invasive. This means that patients do not need stitches or bandages after surgery.

Is LASIK painful?

No. Surgeons use numbing drops during the LASIK procedure, so it’s usually not painful. Then people may feel some discomfort. But it’s generally mild.

Matt Moniz during an eye exam with Dr. Richard Davidson.  Davidson helps answer questions about LASIK eye surgery.
Pilot and mountaineer, Matt Moniz now has perfect vision thanks to LASIK eye surgery. Dr. Richard Davidson checked Matt’s vision during a follow-up appointment after he had LASIK surgery. Photo by Katie McCrimmon, UCHealth.

What does LASIK recovery look like?

Generally, recovery time is easy and straightforward. Due to the sedation administered for the surgery, patients cannot drive immediately after undergoing LASIK, so a friend or relative should accompany the person. Some people experience temporary dry eyes. But usually the dryness and discomfort goes away within a few weeks.

How does the laser work?

“We use two different lasers. The first cuts a flap in the cornea. Then we lift the flap. And the second laser removes tissue without generating heat. It remodels the cornea. It’s amazing and works incredibly well,” Davidson said.

I’ve heard that it’s common for people from their mid-40s to need reading glasses. Is this also true for people who have had LASIK?

Yes, people who have LASIK may still need reading glasses later in life. As people age, their eyes age and it becomes more difficult to focus on fine print up close. This eye condition is called presbyopia and it is very common for people in their 40s and above to need reading glasses. Most people who have LASIK eye surgery may still need reading glasses later in life. There are, however, new eye drops that help some people reduce the need for reading glasses. Learn more about these drops.

Are there people who should not have LASIK?

Yes. Only adults aged 18 and over can have LASIK. Other people might not fare well, including those with glaucoma or other eye conditions and those with unstable vision (meaning your prescription is constantly changing). These include people with conditions who take medications that prevent them from healing wounds, such as some people with diabetes or those with autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. People who already have dry eyes may want to avoid LASIK because it can cause additional drying.

How long does LASIK last?

“For most patients, this lasts several years,” Davidson said. “Most patients get excellent vision for 10 or 20 years.”

Can you get LASIK more than once?

Yes. If a person doesn’t get the results they hoped for, surgeons can often come back with the laser and make adjustments.

Should I stop wearing contact lenses before LASIK surgery?

Yes. People who wear contacts will need to stop wearing them for a short time — about two weeks — before their LASIK appointment.

Has LASIK improved over the years?

Yes. The lasers have improved and so have the results, Davidson said.

“Lasers are faster and they can mix better. There are less glare and halos. He’s improved dramatically over the last 10 or 12 years,” Davidson said. “New versions keep coming out and it just keeps getting better.”

Does LASIK cause sensitivity to light?

When ophthalmologists began performing laser eye surgeries decades ago, some people experienced light sensitivity or saw glare, halos, or flashes of light. Some have also experienced double vision. Because lasers and precision have improved so much, these side effects are now very rare, Davidson said.

Will my night vision be good with LASIK?

Yes. Most people who have laser surgery can see just as well at night as they do during the day.

If LASIK isn’t right for me, are there any surgeries that might be good options?

Yes. Some patients do better with a procedure called PRK or photorefractive keratectomy. This is another type of laser surgery where the doctor removes the outer layer of the cornea instead of creating a flap. The surgeon then reshapes the corneal tissue using the same laser used for LASIK. PRK may be a better option for people with thin corneas.

For people who aren’t good candidates for LASIK or PRK, surgeons can also perform a procedure that doesn’t involve lasers. This is called ICL which stands for Intraocular Contact Lens. In this procedure, the surgeon places an artificial lens inside the eye in front of the natural lens.

For cataract patients, cataract surgery can also provide excellent visual results and the absence of glasses. During cataract surgery, the surgeon makes a small incision in the eye, removes the natural lens (cataract) and replaces it with an artificial lens. There are many varieties of artificial lenses, each providing patients with different types of vision correction.


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