A regular eye exam is an essential part of your health-care routine. When it’s time to order new glasses or contact lenses, you may be asking yourself what other options could be available. One possibility to consider is LASIK vision-correction, which is now commonly used for patients with myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism. Myopia is by far the most common reason why people undergo the procedure.
The idea of discarding glasses or contact lenses can be very appealing, but do you need to think about it before deciding that LASIK is the right choice for you?
LASIK is actually short for ‘laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis’. It’s been used in the USA since the mid-nineties and the technology has evolved significantly over time. Of course, the idea of a laser burning into the eye is somewhat scary, and fears of major risks are only to be expected.
However, Dr. Brian Davis, of the Davis Vision Centre, a leading specialist in LASIK in Utah, who has performed over 40,000 correction surgeries over the course of his career, explains that a recent study presented in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery found that LASIK has a 96% patient satisfaction rating, which makes it the highest-rated of any elective surgical procedure.
Before you undergo the surgery, you must be thoroughly screened to ensure you are a suitable candidate. This obviously includes detailed eye exams, but should also take into account your lifestyle, age, objectives, and the way you are approaching the procedure.
Only if you pass a detailed screening procedure should you consider proceeding. Although it is overwhelmingly a safe procedure, if you detect any attempts at ‘hard-sell’, you should consider carefully and possibly seek a second opinion from another experienced LASIK surgeon before deciding.
The procedure itself is carried out with you lying down. Anesthetic drops will be placed around the eye, and your eyelids will be held open. You won’t be able to blink, but if you move your eyes excessively (or even sneeze), the laser will cut off – so there is no risk of accidental damage to the eyeball.
There will be quite a loud noise, and it can’t be described as relaxing or pleasant, but it won’t be painful. You may also notice a weird ‘burning’ smell– but there’s no need for concern. The laser is a concentrated beam of light, not heat. The odor is due to the carbon being released from collagen molecules as the laser dissolves them, not your eye burning.
Afterward, your eyes will be hypersensitive to light. It’s not exactly painful, but it’s a somewhat weird and uncomfortable sensation, so you’ll be encouraged to wear dark sunglasses until this passes. You’ll be able to move around immediately, but won’t see well enough to drive. Any bright light will cause discomfort
You’ll remain sensitive to light for a few hours, so you’re encouraged to go straight home and rest in a dark room – so no TV or computer screens. Gradually, you’ll be able to tolerate more light, and will probably notice an immediate improvement in your vision.
Most people experience clear vision within 24 hours of the procedure, but, if it remains blurry, things will usually settle down over the next few days. However, some degree of stinging and discomfort is not unusual, and is typically nothing to worry about. A check-up with your surgeon after 24 hours will confirm that all is well. You should be ready to return to work.
There are some post-surgery precautions you’ll need to take. Protective eye shields will have to be taped over your eyes when you sleep. This will protect your eyes and ensure you don’t place pressure on your eyelids, while the cornea is still healing. During the recovery period, you’ll also need to avoid high-impact sports and swimming: your surgeon will advise you of how long you need to take these precautions.
The most common fear that people report concerning LASIK is that they’ll be blinded. In fact, there are no known cases due to the laser itself. It is possible to lose vision due to complications (infections) caused by poor protocols, and in extremely rare cases this has been reported
Between 20% and 40% of people do experience some mild side effects: dry eyes, burning, or itching sensations. These usually diminish within 6 to 12 months but in rare cases do persist.
Other common side-effects, impacting around 20% of people, are glare, halos around lights in the night-time, and reduced ability to discern contrast. Again, these tend to improve over 6-12 months, but in a minority of patients, they can persist. As the risk of side-effects increases according to the strength of the original prescription, the best advice is to discuss this issue with your surgeon, before deciding.
This depends on several factors. Although your vision may be 20/20 immediately after LASIK, there is no guarantee that it will remain perfect. The shape of the eye changes as we get older, so, after the age of 40, there’s an increased likelihood that you’ll need glasses for reading. However, you can still expect years of near-perfect distance-vision, and years of freedom from glasses or contacts.
The most obvious, life-enhancing benefit is that you’ll be able to discard your glasses. No more steaming up when moving from cold to high temperatures! You’ll find it far more convenient when playing sports, doing fitness activities, or driving. You’ll still be able to see into the distance when swimming or scuba-diving.
If you’re a contact lens wearer, you’ll be able to say goodbye to solutions and the never-ending rituals associated with using them. No more red, gritty eyes, and the sense of freedom that comes from being able to see clearly.
LASIK surgery requires an investment – but if you compare this to the cost, over at least 10 years, of changing your glasses or lenses each time your eyes change, it can actually be a cost-effective option.
Finally, the best advice is to do your research, choose an experienced surgeon, and proceed if you are fully confident that LASIK will be the right choice for you.