What You Need to Know About LASIK
When LASIK first arrived on the scene, 30 years and 30 million procedures ago, doctors were understandably skeptical. It seemed too good to be true. The idea of being able to correct a person’s vision permanently was as crazy to think about as making someone taller or extending their life span to 150. It just wasn’t something that could be done. Until it could.
History of LASIK
When researchers discovered they could correct the curvature of the cornea with an Excimer Laser, thereby correcting vision in that eye, it was a big of a paradigm shift to vision correction as the internet has been to business. Once the FDA clinical trial results were released in 1995, there was proof that a lifetime of blurry vision was now optional. By 1997, the researchers themselves underwent LASIK and showed the world a new realm of visual possibility.
Types of LASIK Surgery
In the past two and a half decades, LASIK has evolved from a single procedure using the Excimer Laser to a couple of procedural options, using different lasers. The best option depends on the individual patient needs and their corneal anatomy. The first type of laser vision correction surgery is known as PRK, Photorefractive Keratectomy. It involves the surgeon using a blade to create a corneal flap in order to access the cornea for reshaping with the excimer laser. Patients typically return to normal life without glasses, contacts, or post-operative discomfort within three or four days. Approximately 20-25% of laser vision correction patients still undergo PRK because it’s best for their particular eye care plan and still results in 20/20 vision.
The second generation of laser vision correction is what doctors are referencing when they say LASIK. Instead of using a blade to create a corneal flap, the surgeon uses a femtosecond laser to separate the layers of the cornea with a field of tiny bubbles in order to access the cornea for reshaping. The bubbles lift the surface layer of the cornea so that no cutting is necessary for the doctor to perform the corneal reshaping. As a result, patients enjoy a faster recovery, usually returning to their routines without discomfort or corrective lenses in a day or two. LASIK also results in near 20/20 vision for most patients.
If the idea of a laser reshaping your cornea seems intimidating, perhaps it would help you to think of the procedure as blinking light vision therapy. The doctor uses bubbles to lift the outer layer of the cornea, you watch a blinking light for a few seconds, you go home to take a nap, and you see 20/20 the next day. That sounds simple and non-invasive enough, doesn’t it? LASIK may sound scary, but it’s not.
The Day of Your LASIK Procedure
Patients are always struck by how anti-climactic their LASIK experience turns out to be. Upon arrival, they are escorted to a pre-op room where an Eye Surgery Associates professional cleans their eyelids and administers the initial anesthetic eye drops. After meeting with the surgeon to ensure all their questions have been answered, the patient is escorted to the room where LASIK occurs. Typically, the entire procedure only takes about 10 minutes. Then the surgeon looks at the patient’s eyes under a microscope one last time before clearing the patient to be driven home with post-operative instructions.
Before and After LASIK Surgery
To determine if an individual is eligible for laser vision correction, a doctor at Eye Surgery Associates will perform some highly specialized tests. These tests allow the doctor to analyze every aspect of a patient’s vision, as well as their corneal anatomy and topography, a crucial element of which procedure best suits the patient and how much reshaping will be required. Truth be told, the goal is for the doctor to do everything possible to disqualify candidates. If, however, the doctor is unable to find a reason not to perform the surgery, then it’s an ideal indicator that both the patient and doctor can feel confident about the outcome of LASIK. For candidates who are determined to be less than ideal, doctors can recommend an alternate procedure to meet their treatment goals.
Before their LASIK procedure, patients are usually asked to stop wearing their contacts for three to seven days. This allows the cornea to equilibrate to its most natural state, assuring the best outcome from the surgery.
After their LASIK procedure, patients are instructed to go home and nap for about three hours. This keeps the patient comfortable, because their eyes are expected to sting for a few hours afterward. Usually, doctors provide a sleep aid to help patients fall asleep and eye drops to promote healing. After their nap and a good night’s sleep, patients often return to work or their normal routines the next day.
Post LASIK Care
Usually, the doctor will prescribe post-operative medicated eye drops to be used daily for the first week and artificial tears after that to maintain the moisture of their eye. Artificial tears provide the best healing environment for the cornea. Doctors typically want to see LASIK patients for follow-up the morning after the procedure, one week later, one month later, and three months later to ensure proper healing is taking place.
LASIK Side Effects
Some patients also experience dryness for the first few weeks after LASIK. Most report these symptoms to be similar to the feeling of dryness they experienced while wearing contact lenses. Patients can easily manage these moderate symptoms with the use of artificial tear drops during the first few weeks after surgery.
During the original FDA clinical trials, some patients with larger pupils reported glare and/or halos at night, so glare and halos continue to be listed as possible side effects. What the clinical trial surveys failed to ask the same patients initially was, “Did you experience similar glare or halos with your glasses or contact lenses?” It was later discovered that patients had indeed experienced similar optical effects while wearing their glasses and contacts. As a result, it’s worth noting that the visual side effects of LASIK are no different than what is normal for a given individual.
Night Driving After LASIK
After LASIK, the cornea remains slightly swollen for a couple of days. It’s the body’s natural healing response and should be expected. The swelling, however, may impact a patient’s ability to drive at night because it causes glare and halos to be seen around lights. Some patients have described it as similar to trying to see through a windshield that’s covered in a light mist. Lights are just blurred enough to be a distraction. Once the swelling subsides, a patient’s night vision returns to normal, as it was when the patient wore glasses or contacts before LASIK.
LASIK with Dry Eyes
It is normal for LASIK patients to experience dryness after the procedure. During LASIK, the corneal nerves that signal the lacrimal gland for tear production become desensitized. Without that signal, the dryness will exist in the eyes, whether or not the patient feels it, at least for a while. That’s why the doctors at Eye Surgery Associates recommend using artificial tears for a couple of months to ensure adequate moisture.
LASIK Halo Effect
With the advanced treatment protocols of contemporary LASIK, very few patients experience halos around lights after their procedure. However, they remain a possibility. The halo effect is more likely in patients with unusually large pupils that dilate more under dark conditions. It’s a very manageable issue and shouldn’t deter anyone from getting LASIK.
The Expanded Benefits of LASIK
People come to their LASIK consultation at Eye Surgery Associates excited about how nice it would be to be free from their glasses and contacts. While they are excited to be investigating LASIK, it is impossible for them to imagine what it will be like afterward. Often, it’s better than they dared to dream. Consider these everyday situations that will change as a result of LASIK:
- Being able to see in the shower
- Seeing yourself in the mirror without glasses or contacts
- No more keeping up with readers or cleaning contacts
- Sitting on the beach without worrying about sand getting in your eyes and still being able to see your kids swim
- Wearing athletic helmets without having to fit them over your glasses or purchase specialized glasses
- Riding a roller coaster and being able to see the view
- Greater confidence for athletes on the field and on the court
- Being able to read the clock in the middle of the night
- Being able to see clearly immediately upon emerging from the pool
- Not having to update vision prescriptions or keep up with frame trends
Now that you know vital things about the LASIK procedure, what’s keeping you from scheduling a consultation? Make an appointment at Eye Surgery Associates today. Our team of professionals wants nothing more than for you to see clearly.