LASIK and Laser Eye Surgery – An Overview

Your eye surgeon considers several types of laser eye surgery procedures when he evaluates your needs. Newer laser surgical procedures tend to have better results than older ones. But that’s not always true. Sometimes older ones are better choices.

Your eye surgeon’s job is to choose the procedure that gives you the best outcomes based upon your unique exam results and diagnosis.

First, your eye surgeon examines your eyes. Then he makes a diagnosis. If he finds any refractive error he may recommend laser surgery.

His job is to choose one of the laser surgery procedures that will give you the best possible vision.

It’s not always possible to restore perfect vision. But, most people do experience close to 20/20 vision after laser surgery. Some have better results and some slightly worse than 20/20. Worse amounts to something like 20/40 vision. Many people wouldn’t notice that small error after years of declining vision.

Laser eye surgery procedures include:

  • Custom Wavefront Lasik
  • EPI-Lasik
  • IntraLase LASIK
  • PresbyLASIK
  • PRK
  • CK
  • Monovision LASIK
  • Corneal Onlays and Inlays may involve LASIK
  • Lasek Surgeries (Laser Assisted Situ-Epithelial Keratomileusis)

    Lasek, a variation of PRK

    Laser Eye Surgery vs. Other Types of Surgery and Treatment

    The shape of the cornea determines how clear your vision is. When it is too curved, too flat, or too oval your vision will be blurry. These are called refractive errors. By reshaping the corneal tissue, your eye surgeon can improve your vision.

    Laser vision surgery involves using a laser to reshape the cornea. Other surgeries use radio waves, a knife, brush or other tool for this purpose. Each type of laser surgery has advantages and disadvantages. Results can be affected by your general health or eye health. Not all patients are good candidates for laser surgery.

    Laser surgery is used to treat refractive errors:

  • nearsightedness
  • farsightedness

  • astigmatism
  • presbyopia
  • It isn’t used to treat diseases like glaucoma or macular degeneration.

    How Long Does Laser Surgery and Recovery Take?

    Laser surgery is very quick. It takes less than one minute per eye. The entire procedure including preparation is about 15 minutes. It’s done on an outpatient basis, so you can go home the same day.

    Full recovery takes about a week. You can usually drive between three days to one week after surgery. Also, your vision will continue to improve over time. Depending upon the type of surgery full recovery can range from six weeks to about six months.

    Indications for Having, or Avoiding Laser Eye Surgery

    Click the links in the above list for each laser eye surgery procedure to learn more about each one. Each page will tell you if that procedure is appropriate, or indicated for specific types of eye corrections. Also listed are common circumstances that indicate when to avoid that procedure.

    Indications are facts used to decide the best type of laser surgery. Some factors that indicate or eliminate the need for a specific surgical procedure include:

  • specific measurements
  • types of refractive error
  • degrees of refractive error
  • thickness of corneas
  • Since conditions like dry eye can be an outcome risk for laser eye surgery, it’s best not to have this procedure if you already have dry eye. Cataracts are corrected by a procedure that alters refraction, so it may be better to correct the cataracts, as refractive errors might be correctable at the same time. Steroids and autoimmune diseases can cause problems with healing.

    Women who are pregnant or nursing may experience fluctuations in their vision measurements due to hormonal effects. Laser eye surgery is best delayed for them for the same reason as for people whose eye prescription has changed within two years. Corrections made when vision is fluctuating may not last as long as when it is stable.

    Ask your doctor if you have any conditions that would prevent you from having laser eye surgery. While some are listed as indications not to have surgery, nothing is absolute. Your personal situation may not pose much risk.

    Indications to either have laser eye surgery or to avoid it are listed on the information page for each procedure.

    Pros and Cons

    Every laser eye surgery procedure has pros and cons. Pros and cons are not as decisive as indications to use or avoid any given procedure. But they could end up being factors that help decide between procedures when everything else is fairly equal.

    Pros and cons are not as serious as risk factors. They apply more to levels of discomfort, advantages or disadvantages compared to another procedures, or to outcomes.

    Again, the above links will take you to pages that talk about the pros and cons, and more about each type of surgery. Your eye surgeon will also evaluate the pros and cons when he determines the best surgery for you.

    Risk Factors and Complications

    Every surgical procedure has risks associated with it. This is true of laser vision surgery procedures, as well. It’s reassuring to know that there are no reports of blindness resulting from laser eye surgeries.

    What YOU Can Do to Reduce Your Risk of Complications

    The number one factor in reducing surgery risks is choosing a qualified eye surgeon. This will be a surgeon who has had plenty of experience. Your surgeon should be prepared to take time answering all of your questions.

    He will let you know all of the risks, pros, cons and other information you need to make your decision. He will also make sure you understand exactly how to care for yourself during recovery and the healing period.

    Be sure to ask your laser eye surgeon questions and that he is willing to answer them all to your satisfaction. There have been no reports of blindness resulting from laser eye surgery.

    According to the Eye Surgery Education Council (ESEC) less than 1% of patients experience serious problems when proper screening is done and an experienced surgeon performs the procedure.


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