Classification: Therapeutic, Cosmetic
Anesthesia type: Local
Duration: 15 minutes, no need to sleep at the hospital, 2 nights at the hotel
LASIK is the most commonly performed laser eye surgery to treat myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism.
Like other types of refractive surgery, the LASIK procedure reshapes the cornea to enable light entering the eye to be properly focused onto the retina for clearer vision.
In most cases, laser eye surgery is pain-free and completed within 15 minutes for both eyes. The results — improved vision without eyeglasses or contact lenses — can usually be seen in as little as 24 hours.
If you're not a good LASIK candidate, a number of other vision correction surgeries are available, such as PRK and LASEK laser eye surgery and phakic IOL surgery. Your eye doctor will determine if one of these procedures is suitable for your condition and, if so, which technique is best.
Your eye doctor will note your general health history and any medications you are taking to determine if you are a suitable candidate for LASIK.
You should stop wearing contact lenses for a period of time advised by your doctor (typically around two weeks) before your eye exam and before the LASIK procedure, as contacts can alter the natural shape of your cornea.
How Is LASIK Surgery Performed?
First, your eye surgeon uses either a mechanical surgical tool called a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser to create a thin, circular "flap" in the cornea.
The surgeon then folds back the hinged flap to access the underlying cornea (called the stroma) and removes some corneal tissue using an excimer laser.
This highly specialized laser uses a cool ultraviolet light beam to remove ("ablate") microscopic amounts of tissue from the cornea to reshape it so it more accurately focuses light on the retina for improved vision.
For nearsighted people, the goal is to flatten the cornea; with farsighted people, a steeper cornea is desired.
Excimer lasers also can correct astigmatism by smoothing an irregular cornea into a more normal shape. It is a misconception that LASIK cannot treat astigmatism.
After the laser reshapes the cornea, the flap is then laid back in place, covering the area where the corneal tissue was removed. Then the cornea is allowed to heal naturally.Laser eye surgery requires only topical anesthetic drops, and no bandages or stitches are required.
Immediately After LASIK Surgery
Upon completion of your LASIK surgery, your surgeon will have you rest for a bit. You may feel a temporary burning or itching sensation immediately following the procedure. After a brief post-operative exam, someone can drive you home. (You cannot drive after LASIK until your eye doctor sees you the following day and confirms your uncorrected vision meets the legal standard for driving.)
Laser eye surgery offers numerous benefits and can dramatically improve your quality of life. Most people achieve 20/20 vision or better after the surgery, but LASIK results do vary. Some people may achieve only 20/40 vision or less.
You may still need to wear glasses or contact lenses following laser vision correction, though your prescription level typically will be much lower than before.
While the procedure has an excellent safety profile, LASIK complications can occur and may include infection or night glare (starbursts or halos that are most noticeable when you're viewing lights at night, such as while you're driving).
A small percentage of people will need a LASIK enhancement, or "touch up" procedure, a few months after the primary LASIK surgery to achieve acceptable visual acuity.
You also may still need reading glasses once you reach your 40s, due to a normal age-related loss of near vision called presbyopia.
While LASIK surgery has a high success rate, it is important that you discuss all facets of the procedure with your surgeon prior to consenting to the surgery.