LASIK (Laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses) is an elective and cosmetic surgical procedure used to enhance vision by reshaping the cornea of your eye.
When the light hits the eye, the cornea, i.e., the transparent outer layer of the eye, bends the light rays so that they may be focused on the retina of the eye. This process is called refraction.
Refractive errors refer to issues in the refractive process. When the eye cornea does not bend correctly, the light does not focus properly on the retina, and thus the resulting image is blurry. LASIK helps correct refractive errors using lasers or small blades by reshaping the cornea.
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These refractive errors include:
- Nearsightedness (myopia) – having trouble focusing on objects that are far away
- Farsightedness (hyperopia) – having trouble focusing on objects that are nearby
- Astigmatism – blurry vision resulting from an imperfection in the eye shape at the front
The procedure: What you need to know
The process takes between 10 to 20 minutes per eye. You will be awake during the procedure; however, you will be provided with a sedative to ease the nerves. You will not experience pain, but you may feel some pressure and tug on your eye.
Here is what the procedure typically entails:
- The eyes are anesthetized with eye drops.
- The lids are opened with an eyelid holder.
- A flap is made using a small blade or laser.
- The flap is lifted, and the cornea is reshaped.
- The flap is returned to its original position where it is left to heal without any stitches.
Initially, you may experience blurred vision as well as slighting itching and burning. The doctor will prescribe eye drops to aid healing and to keep the eyes moisturized.
A follow-up is typically scheduled a few days after the procedure to check on healing progress.
It normally takes between 2 and 3 months for the eye to recover completely and vision to stabilize. Until then, avoid wearing contacts or makeup. Additionally, it is prudent to steer clear of activities that may potentially harm your eyes, such as contact sports, swimming, etc.
How long does LASIK last?
According to the Journal of Refractive and Cataract Surgery, LASIK is one of the most common and most successful elective surgeries.
Many studies have noted that the majority of those who undergo LASIK does not have any vision-related complaints for years.
However, according to the results of one study, 35% of people needed retreatment after ten years – another study focusing on patients with nearsightedness and astigmatism who got LASIK. In 12 years, nearly 10 of the study subjects reported age-related vision changes.
It all depends on how much tissue was removed during the first procedure, how much is left, and whether it can be fixed with LASIK enhancement.
Vision changes after LASIK
The success of LASIK laser vision surgery depends on various factors, such as your age at the time of the surgery, the presence of any other eye condition, etc.
According to the American Refractive Surgery Council, 99% of the people who undergo LASIK achieve 20/40 vision. More than 90% manage to achieve a 20/20 vision at the least.
The Mayo Clinic notes that approximately 80% of the people who get LASIK do not need glasses or contacts after the procedure. However, some issues may impact your vision following the surgery.
LASIK surgery comes with a set of potential risks, as does any procedure. There is only a small reported percentage of the population that struggles with vision problems after the surgery. Most side effects associated with the surgery, however, go away within a few weeks.
Age-related changes: Some people experience vision changes as part of the natural aging process. Such changes cannot be prevented by LASIK surgery, so you may have blurry vision later in life. Some may even require secondary or enhancement surgery in the future as well.
Eye health issues: Vision problems may also arise due to other issues such as pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, difficulties in healing, or the presence of additional eye conditions.
Undercorrection: Undercorrection is another reported outcome that results when insufficient tissue is removed from the cornea. Undercorrection may require a secondary procedure to fix the refractive error.
Cataract: Cataract refers to the cloudiness of the lenses. It has no impact on the cornea; therefore, LASIK essentially cannot prevent it, fix it, or induce it, for that matter. Cataracts can be corrected with the help of artificial implant surgery.
Presbyopia: Presbyopia is a condition that impairs a person from focusing on nearby objects clearly. Presbyopia occurs with age as the lens becomes less flexible. The part of the eye that helps focus is the lens and not the cornea. Therefore, for those with presbyopia, reading glasses are necessary. LASIK surgery has no correlation with presbyopia, so there is a chance you may still develop it even after LASIK.
Modern LASIK procedures are much safer and more effective than ever. The majority of people who go under the knife report sustained accurate vision for years after the surgery. Yes, every procedure comes with some risks; however, it is crucial to understand that LASIK is a well-studied procedure whose results have stood the test of time.
If you are considering getting LASIK, we suggest seeking a consultation with your eye doctor to see what is best for you.
Featured image source: Freepik