LASIK Surgery FAQs
LASIK is an acronym for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. This procedure reshapes the cornea to improve the eye’s ability to focus light onto the retina, which, in turn, improves vision. LASIK surgeons begin by creating a very thin flap on the cornea’s topmost layer, revealing the deeper cornea (stroma) where microscopic amounts of corneal tissue are removed with an excimer laser. Once the desired shape is achieved, the flap is positioned back in place without sutures.
The objective of LASIK surgery depends on the specific condition involved. For example, nearsightedness (myopia) is corrected by flattening the cornea, while farsightedness (hyperopia) is resolved by increasing corneal steepness. Astigmatism is a condition in which the corneal shape is not perfectly round, and this can be corrected by LASIK as well.
Patients undergo LASIK surgery to achieve optimal vision without the need for corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses. Aside from being quick and virtually painless, the procedure is also remarkable for causing little downtime and bringing near-immediate results.
Close to 20 million LASIK procedures have been performed in the United States alone with generally excellent patient outcomes. This is attributed to the procedure’s extremely low risk of complications through decades of research. With less than 1% of patients developing adverse reactions, LASIK surgery is unquestionably one of the safest elective procedures available today.
Another significant factor behind patients’ increased confidence in LASIK surgery is the fact that it is one of the most studied elective surgeries today. Since 1993, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been conducting LASIK surgery clinic trials and analyzing outcomes for over 9,000 patients. This opened the doors to bigger and better clinical research devoted to LASIK. So far, there are at least 7,000 peer-reviewed published studies proving that the procedure is both safe and effective.
Best of all, based on numerous published studies on patient satisfaction and value, LASIK has the highest satisfaction rating among all types of cosmetic procedures (not just eye surgeries, but any type of surgery that is done for cosmetic reasons – i.e., not covered by insurance). In many of these published studies, over 99% of people who have had LASIK say they would do the procedure again or highly recommend it to others.
LASIK surgery is usually done on both eyes in a single session. It is both safe and practical to do this, because seeing clearly with only one eye may be difficult or uncomfortable for some patients. There are some cases, however, when a LASIK surgeon may recommend or accommodate requests to perform the procedure on each eye separately.
On the other hand, there are specific scenarios where a LASIK surgeon may actually recommend a separate plan or procedure day for each eye; for example, when the patient has presbyopia and mild myopia in both eyes. In this case, performing the procedure on just one eye will produce a monovision effect, minimizing the need for post-surgery reading glasses.
Another exception is when a patient only requires a LASIK enhancement on one eye following an initial LASIK procedure.
As mentioned previously, the first step in LASIK surgery is creating a corneal flap with a laser or an instrument known as a microkeratome. Thanks to anesthetic drops applied to the patient’s eyes right before the procedure, this process is not painful. Some pressure on the eye can be felt, but the sensation typically does not last for longer than a minute.
After the procedure—usually by the time the patient gets home—the anesthesia may wear off. This can cause watery eyes, mild to moderate eye discomfort, or mild sensitivity to light. All of these post-LASIK symptoms should resolve within a few hours, sometimes with surgeon-prescribed analgesics. When discomfort becomes too bothersome or does not respond to medication, the LASIK eye doctor should be informed immediately.
LASIK eye surgery can take 10 to 20 minutes per eye, but the laser will only be used for a few seconds. Total time of surgery (for both eyes) is approximately 1 hour, and healing begins almost immediately. In most cases, results are noticed within the first 24 hours after the procedure.
Corneal reshaping in laser refractive surgery is irreversible, which means the resulting change in the corneal shape is permanent.
However, as age is a continuous process, patients will still develop some level of visual impairment later in life, as all people naturally do. These changes, including presbyopia (inability to see clearly up close without the use of reading glasses) and cataracts (cloudiness of the eye’s natural lens), are changes that occur gradually with age to other parts of the eye and are unavoidable for all people. Nonetheless, any vision problems that occur after LASIK can be addressed with additional procedures.
The best candidates for LASIK surgery are young patients who have astigmatism, myopia, or hyperopia, and in addition have no other ocular conditions. The refractive surgeon will decide to perform the procedure after assessing a patient based on such factors as age, current prescription, vision stability, and results of advanced eye tests.
LASIK surgery may not be recommended for certain patients, including:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- People with certain medical conditions like high eye pressure, persistent dry eyes, and autoimmune diseases
- Those diagnosed with severe myopia (in this case, lens implants are often recommended)
- People with anatomical factors that can make surgery challenging like excessively large pupils or abnormally thin and irregular corneas
LASIK is an outpatient procedure, so patients are allowed to go home once surgery is over. For good measure, surgeons advise rest at least for the remainder of the day. During this brief recovery period, the patient may experience:
- Unstable vision
- Eye dryness
- Halos at night
These are all part of the healing process and normally go away after a while, usually with basic eye drops prescribed by the ophthalmologist.
As any surgical procedure, LASIK comes with side effects and risks, including under-correction or over-correction, loss of best corrected visual acuity, flap-healing issues, and infection.
In cases involving flap complications specifically, corrections can be done within the same eye surgery session. When problems happen because of post-LASIK eyesight regression as a result of “over-healing,” the ophthalmologist can correct the problem as soon as the patient’s residual refractive error has stabilized. In other cases, complications can result simply from the patient’s unpredictable response to laser eye surgery.
However, it is also important to note that poor choice of an eye surgeon or eye care center is a common reason behind some unsuccessful LASIK procedures. By conducting due diligence before choosing a LASIK specialist, such issues can be avoided.
Many people can be free of their eyeglasses and contact lenses permanently after their first LASIK or PRK (photorefractive keratectomy)procedure. However, this will still depend on two key factors: prescription strength/stability and age. People with weaker prescriptions or prescriptions that have not changed for at least a year are less likely to need eyeglasses or contact lenses again after laser eye surgery.
Those who had laser eye surgery at a young age may also find themselves requiring eyeglasses or contact lenses when entering their forties, but not necessarily because of a “diminishing” LASIK effect. Rather, it is due to age-related long-sightedness (presbyopia), which develops as the eye’s normally soft and flexible lens hardens and prevents the eye from focusing properly on close objects. The good news is this can be easily addressed through techniques like blended vision or refractive lens exchange, ideally by the same surgeon. This is one of the reasons to choose an eye care center that provides LASIK plus a wide range of other eye care options like Hill Vision Services.
Contact Our Laser Eye Surgeons
As you consider laser eye surgery, we encourage you to read our LASIK eye surgery page to learn more and reach out to family and friends to hear about their experiences. You’ll come to see why so many people have turned to LASIK for years to improve their vision!
At Hill Vision Services, our fees are competitive, but we also have financing options available for LASIK and other eye procedures. Contact us today to get started on a clearer, brighter future!