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What You Need To Know About LASIK Laser Eye Surgery

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Dr. Marc Weinstein

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As a glasses wearer, you’ve probably heard of LASIK potentially giving you the chance to go without corrective lenses forever– but what is it, exactly? Lasers in the eye don’t necessarily sound like the greatest combination, but we’re here to give you some piece of mind. It’s a proven, safe choice for those who wish to ditch their glasses or contacts and live life with 20/20 (or better!) vision.

What is LASIK?

LASIK is the most common form of vision correction surgery, with over 10 million procedures done in the US since its inception, and over 40 million procedures done worldwide. It involves reshaping the cornea with a laser to change the way light is refracted in the eye, resulting in clearer vision. It’s a quick, outpatient procedure that only takes about 10-15 minutes per eye.

How long has LASIK been around?

Surgery to improve sight has been around as far back as 1948 however, the first iteration of laser eye surgery, PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), which is still done today, was FDA approved in 1995. LASIK, originally a combination of older techniques along with laser, was invented by Dr. Gholam Peyman and was FDA approved in 1998. LASIK has now evolved to solely be performed with lasers.

What happens during a LASIK procedure?

On the day of your surgery, you’ll receive drops to numb your eyes and medication to relax you as you’ll be awake during the session. Once under the laser, it’ll create a small, thin flap on your cornea which will be lifted back by your surgeon. Then, another laser reshapes the tissue underneath, the flap is replaced and you’re on your way to perfect vision. It’s known to be a quick and painless procedure and you can have one or both eyes done during the session.

Is LASIK surgery safe?

As it’s one of the most performed eye procedures, many doctors have perfected the task. LASIK has a low complication rate, with more than 95% of patients reporting being satisfied with their results. However, as with all surgeries, patients must be aware that there is a chance for complications. Most symptoms should subside over time as you recover, but some may persist. These can include dry eye, light sensitivity and halos. Other risks can include infection, permanent corneal scarring, reduced vision and vision loss.

As for the laser itself, it was built with safety in mind, shutting off if it detects unusual movement to prevent injury or errors.

How effective is it?

Over 90% of LASIK patients recover with 20/20 vision, with some even being able to see better than that. It can also correct astigmatism as well.

It’s possible for the laser to over or under correct your vision, which can be fixed with a follow-up surgery. For those fixing a high prescription, there is the chance that your perfect vision may not last forever, and that you will need to wear corrective lenses or receive LASIK again.  

What is recovery like?

Because LASIK makes such small incisions, recovery should be quick. To protect your eyes immediately after surgery, your doctor will outfit you with protective goggles and advise you to nap for a few hours to rest them. You may feel a burning or itching sensation afterwards, as well as hazy vision that should stabilize within a few days. Your doctor will also prescribe a routine of eye drops to prevent infection and to keep your eyes moisturized, as well as medication to manage any pain.

You’ll be advised to not drive after surgery, and to keep contact lenses, water, makeup and skincare away from your eyes for a few weeks. Your doctor will guide you on the best recovery methods for you and will schedule a series of regular follow-up appointments to make sure your eyes stay healthy post-op.

Am I a candidate for LASIK?

Many people can benefit from LASIK as it can correct nearsightedness and farsightedness in addition to astigmatism. Generally, one should be 18 or older, have stable vision and be in overall good health. Your prescription must also be in the range which LASIK can correct. Your doctor will check you for your candidacy prior to your procedure.

How much does it cost?

LASIK is typically considered an elective surgery, so it’s best to check with your insurer to see if they will cover it. On average, it costs about $2,000-3,000 per eye.

While glasses and contacts have improved the lives many by giving us clear sight, life without them admittedly is even better. With technology like LASIK, restoring our sight, once seemingly impossible, is made a reality.