Refractive Surgery (LASIK)
Many people who suffer from nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) or astigmatism are able to reduce or eliminate their dependence on glasses or contact lenses by undergoing refractive surgery.
Changing the Shape of the Cornea
In a nutshell, refractive surgery uses lasers to permanently change the shape of the cornea (the clear “front window” of the eye) to allow it to focus light more sharply. The most common kind of refractive surgery is called LASIK. During this outpatient procedure, a very thin protective flap of cornea tissue is created with an instrument similar to a miniature electric plane. The flap is folded back, and an ultraviolet laser is applied to the cornea bed for 15 to 60 seconds. The corneal flap is then put back in place, where it heals without stitches.
LASIK is a painless procedure that requires only a drop of topical anesthetic and takes just 20 minutes for both eyes. Following surgery, some patients feel a slight scratchiness, but this usually goes away within 12 to 24 hours. Patients can return to work the very next day and almost all patients do so.
Most LASIK patients are able to see between 20/20 and 20/40 on the first day after surgery and drive without glasses to their first follow-up appointment. However, not everyone who has LASIK will achieve 20/20 vision. As with any surgical procedure, there are some potential risks, and perfect vision cannot be guaranteed by any surgeon.
Candidates for Refractive Surgery
You must be at least 21 years old with no major changes in your eyeglass prescription over the last few years. You should have otherwise healthy eyes with no history of significant cataracts, corneal disease, severe dry eyes or corneal scarring. Very nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatic people may not be eligible for LASIK. In addition, patients who are pregnant or who have certain autoimmune diseases may not be good candidates for this procedure. Most important, you should have realistic expectations regarding the results of refractive surgery.
At the Eye Institute, refractive surgery patients undergo extensive preoperative testing, including a detailed evaluation of the cornea. In addition, all preoperative, surgical and postoperative care is provided by the same LASIK surgeon. To help you determine whether refractive surgery is appropriate for you, monthly seminars explain and answer questions about LASIK surgery. To find out more, call the Eye Institute at 414-456-LASIK (5274).