What Is LASIK Eye Surgery & Is It Right For You?

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LASIK eye surgery was first introduced in the 1990s. Since then, around 30 million procedures have been carried out worldwide.

It’s a popular choice for people looking to improve their vision and do away with the need for glasses or contact lenses. And if you’re looking into laser eye surgery, LASIK is an acronym you’ll see time and again.

But what does LASIK eye surgery involve? How does it work? And what results can you expect?

What Is LASIK Eye Surgery?

LASIK eye surgery is a type of refractive eye surgery used to correct vision. LASIK stands for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis.

The problems of short sightedness, long sightedness and astigmatism are caused by an imperfectly shaped eyeball.

During LASIK eye surgery, a surgeon uses lasers to correct the shape of your eyeball. When your eyeball is the right shape, light entering the eye focuses on the retina. This helps you to see more clearly.

In essence it is the reshaping of the cornea during the surgery that improves vision and corrects a range of eyesight problems including:

  • Myopia: Also known as shortsightedness or nearsightedness, the laser will be used to flatten the eye’s cornea to correct this problem.
  • Hyperopia: Also known as farsightedness or longsightedness, the cornea is made steeper by directing the laser in the central area to remove tissue.
  • Astigmatism: To make the cornea more spherical, the laser is concentrated on the area of the cornea that is most steep.

Is LASIK Eye Surgery Right For You?

If you’re fed up with wearing glasses or contact lenses, LASIK eye surgery offers a more permanent solution.

Patients of LASIK eye surgery are generally young adults between the ages of 21 and 40. The surgery is most appropriate for people with moderate and common vision problems.

People who are extremely short sighted or long sighted as well as having astigmatism don’t always achieve the same results.

Choose an experienced surgeon and a reputable clinic and your ophthalmologist will conduct a thorough eye evaluation to work out how suitable and successful LASIK eye surgery is likely to be for you.

In general, only 40% of people are suitable for laser eye treatment. Ophthalmologists will look out for issues such as:

  • An eye disease called keratoconus, where your cornea becomes progressively thinner
  • Any eye infections
  • Eye injuries or eyelid disorders
  • Medical conditions including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases
  • Dry eyes (patients with dry eyes may find that LASIK eye surgery makes symptoms worse)
  • Large pupils (patients with particularly large pupils are more likely to experience glare, halos and ghost images following eye surgery)
  • Glaucoma (eye surgery can increase pressure in your eye, which can make glaucoma worse rather than better)
  • Cataracts
  • Presbyopia (also known as ageing eyes) – this is where your close up vision deteriorates as you age
  • Severe vision problems – the results of LASIK surgery will be less impressive and possibly not worth the risk of side effects

A surgeon will also want to know that your vision is stable. Your vision can change during your teenage years, during pregnancy, whilst breastfeeding and if you’re taking steroid drugs.

So that a surgeon can make an accurate assessment of your eyes, you should have had roughly the same eye prescription for the previous two years.

How Much Does LASIK Eye Surgery Cost?

LASIK eye surgery in the UK typically costs between £1,500 and £2,000 per eye.

You may find that clinics in London and the South East charge slightly more – between £2,500 and £3,000 per eye. You may also pay more if your eye prescription is particularly bad.

Check to see whether all costs are included in the advertised fee or if you’ll have to pay extra for things like your initial consultation.

Often clinics will request a deposit of around £500 or 10% of the overall cost. Some clinics also offer interest-freeYour eyes will likely credit for a specified number of months. This can help to make LASIK eye surgery more affordable.

How Does LASIK Eye Surgery Work?

Preparation For LASIK Eye Surgery

Before a LASIK eye surgery procedure, you’ll have a 3D eye scan. The scan creates a precise map of your eye. A surgeon will use this map to decide how suitable you are for this type of treatment.

If you are deemed a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery, the surgeon will also use the map to work out exactly what they’ll need to do to correct your vision.

Some clinics offer Wavefront analysis. This is an additional eye measurement that can help to make surgery more precise and effective.

Around two weeks before your surgery, you’ll have to stop wearing contact lenses and you’re your glasses instead.

Contact lenses can change the natural shape of your cornea. By wearing your glasses, you help the surgeon to take accurate eye measurements and plan the right surgical approach.

The Procedure

LASIK eye surgery is performed under local anaesthetic. Patients are awake for the procedure, which takes just a few minutes to perform.

Before starting the surgery, your ophthalmologist will put anaesthetic drops into your eyes so they become numb and you don’t feel anything. They may also give you some medication that will help you to relax.

The surgeon uses a special instrument to keep your eye open and prevent you from blinking during the surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon uses two lasers.

One creates a flap on the surface of the cornea. The surgeon then gently raises this flap to allow access for the second laser.

The surgeon uses the second laser to change the curve of your cornea. Each time the laser beam pulses, it removes a precise and very tiny amount of corneal tissue.

Once the surgeon has finished reshaping your cornea, the protective flap is carefully folded back into place. Following your surgery, the flap will heal naturally.

Aftercare and Recovery

Recovery from LASIK eye surgery is relatively quick. Patients don’t tend to experience a lot of discomfort after surgery and can often return to work after just a couple of days.

However, you won’t be back to normal straight away. It’s likely that your eyes will feel a bit sore. They may also look bloodshot for up to two weeks. You’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you home from the clinic.

For the first 24 hours following your LASIK eye surgery you should stay away from strong light. You’ll have to wear sunglasses for the journey home and should try to have a nap when you arrive there.

To aid healing over the following week you should avoid rubbing your eyes, wearing eye makeup and getting water into your eyes.

Your ophthalmologist will give you a course of eye drops. Using these correctly will help you to avoid eye infections in the weeks after your surgery.

Most clinics ask you to attend an appointment in the day or two after your surgery. At this appointment your ophthalmologist will check your vision and that your eyes are healing properly. They can also sign you off as safe to drive.

Long-Term Effects Of LASIK Eye Surgery

Many people have improved vision within a few days following LASIK eye surgery.

Studies have shown that 77% of eyes treated were within 0.5 D and 97% of eyes treated were within 1.0 D of their intended correction, 3-12 months post-surgery.

However, there are a few side effects to be aware of.

Some people experience dry eyes or visual disturbances like blurred vision after LASIK eye surgery. These side effects are fairly common and usually resolve themselves within a few weeks or months.

It’s also possible that the laser removes too little corneal tissue from your eye – or too much. If surgery hasn’t achieved the desired effect, some clinics and surgeons will perform further surgery to rectify the problem.

It’s worth noting that about 1 in 10 people who have laser eye surgery need more surgery to get optimal results.

Your eyes will also continue to age. Most LASIK patients need glasses for reading or to see in low-light conditions as they get older.

Nevertheless, most people report high satisfaction with the procedure. Around 95% of patients are happy with the outcome after LASIK eye surgery.

What Are The Different Types Of LASIK Eye Surgery?

Before you start looking for an eye surgeon to carry out your surgery, it’s important that you understand the different types of LASIK eye surgery that are available. With a number of different procedures that can vary quite significantly (in both the technology used and price of the operation), you may find that one type of LASIK surgery will be better for you than another.

lasik-surgery

  • Standard LASIK: Of all of these types of laser eye surgery, LASIK is the most invasive as the cornea is deeply cut to create the flap for the laser. However, when it comes to the outcome, this is advantageous, as the deep tissue of the cornea won’t grow back so your vision won’t return to what it was before. And, because the epithelium isn’t damaged, it is one of the best procedures for a fast recovery time.
  • IntraLASIK (IntraLase):This also falls into this same category as standard LASIK surgery because the procedure is the same apart from the fact that a laser is used to make the flap in the cornea instead of using a sharp blade (a microkeratome).The laser should provide surgeons with greater accuracy, thus providing the patient with a better outcome.
  • Epi-LASIK: This differs from IntraLASIK and LASIK because only the epithelium (the outer layer of cells of the cornea) are removed before the laser is used to remodel it. In Epi-LASIK, a thin plastic blade is used to cut this layer before using an epithelial separator to fold it back. Epi-LASIK doesn’t use any alcohol to soften the epithelium (something that’s found in LASEK surgery) because many feel this can damage the eye’s delicate covering and can cause the patient more discomfort after the operation.
  • H-LASIK (Hyperopic Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis): Instead of just correcting one problem with the eye, H-LASIK looks to correct hyperopia and astigmatism at the same time. Recovery can be slightly longer than standard LASIK but H-LASIK is generally preferred over H-PRK (Hyperopic Photorefractive Keratectomy) as it provides a faster recovery time. The procedure involved in this surgery is much the same as LASIK.
  • Wavefront: With advanced technology, Wavefront provides custom laser eye surgery as it collects data about the patient’s eye before the surgery. It precisely measures the imperfections in the eye to give three-dimensional measurements that will help to guide the laser during LASIK surgery. This provides a greater degree of accuracy, personalising the visual outcome that is achieved for the patient. Because standard measurements are relied on in other procedures, this makes it the most sophisticated but expensive of procedures with average LASIK costs varying from £1,500 to £1,900 per eye.

wavefront-vs-standard-lasik

We have a more detailed article comparing the differences you my be interested in:  SMILE vs LASIK vs LASEK surgery.

What Risks Are Involved In LASIK Surgery?

Thankfully, most patients are delighted with the results they achieve after LASIK but, as with any other procedure, there are some risks involved. That’s why it’s important to understand the potential complications and limitations involved in laser eye surgery before you commit to the operation.

Below are some of the complications that can occur as a result of LASIK – take your time to read through these and try not to be influenced by family or friends, or even your surgeon, when considering this form of corrective eye surgery.

  • Loss of Vision: Some patients find that as a result of their treatment they lose certain lines of vision – this cannot be corrected with surgery, contact lenses or glasses.
  • Visual Symptoms that are Debilitating: Double vision, halos and/or glare are all reported vision problems that patients have suffered from, which can seriously affect how they see at night. Even if one has good vision, some patients find that they can’t see well in low contrast (e.g. in fog or at night) and this is something that has occurred after they’ve had the treatment.
  • Over- Or Under-Treatment: When the amount of correction is more or less than desired. 20/20 vision will only be achieved by a certain amount of patients without the need for contacts or glasses. In some cases, additional treatment may be required but this isn’t always possible and contact lenses or glasses may still be required after surgery. Even if you’ve only ever had a weak prescription for your glasses before surgery, you may still require them afterwards; or if you had to use reading glasses before, you may still need them after.
  • Dry Eye Syndrome: Laser eye surgery can sometimes result in the eye becoming dry as it isn’t able to produce the amount of tears needed to keep it comfortable and moist. As a result, the eye can become very uncomfortable and it may result in reduced quality of vision due to a variety of symptoms, including blurring. Sometimes, this condition is permanent and may require the use of plugs or intensive drop therapy to try and improve it.
  • Large Refractive Errors: For any type of vision problem with a large refractive error, this might not be the right surgery for you as results don’t tend to be as good in patients with these types of problems. If you do have a large refractive error, you should manage your expectations with your surgeon, understanding that even after surgery it’s likely that you’ll still need contacts or glasses.
  • Diminished Sight for Farsighted Patients: The vision you achieve after surgery may decrease the older you get if you’re a farsighted patient. This can occur if you have different results between your vision exam before dilating drops and after dilating drops.
  • There’s No Long-Term Data: LASIK was first introduced in the 1990’s, which means it’s still a relatively new form of technology. Because of this, a lot of elements of LASIK surgery remain unknown, including how effective it is and how safe it is on a long-term basis.

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