Posted September 30, 2011
Twelve years ago, a breakthrough in vision-care correction occurred with the introduction of LASIK surgery.
LASIK is designed to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. During the surgical procedure, the surgeon creates a thin flap in the cornea using a special blade or laser. The flap is folded back, and the surgeon uses a laser to reshape the cornea to correct these vision problems:
- Nearsightedness – Flatten the cornea because it is too steep
- Farsightedness – Reshape the cornea to make it steeper
- Astigmatism – Smooth out the cornea to make it more normal in shape
Once the cornea is repaired, the flap will be put back in place to cover the surgical area, and the tissue will heal.
The past decade has produced significant advancements in LASIK surgery, including the development of increasingly sophisticated laser technology tools. Millions of successful surgeries have been performed in the United States. As with any surgical procedure, potential patients have concerns about safety, complications and outcomes. During the early years of LASIK procedures, approximately 5 percent of patients experienced some type of problem following surgery. Currently, reports of problems are less than 1 percent. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, complications can be reduced, if not eliminated, if individuals follow these guidelines:
- Screen the LASIK doctor – Review the surgeon’s record for LASIK procedures and the number of procedures performed with minimal complications
- Review health conditions – A full disclosure of all health issues, as well as family health history, must be provided to your doctor to ensure any risks or concerns are evaluated to determine whether you are a candidate for LASIK
Individuals experiencing complications from LASIK usually report these problems:
- Irregular astigmatism – Results when the cornea surface is not smooth or when the laser correction is not centered correctly on the cornea; symptoms usually include double vision or seeing ghost images; additional surgery may be required to repair the issue
- Diffuse lamellar keratitis – An inflammation under the LASIK flap; usually heals with treatment of antibiotics or topical steroids; if problems persist, follow-up surgery may be required to lift and rinse the tissue flap
- Keratectasis – Bulging eye surface that occurs when the flap is cut too deeply or too much tissue is removed when the cornea is reshaped; treatment options include eye drops to strengthen the tissue or additional surgery to repair vision problems
- Dry eyes following surgery – About 50 percent of LASIK patients complain about experiencing dry eyes after the procedure; use of artificial tears may alleviate the problem
- Surgical undercorrection, overcorrection or regression – These problems usually occur if your eyes did not respond properly to the LASIK surgery; problems usually can be repaired with additional laser or refractive surgery
- Eye infection or irritation – These problems rarely occur; treatable with antibiotic eye drops or a steroid anti-inflammation medication
- Night vision problems – After LASIK some patients report having problems seeing halos or glare at night; those with large pupils or high refractive errors are at greater risk; use of eye drops or wearing glasses with anti-reflective lenses may help reduce glare and eliminate the problem
Most individuals report immediate, dramatic improvement in their vision after LASIK surgery, while for others it improves gradually over several days. Many enjoy 20/20 or 20/40 vision, but some individuals may need the additional vision support of prescription-strength glasses or contact lenses.
Have you, or someone you know, had LASIK surgery? What were the results? – Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group