The factsheet on laser assisted eye surgery that restores impaired vision
Nearsightedness or myopia, farsightedness or hyperopia and astigmatism or blurred vision are collectively referred as refractive disorders which commonly affect the eyes. They occur as a consequence of disease, injury or progressive aging. The weakening of the eye lens and lengthening or shortening of the eyeballs causes incoming light rays to deviate irregularly making images blurred and leaving vision disoriented. Eyeglasses and contact lenses correct refractive errors and restore vision without curing the underlying condition, but these artificial aids need to be replaced frequently when vision deteriorates. The latest advances in Lasik eye surgery offer an option which dispenses with the need for regular changes of glasses and contact lenses by modifying the way the eye receives and manipulates light.
The advent of LASIK eye surgery
Over the years, LASIK surgery, an acronym for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis, has become so popular that it has been rated as the most common elective surgery performed in the US. It is an advanced form of eye surgery deploying a cold laser which has a very high success rate with minimal side effects. This form of surgery restores vision to an idealistic 20/20 or failing that, a confidence boosting 20/40. Though it is a major surgery performed on one of the body’s most delicate organs, the entire procedure takes less than twenty minutes to complete.
How refractive errors spoil our vision
In short-sightedness or myopia, the eyeball lengthens and forces images to focus just short of the retina, the light-sensitive membrane at the back of the eyeball. As a result, the person is able to view nearby objects clearly but has to strain to see distant objects.
In farsightedness or hyperopia, the eyeball shortens, forcing images to focus behind and beyond the retinal screen. This results in the blurring of nearby objects. Though the person sees the distant objects clearly, it becomes difficult to read with any degree of comfort.
In astigmatism, irregularities in the curvature of the cornea make the incoming light rays refract (deviate) haphazardly. As a result, a normally clear image may develop fuzzy spots or blurred edges. The person may become prone to seeing halos or shadows and bright lights.
All these conditions occur because of the improper refraction (or faulty deviation) of incoming light. These are called refractive errors. The normal noninvasive way of correcting these errors and restoring 20/20 vision is with the aid of glasses and contact lenses. For people uninterested in visual aids and many that are already using aids and wish to do away with them altogether, the most favored option is the Lasik eye surgery. This sophisticated yet simple procedure attempts to cure the underlying problem permanently by modifying the thick middle layer of the cornea in such a manner that light refracts accurately on the retina.
How LASIK surgery helps to rectify refractive errors
The cornea is a thick dome-shaped, transparent and semi-solid structure coating the outer visible surface of the eye. Apart from protecting the internal eye structures from dirt and germs, the cornea refracts or bends light focusing images precisely on the retinal wall at the back of the eye. Owing to injury, disease or aging, the surface of the cornea undergoes a change and this hinders the normal passage of light and distorts the images that we see.
Before Lasik surgery is initiated, an automated and computerized testing and imaging of the eyeball is conducted to assess the suitability of the patient for the surgery. The computerized screening helps the surgeon to examine a 3D form of the cornea and eyeball. The degree of refractive error is assessed and the laser is programmed to correct it. The outer epithelium of the cornea is sliced and moved to one side like a hinged flap during the surgery. An excimer laser beam is then focused on the thicker middle layer of the cornea to peel away corneal tissue at predetermined points. The thinning of the cornea and reshaping of its curvature using lasers removes refractive errors and restores normal (or near normal) vision.
The Lasik Eye Surgery Fact Sheet
You need to be the right candidate for Lasik surgery
Though the surgery is a relatively simple, fast and a straightforward procedure, it cannot be performed on anybody with an eye problem. The person’s suitability for the procedure is determined by the ophthalmologist. Generally, the following parameters decide your eligibility.
- Ideally you need to be above 21 years of age because during teenage and adolescence, the eye is continuously undergoing changes and growth needs to be stabilized for the surgery to be performed.
- You suffer from refractive eye disorders like astigmatism, farsightedness (hyperopia) or nearsightedness (myopia).
- You need to be free of diabetes, corneal disorders, excessive dryness of the eyes and hormonal imbalances.
- You are not pregnant or in the breastfeeding stage.
- You are not on medications that challenge your vision.
- Your eyes are quite healthy and the prescription range and refractive error can be rectified by Lasik surgery.
- You are free from eye diseases like cataract, glaucoma and herpes.
Candidates for Lasik surgery need to be aware of the risks inherent in the procedure
- Normally it takes two to three days to heal the eye completely and restore normal vision. An intense itching sensation, burning feeling and watery eyes will be the main post-surgical symptoms. Pre-existing illnesses and corrective medication may interfere with the healing process and require prolonged treatment.
- Some patients tend to develop complications such as double vision, glowing halos and glare which may require contact lenses, glasses or additional corrective surgery.
- Surgery may not restore 20/20 vision in all cases and post-surgical recovery may require further refractive correction through glasses and contact lenses.
- Surgery may interfere with the normal functioning of the tear glands and lead to excessive eye dryness.
- The surgery is normally successful in addressing eye conditions that are correctable within a shorter refractive range and will not resolve very large refractive errors.
- It may be several weeks before one can participate in contact sports, swimming, showers and saunas.
The cost consideration in opting for Lasik surgery
The type of Lasik surgery largely controls the costs. The normal FDA approved bladed procedure will cost you around $1,700 for one eye, whereas the more advanced bladeless surgery will cost more than $2,200 per eye. This does not include costs associated with follow-up treatments that may be necessary to restore vision problems which cannot be resolved by the surgery.
Cost-effective alternatives to Lasik surgery
A person who is mindful of the dangers of subjecting sensitive eyes to surgery may consider glasses and contact lenses as cheaper and effective remedies. These manual aids correct refractive errors and refocus images accurately on the retina without subjecting the eyes to invasive surgery. Presbyopia, a condition where the eye lens loses its elasticity causing vision problems cannot be corrected through Lasik surgery. The recommended alternative could be the “monovision” procedure that corrects one eye for nearsightedness and the other eye for farsightedness.
The last word
Laser assisted eye surgery has undoubtedly revolutionized eye care and has achieved a fairly high degree of success in correcting refractive errors that contribute to nearsightedness, astigmatism and farsightedness. Nevertheless, a detailed consultation with an ophthalmologist will help patients decide their willingness for an eye surgery and know whether common eye disorders can be corrected with non-invasive options before opting for Lasik surgery.
- The procedure is FDA approved and has become the most commonly opted elective surgery in America.
- Unlike glasses and contact lenses, Lasik surgery seeks to permanently correct refractive problems by reshaping the corneal surface using lasers.
- Lasik surgery, though not completely risk-free, is successful in restoring normal or near-normal vision in the majority of patients.