Refractive surgery has made great strides during these last few years, both in the accuracy of its results and in its overall safety. It has become extremely popular with people who are nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism because it greatly reduces their dependence on their eyewear, either contact lenses or glasses. However, it is still surgery, and must be treated as such, not as if it is merely a cosmetic issue.
LASIK (an acronym for “Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) is one type of refractive surgery for the correction refractive errors, including myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. In LASIK surgery, the ophthalmologist (ocular surgeon) a flap is made on the front surface of the cornea. The flap is turned back, a laser is used to remove corneal tissue and the flap is returned to its original position. Patients should realize that this is a greatly simplified description of the process, but in any case, LASIK provides a permanent reduction in refractive error and reduces the need for either contact lenses or glasses.
Most surgeons who perform LASIK do the procedure on both eyes in the same visit to the surgical center.
LASIK is an elective procedure and there are alternatives for vision correction that include both surgical and non-surgical choices, including spectacle eyewear, contact lenses, orthokeratology (Ortho-K) and lens implants.
What Factors can Help Determine if LASIK Might be for Me?
Good candidates for LASIK surgery include the following characteristics:
- Are at least 18 years of age
- Have a stable prescription for eyeglasses for at least the previous year
- Be in good general health with no eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts or keratoconus, or certain other retinal or optic nerve disease
- Have no reduction in the immune system, whether caused by medications or other conditions
- Have no autoimmune conditions or collagen vascular diseases
- Are in good general health, without issues such as uncontrolled diabetes, herpes simplex or herpes zoster
- Are not currently pregnant or nursing
Most surgeons prefer contact lens wearers to discontinue their lenses for a period of time that varies with the type of lenses worn; soft lens users should stop using their lenses for at least a month and have a stable prescription after that, while rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lens wearers are advised to discontinue their lenses for a longer period of time. If you have undergone ortho-k and are still wearing retainer lenses at night, these must be discontinued and any refractive error to re-establish itself until it is stable for at least a year.
Hormonal changes in pregnancy may affect the stability of prescription eyewear, which is why women who are currently pregnant or nursing are not considered good candidates, until at least two menstrual cycles after nursing has been discontinued.
A consultation with an eyecare practitioner is the quickest and most reliable way to get information about this procedure and get written materials to review. If you would like to talk with someone who has had laser vision correction, we will be happy to put you in touch with patients who can describe their experience to you firsthand.