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Is LASIK Right For Me? The Pros & Cons

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Although it’s not the only option when it comes to laser eye surgery, LASIK is one of the most popular methods for providing laser vision correction. For individuals that require prescription eyeglasses on a daily basis, it may be difficult to ignore the upside. 

With no bandages or stitches being required following the procedure, as well as the reduction of eyeglass or contact lens dependence for many people, around 96% of participants will have their desired vision after LASIK. Also, if adjustments are needed down the road, potentially years later, the option is usually there in order to help as you age. 

It’s important to understand that there are a number of eligibility factors and that LASIK may not be right for everyone. Ultimately, the decision is up to the individual, assuming they are a qualified candidate, but we’ll identify and describe some key considerations to help with deciding if it may be right for you.

What is LASIK?

The most popular laser eye surgery for treating myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism is LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis). 

The LASIK procedure, like other forms of laser refractive surgery, reshapes the front surface (cornea) of the eye to allow light to focus on the retina without the use of glasses or contact lenses.

It only takes about 15 minutes to treat both eyes, with immediate improvement in vision following the procedure, and stabilization often occurring in as little as 24 hours. 

How Does it Work?

The first step is to meet with your eye doctor for a thorough eye exam to determine whether you are a good candidate. They will examine the surface of your eye to identify if there is any unusual risk for dry eyes following the procedure. 

A corneal topographer is typically used to map the shape of your cornea to allow for the best result possible with LASIK, by providing a detailed map. 

Are You a Candidate?

The following criteria are important to consider in determining if LASIK is right for you:

  • Your eyes need to be healthy (if you have a pre-existing eye condition, you need to wait until it’s resolved prior to the procedure)
  • Corneal thickness (refractive procedures can improve visual acuity by reshaping the front surface of the eye)
  • Pupil size (increased risk of side effects, such as halos, glares, and starbursts in low light may occur if your pupils are naturally large)
  • Your prescription should be within certain limits (results of LASIK surgery for treating high refractive errors may not be worth the risk, and may become more unpredictable)
  • Minimum age of 18, sometimes 21 (younger individuals may be accepted with the permission of parents/guardians)
  • Your vision must be stable (it’s important for your prescription to have stayed the same for at least 12 months prior to LASIK, younger adults need to let their vision “settle down” first as their refractive errors are more likely to change)
  • You must be in good health (if your body has any trouble with healing, you may not get a more favorable outcome)
  • If you’re pregnant, the surgery will need to be delayed (hormonal changes occur with pregnancy and can cause the cornea to change shape)
  • Manage your expectations for the procedure (while the vast majority of results are excellent, you should always be aware of the possibility of side effects)

Once you’ve determined your eligibility and potential risk factors, with your eye doctor’s guidance, the procedure can take place. There are 3 main steps:

  1. A thin circular flap is created in the cornea using a tool called a microkeratome, at this stage, the surgeon will fold back the hinged flap to access the stroma.
  2. The corneal stroma is then reshaped using an excimer laser, removing microscopic amounts of tissue from the cornea to allow for light to be more accurately focused on the retina, leading to improved vision.
  3. The corneal flap is laid back in place, where it adheres to the stroma without the need for stitches.

Once the procedure is completed, the surgeon will have you rest and perform a post-operative exam. After this, someone can drive you home, as you will not be allowed to drive until your eye doctor examines you the following day. This is done to ensure that your vision meets the regulatory standard for driving in your area.

Some blurry vision and haziness are to be expected following LASIK, but for most people, vision is corrected immediately and stabilizes within a few days.

A woman patient during a consultation with an eye doctor smiling and asking questions.

Potential Side Effects

Although LASIK technology and effectiveness are continually improving, there are some potential side effects to be aware of when considering laser correction, they are:

  • Vision disturbance and temporary discomfort (mild irritation, light sensitivity, halos, glare, haziness can all occur, but are usually temporary and clear up without the need for further enhancement)
  • Flap complications (if the LASIK flap is not made correctly, it may not adhere to the surface of the eye properly, or cause microscopic wrinkles leading to distorted vision)
  • Dry eyes (dry eye syndrome following LASIK is usually temporary and can be treated using lubricating eye drops, people who already have dry eye are usually eliminated as LASIK candidates)
  • Significant under-correction, overcorrection, or regression (if this occurs, it can usually be treated with additional corrective measures)
  • Eye Infection (it’s important to use medicated eye drops as infections can occur following laser eye surgery, although very rarely)

Although side effects are a possibility, the odds are that you will be completely satisfied with the results of your LASIK surgery. With technology increasing in sophistication, improvements in surgical skill, and optimal patient selection, the safety and effectiveness of this laser eye correction method continue to improve.

Consider the potential benefits for yourself, and consult with your eye care professional to determine what would work best for your lifestyle.

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Written by Patricia Shustock

Dr. Patricia Shustock graduated from Chestnut Hill College and the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. She spent three years in the U.S. Navy stationed at the Orlando Naval Hospital. During her time there, she was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for her contributions to the eye clinic prior to leaving the service and joining her husband in the Washington D.C. area.
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