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LASIK is short for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It is a permanent solution that adjusts the cornea's shape, the clear covering of the front of the eye. This adjustment is made using an excimer laser.
During LASIK laser vision correction, a blade device known as a mechanical microkeratome is used to cut a flap in the cornea. Alternatively, a laser device called a femtosecond laser is used.
A hinge is left at one end of this flap. Then, the flap folds displaying the stroma, the middle part of the cornea. A section of the stroma is vaporized using pulses from a computer-controlled laser. Then, the flap is replaced.
LASIK laser vision correction is typically a safe surgical procedure. More than 95 percent of patients who receive LASIK surgery are satisfied with the outcome. However, as with any surgery, there can be risks. A small percentage of patients experience adverse side effects or complications.
Visual disturbances and side effects of LASIK surgery include:
As LASIK eye surgery is a permanent solution designed to reshape the cornea, many patients do not have to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses in the decades following the procedure.
However, in a limited number of cases, nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism can reoccur. These conditions can lead to blurry vision. Often these vision changes occur due to adjustments in the lens inside the eye.
If this regression becomes bothersome, some patients undergo LASIK enhancement to restore clear vision.
However, many patients who experience minor refractive errors following LASIK laser eye surgery aren’t bothered by the change and do not seek additional vision correction. Others may decide to wear prescription eyeglasses for certain activities, such as driving at night.
For those who opt for LASIK enhancement surgery, there may or may not be a cost involved. Any fees depend on how soon after the primary LASIK surgery enhancement is performed and the LASIK surgeon or clinic's policies. If you are unsure about LASIK enhancement costs, speak to your surgeon for financing options.
Following surgery, visual disturbances may continue for a few days up to a few weeks following the LASIK procedure. Excessive dry eyes can occur for as long as six months following LASIK.
Complications healing the flap, vision issues, or infections can develop if the eyes are not correctly cared for following LASIK surgery. It is essential to practice proper eye care during the healing process to reduce potential risks and complications.
Here are some tips on what to do and avoid after LASIK eye surgery.
Directly after LASIK laser eye surgery, you are likely to experience the following:
These side effects won’t last long and should clear up within hours. By the time you attend your follow-up appointment, you should experience sharper vision with less discomfort. Your follow-up appointment usually takes place the first day or two following surgery.
Your eyesight should stabilize within six months following LASIK. If you follow the eye care plan as directed by your doctor and surgical team, you will boost your healing and visual success rate. If any side effects worsen or do not resolve, speak with your eye doctor.
Yes, you can get LASIK surgery again. Generally, there is no limit on how many LASIK surgical procedures you can undergo in your lifetime.
It takes approximately three to six months for your eyes to reach a stable point following LASIK. This means you should wait for at least that long before considering enhancement surgery.
Various factors determine whether or not you are a good candidate for enhancement surgery. There are risks with multiple LASIK laser vision corrections, and it is not the most suitable option for everyone.
The risk in developing epithelial ingrowth and corneal ectasia are potential complications of LASIK enhancement. The rate of epithelial ingrowth is considerably low in initial LASIK surgery. However, the odds for the development of eye conditions like this grow with LASIK enhancement.
During epithelial ingrowth, additional cells collect under the corneal flap. These extra cells lead to visual disturbances and discomfort. Eye conditions like these may need to be treated with more surgery.
The thickness of the cornea is one of the primary determinations regarding the safety of LASIK enhancement procedures. Other eye health considerations and personal factors must also be addressed.
LASIK enhancement surgeries must harvest more corneal tissue. At some point, you will not have enough left. Each LASIK enhancement procedure you undergo makes the cornea thinner. If there is not enough tissue to work with, LASIK is not a safe option.
As you age, your eyes adjust. This can lead to the prescription and correction made by a primary LASIK surgery to change and can affect vision clarity. It may be a factor in considering LASIK enhancement surgery to fix it.
If you are unsure whether to undergo LASIK laser eye surgery again, your surgeon or doctor can help you determine whether or not multiple LASIK vision correction procedures are safe for you. They will likely measure the thickness of your cornea to understand your eligibility for LASIK enhancement.
There are laser surgery procedures such as photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) that can be performed as an enhancement if your cornea is too thin. Many surgeons choose PRK as an alternative to LASIK enhancement to minimize the risk of epithelial ingrowth.
LASIK is a permanent laser vision correction procedure. The reshaping of your cornea is permanent and will not "wear off." However, your clear vision can decrease slowly over time. Some patients may require retreatment after 10 or more years.
LASIK can last your entire life. However, some patients need to undergo LASIK more than once if they have unstable vision.
Numbing eye drops are placed into both of your eyes before the procedure. Therefore, LASIK is not painful.
Yes, LASIK eye surgery is considered to be safe with a very low risk of complications.
LASIK is an expensive procedure, but the investment is worth it for many people. With LASIK, you can enjoy clear vision from the time you wake up until you go to bed. You can also live life without the need for glasses and contacts. This is not only convenient, but also saves you money in the long-run.
In the U.S., the average cost of LASIK surgery is $2,200 per eye or $4,400 for both eyes.
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LASIK Quality of Life Collaboration Project, United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA), 2018, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/lasik-quality-life-collaboration-project
What should I expect before, during, and after surgery?, United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA), 2018, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/what-should-i-expect-during-and-after-surgery
LASIK eye surgery, MedlinePlus, 2020, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007018.htm
The Basics of LASIK Eye Surgery, Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information (FTC), 2012, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0062-basics-lasik-eye-surgery
Are there limits to laser refractive surgery after midlife?, Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School, 2011, https://www.health.harvard.edu/aging/are-there-limits-to-laser-refractive-surgery-after-midlife