What is LASIK Eye Surgery?
As vision correction technology improves, people struggling with vision issues have more options to consider.
Of course there are glasses as a standard option, which can be used to correct a wide variety of vision issues, as well as contact lenses that are advancing at a rapid pace in terms of their comfortability, technology, and effectiveness.
In addition to these tried and true vision correction methods, there are also various types of laser refractive surgeries that can be considered as options as well. The most well known type of these surgeries is LASIK.
However, refractive surgery is not for everyone. It’s important to remember that surgery can have disadvantages compared to contact lenses depending on your type of vision issue and its severity, as well as cost and comfort considerations.
What is LASIK Eye Surgery?
By now, pretty much everyone has probably at least heard of LASIK. It is the most commonly performed refractive surgery in the world and has been having excellent results for decades.
It stands for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis”.
How LASIK Works
LASIK is a two step process. The procedure itself is completed very quickly.
First a very thin flap is cut on the front surface of the cornea, which lifts the epithelial layer and some of the underlying tissue up and out of the way. Historically a blade, called a microkeratome, was used to make this flap. Now, however, a laser is used to make the flap.
After this precise flap is cut, a second laser (the same one used for PRK eye surgery) is used to reshape the exposed surface. The flap is then repositioned back in place.
Pros of LASIK
There are many advantages to the LASIK method of laser refractive eye surgeries.
Because the flap is back in place immediately following surgery, the epithelial layer is intact and doesn’t need several days to regrow. This makes the vision very clear right after surgery and also means there is much less discomfort in the first few days following LASIK compared to PRK.
Typically, patients are 20/20 or better on the day after surgery and sharpen even a little more in the weeks to follow.
Also, compared to PRK, LASIK is the preferred option for people with farsightedness, and also for patients with higher amounts of nearsightedness and astigmatism.
Cons of LASIK
Of course, along with the advantages of LASIK, there are also drawbacks to consider in comparison to other methods like PRK or SMILE eye surgery.
LASIK is a more complicated surgery than PRK. While both surgeries are generally very safe and predictable, if there is going to be a complication, it is more likely to happen with LASIK due to the extra step of cutting the flap.
In addition, rubbing the eyes is a bigger concern following LASIK compared to PRK, especially in the early days after surgery, due to fear of dislodging or wrinkling the flap.
It’s also a concern for people that are in harsher environments or are more at risk of getting poked in the eyes later on, such as members of the military, martial artists, basketball players, etc.
This is a reason that for many years, military service members were only allowed to get PRK. Now, however, PRK and LASIK are both performed on active duty military members, even pilots or those seeking to become pilots.
LASIK vs. LASEK
Another procedure, called LASEK (laser-assisted epithelial keratomileusis) is often
confused with LASIK.
It is actually closer to PRK as it doesn’t create a true flap like LASIK, but instead loosens the epithelial layer and pushes it to the side so that the PRK laser can do the treatment.
Afterward, the epithelial layer is slid back in place. This procedure is still performed, but doesn’t really have any advantage over PRK or LASIK, as it still has a slow visual recovery and discomfort after surgery, so it has fallen out of favor with most corneal surgeons over the years.
Comparing LASIK to Other Laser Refractive Eye Surgeries
The types of laser refractive eye surgeries all work a little differently. Here is a diagram to help visually show the difference between these procedures and how they work.
Unlike PRK or SMILE, LASIK creates an epithelial flap, by pulling back the surface layer of the eye, in order to reshape the cornea with the laser.
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