Here are answers to the 12 most common questions about LASIK:
1. What Are the Risks?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has declared LASIK safe and effective for most people, and of the 12,500,000 Americans who have had LASIK since the 90s, experienced surgeons have reported a less than 2% complication rate. Those complications were mostly related to quality of vision issues such as dry eyes and reduced night vision – not loss of vision – and even these have been significantly reduced by advances in laser technology.
Factually, there is more risk from ignoring the simple post-operative medication directions than something going wrong during the procedure; however, confirming you’re a proper candidate in the first place is the best assurance that you will have a successful outcome.
2. Are Contacts Safer Than LASIK?
Both are equally safe, although some studies have reported increased risk of infection from contacts due to prolonged wear and poor maintenance, such as forgetting to take them out when you sleep. The main reason contacts cause problems is because of the hassle factor. Forget your cleaning solutions, overlook the need to sterilize them, have them slip while you’re driving, and the risk increases. LASIK, on the other hand, is a precision, permanent, no-maintenance solution to poor vision due to refractive error, and as Dr. William Mathers at the Oregon Health & Science University reported: “One shouldn’t just assume that contacts are safer than LASIK. This may have been true at one time, but for the average person this is certainly not the case anymore.”
3. Can I Really Get Rid Of My Glasses?
If you’re 18 to 45 you should not need prescription glasses at all after LASIK. After 45 a different vision condition comes into play (presbyopia), as a natural result of aging and most of us will likely need reading glasses whether we have had LASIK or not. Even presbyopia can be effectively handled through a special LASIK technique known as monovision which has given thousands the ability to see both close up and far away.
4. Will LASIK Work For Me?
This is the BIG question – and it can only be fully answered by having a comprehensive LASIK Exam and Consultation.
Most people over age 18 who suffer from nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism can be helped with LASIK. Particular physical or medical factors such as corneal thickness or forms of diabetes may rule someone out as a LASIK candidate. But the only way to know for sure if LASIK is the answer to your poor vision is by having a full consultation with a reputable doctor.
5. Will It Hurt?
LASIK in the hands of an experienced surgeon is virtually painless.
You can expect to feel just the slightest sensation of pressure during the procedure. Inserting or removing contact lenses, or just rubbing tired eyes from wearing glasses can produce more discomfort than bladeless LASIK procedure. After a good night’s sleep you can expect to awaken to the joy of seeing the world clearly and without lenses – usually for the first time in many years – and without the discomfort and irritations of lenses.
6. When Can I Return To Work?
Most people are able to return to work within 24 hours of their LASIK procedure.
Immediately after the procedure you’ll be asked to go home and take a nap so the healing process can get off to a good start. You’ll also be given eye drops that ensure no infection can occur.
7. Is all bladeless LASIK the same?
Intralase or blade-free LASIK is the best known and most popular refractive correction procedure and is performed only by an ophthalmologic surgeon, however in some states general optometrists are permitted to perform a procedure known as Photorefractive Keratectomy or PRK, and sometimes refer to this as “bladeless LASIK” – a very misleading statement.
PRK is a less comfortable procedure than LASIK and involves the use of a chemical solvent to remove the protective outer layers of the cornea, rather than using a laser to create a corneal flap. As a result, the eye can take up to two months to achieve the level of vision that LASIK can deliver in just a day or two. PRK is occasionally necessary for some eye conditions where the cornea is too thin to create a protective flap, but on average, only around 5% of patients will require it.
8. What If I Blink Or Move During the Procedure?
Sometimes patients worry that they will affect the surgery by nervous or uncontrollable twitches or jumps of their eyes, called saccadic eye movements. The lasers used in LASIK are married to an ultra high speed eye tracking system with a response time of milliseconds – much faster than your eye can move. This eye tracker completely neutralizes these eye movements and turns the laser off instantly the moment the eye is out of the treatment zone. There is nothing you could do to cause a problem during the procedure.
9. What About Night time Side-Effects?
Most of us have night vision issues whether we have had LASIK or not. However, you may have seen news stories about people having difficulty driving at night after refractive surgery. Night time side-effects are rare and may include halos, starbursts, and glare around lights and blurry vision. These effects, if they occur, usually diminish as the eye heals in the first three months. In extreme cases additional touch-up (enhancement) procedures might be recommended.
However, advancing technology has solved this minor and temporary side-effect and many patients report improved night vision after LASIK.
10. Does the type of technology matter?
Yes it does – but less so than the personal track record and expertise of the surgeon performing your procedure. Newer technology solves issues that older technology couldn’t address and one of the greatest changes due to ongoing technological breakthroughs has been an increase in the number of patients who are now considered candidates.
But the best assurance of a successful outcome is by choosing a doctor who has an excellent personal track record, a local reputation for excellence, and who takes a personal interest in each patient at every step of the way.
11. Should I wait for the cost to come down?
Unfortunately, the cost of LASIK has been rising since the 90s and is likely to keep on rising.
Even with today’s highly advanced technology, LASIK is very definitely a hands-on, personalized service requiring highly trained surgeons and staff. The few minutes of the procedure are the tip of the iceberg compared to the behind-the-scenes involvement of technical personnel, their training, facilities and procedures for patient care, and the programming and maintenance of the computers.
Although some centers quote attractively (and misleadingly) low prices, the truth is that as with anything in life ‘you get what you pay for’ and 20/20 vision that you will enjoy for many decades to come, does come at a price.
The good news is that the onetime cost of a high-quality LASIK procedure can be very affordable once low-interest payment options bring the numbers down into comfortable range.
12. How Do I Choose the Best Doctor?
This is definitely the most important question of all once you’ve decided to consider LASIK. Although LASIK is sometimes marketed as a commodity, it is a medical procedure and in the final analysis the skill and care of the surgeon are the most significant issues.
Look for a local surgeon who will personally oversee every step of the procedure and take the time to answer all your questions. Remember, the only ‘dumb’ question is the one you don’t ask.
Ensure you feel at ease with the surgeon and his staff and that you’re being treated with the respect and care that you deserve as an individual.
Don’t accept excuses or discouragement on this point or be misled by low prices offered – they’re usually not genuine.