Surgery for correcting common refractive errors such as nearsightedness, astigmatism or hyperopia has been performed regularly for over 30 years now. Revolutionary refractive surgery has removed the dependency on glasses and contact lenses for millions of people around the world.
There are several types of refractive surgery used to correct myopia, including LASIK, that use different surgical techniques. These various surgical treatments are thought to be safer and more effective than ever before. Thus, refractive surgery is now one of the leading treatments for myopia (nearsightedness) and frequently recommended by ophthalmologists for Myopia correction.
In younger patients below 18 years old, myopia control can be offered depending on each patient’s suitability.
Patients who have been offered to consider LASIK surgery to correct their myopia usually have many questions before they are ready to commit. Here, we address the most common questions, so that you have a fair idea of whether this particular vision correction surgery is right for you.
How does LASIK surgery work?
LASIK stands for laser-assisted intrastromal keratomileusis. The aim of the procedure is to permanently change the shape of the cornea (the clear covering of the eye).
The cornea bends (refracts) rays of light as they enter the eye. To see clearly, a patient’s cornea must focus these rays of light precisely onto the retina at the back of the eye. When the cornea is steeper, or the eyeball longer, this cannot happen and refractive errors occur. LASIK surgery corrects the shape of the cornea for clearer sight.
What technique is used during LASIK surgery?
A specialist surgical device called a laser, or alternatively a microkeratome creates a flap in the outer layer of the cornea. This is folded back to reveal the stroma (the middle layer of the cornea).
An excimer laser (a form of ultraviolet laser) then removes a thin, carefully calculated layer from the stroma to change the overall shape of the cornea. The flap is then returned into position and left to heal.
How will I benefit from LASIK surgery?
If you are wearing glasses or contact lenses purely to correct your nearsightedness, then surgery will remove the need for these. You will be able to go about your life without the need for any extra vision correction.
If you find glasses irritating or interfering with how you need to live your life, or uncomfortable, are prone to losing or breaking them, or feel self-conscious when wearing them, you will enjoy the freedom of not having to wear them. Likewise, if you are frustrated by the hygiene routine required for contact lenses or the cost of replacements, LASIK surgery will make a positive difference to your life.
Is LASIK safe?
LASIK surgery is widely considered to be very safe for the majority of people. Before scheduling surgery, your eye doctor will take time to evaluate your overall health to check if it is right and safe for you. Therefore, you should fully disclose any information requested about your medical and eye conditions, and any medication you may be taking including over-the-counter medicine.
At your pre-surgery appointment, your doctor will explain the risks, as well as the benefits of LASIK and answer any questions or concerns you may have. You’ll also be given information about what you can do to prepare for the surgery to make sure it is as comfortable and as safe as possible. For instance, you may be asked to refrain from wearing makeup before the surgery to make sure the area is clean. This lowers the risk of infection.
What typically happens on the day of surgery?
You will need to arrange transportation for the day of surgery, both to and from the clinic. You may be given some medicine to help you relax before the procedure, and this could impair your ability to drive.
LASIK surgery usually takes under 30 minutes and is performed with the help of numbing agents to keep the conscious patient comfortable. A retainer is used to keep the eyelids in place. It is normal to feel some pressure during the surgery and your vision will blur to varying degrees throughout the procedure, too.
After surgery, your vision will likely remain blurry temporarily, and you’ll find that your eyes are sore. Your doctor might suggest a mild pain reliever. You will also be given instructions you need to follow to help lower the risk of infection and aid in healing.
You will be able to go home soon after surgery, on the same day. However, you should plan to take a few days off work and expect to visit your eye doctor the next day for the first of your post-operative checks. Further appointments will be scheduled to monitor healing and that your surgery has been successful.
What are the alternatives to LASIK surgery?
Aside from glasses and contact lenses, there are a few other treatments regularly offered to control myopia.
These include ICRS, which is an alternative surgery where intracorneal ring segments are inserted into the stroma in order to reshape the cornea. Orthokeratology uses specialty contact lenses worn overnight only to temporarily reshape the cornea. With this non-surgical treatment, there is no need to wear any vision correction during the day.
If you are still unsure of whether LASIK is right for you, it is best to discuss this with an ophthalmologist. Your eye specialist will be able to recommend the best form of myopia control for you based on a number of factors, including your eye health, general health, and lifestyle needs. Remember that when the right surgical treatment is matched with the right patient, refractive surgery is highly successful.
Dr. Millicent M. Grim, Specialist Ophthalmologist & LASIK Specialist, is the Medical Director of Gulf Eye Center in Dubai. Since 2002, Gulf Eye Center’s highly qualified ophthalmologists and optometrists/ODs have been successfully treating a wide range of eye conditions using advanced techniques. They also provide comprehensive eye care and vision restoration procedures for people of all ages.