Below are answers to some of the most common questions about LASIK.
Everything in life from cooking in the kitchen to driving a car involves some risk, and the same is true of LASIK. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has declared LASIK safe and effective for most people. Of the 14 million Americans who have had LASIK since the 90s, experienced surgeons have reported a less than 3% 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. Confirming if you are a good candidate in the first place is the best assurance you will have a successful outcome.
Both contacts and LASIK can be a safe alternative to glasses. Some studies have reported increased risk of infection from contacts due to prolonged wear and poor maintenance or forgetting to take them out when you sleep.
LASIK, on the other hand, is a precise, permanent, no-maintenance solution to poor vision due to refractive error. As Dr. William Mathers at the Oregon Health & Science University has stated in his detailed statistical analysis of the safety of LASIK versus contacts*: “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.”
The FDA has posted an increasing number of advisories about contacts, stating that wearing contact lenses puts you at risk of several serious conditions including eye infections, corneal ulcers, and even blindness. This is especially true for patients who do not use contacts properly. A 2006 report suggested that refractive surgery is as safe as contact lens wear – maybe even safer. This doesn’t mean contacts are dangerous; it just means taking a balanced view of both sides.
LASIK Has An Extremely High Patient Satisfaction and Safety Rating
Glasses have been helping us see well since they were invented in the Middle Ages. We’ve been scratching them, losing them, breaking them, and fogging them up for the past 700 years. Unfortunately, no matter what name is on the frames, they are still the same technology Ben Franklin used, and they are just as much of an irritation and inconvenience.
Getting rid of your glasses depends largely on your age. If you’re between the ages of 18 to 45 and choose the right doctor using advanced technology, you may not need prescription glasses at all after LASIK. By the time you reach your 40’s, a different vision condition comes into play as a natural result of aging. Most of us will likely need reading glasses, whether we have had LASIK or not, due to the reduced flexibility of our eye’s lenses (presbyopia).
Even presbyopia can be effectively handled through a special LASIK technique known as Blended Vision, which has given thousands the ability to see both close up and far away. Patients with Blended Vision can have good distance and close-up vision without glasses. Ben Franklin, move over; the age of bifocals is gone forever!
Most people over age 18 suffering from nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism can be helped. Some of Dr. Lipstock’s patients can’t believe that they’ll actually achieve 20/20 without lenses – until they open their eyes after the procedure. This is a genuine case of ‘seeing is believing.’
Some physical or medical factors such as corneal thickness or particular forms of diabetes may rule someone out as a LASIK candidate. The only way to know for sure if LASIK is the answer to your poor vision is by having a full and comprehensive LASIK examination.
LASIK in the hands of an experienced surgeon using advanced technology, such as All-laser, Wavefront-guided, or Blade-free LASIK is virtually painless. During the procedure, you can expect to feel a mild to severe pressure sensation for about 30 seconds as the eye pressure is elevated. This will vary from patient to patient. Typically, by about 30 minutes after the procedure, you can expect to feel a mild foreign body sensation that lasts only about 2 to 3 hours. Keeping your eyes closed or taking a brief nap when arriving home will minimize this mild discomfort. After a good night’s sleep, you can expect to awaken to the joy of seeing the world clearly and without lenses or the discomfort and irritations associated with lenses – usually for the first time in many years.
The laser vision correction portion of LASIK surgery takes around 20 seconds per eye depending on the amount of correction needed. The entire LASIK process takes about 20 minutes, or 10 minutes per eye.
On the day of your LASIK procedure, you’ll typically spend around 90 minutes at our office, including pre- and post-surgery time.
Once you arrive, your eyes will be prepared for surgery. A special IntraLase™ laser is used to create a corneal flap, which is folded back. Then the underlying corneal tissue is corrected using an excimer laser. The corneal flap is then placed back into position. The cornea is then gently rinsed with sterile water and the surface is gently dried. For more information about the LASIK procedure, read about LASIK eye surgery.
Most people are able to return to work the day after 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 to minimize the risks of infection. In the first 24 hours, you may experience some fluctuation of vision. After a good night’s sleep, most people can drive to our office themselves the next morning for a quick check by Dr. Lipstock. Then they’re off to work or play, often seeing the world for the first time in decades without the need for glasses or contacts!
There are different laser vision correction techniques that can produce vision results similar to LASIK. For patients who are not candidates for LASIK because their corneas are too thin or shaped irregularly, or their anatomy does not allow adequate suction required for LASIK or they are concerned of injury to the LASIK flap (especially if they are engaged in contact sports) PRK is a viable alternative. PRK is another form of bladeless refractive surgery. Unlike LASIK, no corneal flap is created. Instead, the cornea’s outer (epithelial) layer is removed to allow access to the underlying tissue so the cornea can be reshaped with a laser. The laser treatment is the same as in LASIK. Like LASIK, patients can achieve 20/20 vision after PRK. The PRK procedure itself is faster than that of LASIK although the postoperative healing process will be slightly longer as the epithelial cells are regenerated.
Dr. Lipstock will advise you which procedure will be best for your eyes at the time of your LASIK Consultation.
For both PRK and LASIK an excimer laser is used to change the shape of the cornea to eliminate refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and/or astigmatism). A “refraction” is used to determine one’s refractive errors; This is when you are asked, “Which is better, #1 or #2?” Refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism are considered “lower orders of aberration.” Today, with the advent of wavefront diagnostic technology, we understand that “higher orders of aberration” exist in addition to the lower orders. Higher orders of aberration can cause a decrease in the quality of vision even if all of the lower orders are corrected.
Conventional excimer laser software only corrects the lower orders of aberration. This is what was originally used for all laser vision correction procedures. Visual results were good, but some patients experienced some decrease in visual quality, especially in dim light. In general, the higher the prescription being treated, the greater the decrease in visual quality.
Wavefront-guided excimer laser software measures both lower and higher orders of aberration. It enables the excimer laser to treat each person’s unique optical distortions, which is why it is often referred to as custom laser vision correction. By using 3D-mapping, custom LASIK diagnoses the exact contours of your eyes. Many clinical studies have demonstrated how wavefront-guided treatment can avoid some of the unwanted visual side effects associated with conventional treatment such as glare and halos at night. We at Lipstock LASIK & Cataract Center highly recommend wavefront-guided custom laser vision correction.
Dr. Lipstock constantly monitors any involuntary saccadic eye movements during the procedure. During the first step in the procedure, creating the corneal flap, we ensure that the eye remains still so there is no loss of suction. In the second step, the VISX excimer laser used by Dr. Lipstock is 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 neutralizes these eye movements and/or stops firing to assure a quality treatment and increased patient safety.
If extra time is required during surgery to allow for eye movements, Dr. Lipstock takes additional measures and precautions to keep the eyes at the right moisture level throughout the procedure to reduce the risk of over- or under-correction.
Very much so. Since the first procedures in the 1990s, LASIK technology has advanced leaps and bounds. For example, the original technique for creating the corneal flap involved a spinning hand-held blade called a microkeratome. This has been surpassed by an advanced technique that employs a precision laser to make the flap, resulting in greater accuracy and more stability. This technique is known as Blade-free or All-laser LASIK.
You should ask your doctor if they provide blade-free LASIK and wavefront laser technology. When it comes to your eyes you don`t want anything less than the best possible quality.
Even with today’s highly advanced technology, LASIK is a hands-on, personalized service provided by highly trained and qualified medical professionals using millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. Although some centers quote attractive (but unbelievably) low prices, the truth is that as with anything in life, quality and assurance come at a price. Prices like $250 LASIK are very misleading because almost nobody has a low enough refractive error to qualify. Lifetime enhancement procedures sounds great too until when the time comes you learn that blurred vision is not enough to qualify since your vision must be very blurry or else you will pay full price for that enhancement.
The good news is the one-time cost of high-quality LASIK is much less expensive in the long run than ongoing expenses of glasses and contacts.
Many people suffer from night vision problems with or without refractive surgery. In the earliest days of laser vision correction, some patients reported halos and ‘starbursts’ after their procedures, especially when driving at night. Patients with large pupils were susceptible to this complication. Today’s advanced lasers such as our VISX laser have dealt authoritatively with night vision issues. In fact, many patients report improved night vision after the LASIK procedure.
This is definitely the most important question of all. Although LASIK is marketed as a commodity, it is a medical procedure, and the skill of the surgeon and technology used are very significant factors. But it is equally important to look for a local surgeon who will personally oversee every step of the procedure and take the time to answer all of your questions and always be there for you should the need arise. You will not find this at corporate LASIK centers where their surgeons don`t even live in Virginia.
Find a local center where you feel at ease with the surgeon and their staff and that you’re being treated with the respect and care you deserve.
To find out conclusively whether or not Laser Vision Correction is right for you, schedule your free LASIK Consultation.
To learn more, schedule a free consultation with Lipstock LASIK & Cataract Center now!