LASIK surgery is one type of refractive surgery to correct vision. Refractive surgery can often eliminate the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses in people with:
Astigmatism (unevenly curved cornea)
Presbyopia (age-related loss of sharp close-up focusing)
Refractive surgery adjusts the eye's focusing ability by reshaping the cornea. Some people no longer need glasses or contact lenses after refractive surgery. However, others still need glasses for certain activities, such as driving at night or reading.
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You might assume that refractive surgery is fairly new. But it goes back about 100 years! You're right, however, to think that today's state-of-the-art refractive surgery procedures are a much more recent development. The newer techniques were first performed in the U.S. in 1978 and laser-based procedures in the early 1990s.
Types of Refractive Surgery
Three types of refractive surgery procedures are available. They include:
Excimer laser procedures (including LASIK surgery, LASEK, and others)
Artificial lens implants
Cornea incision procedures and limbal relaxing incisions
The Excimer Laser Used in LASIK Surgery
Developed in the 1980s, the excimer laser is computer controlled. It gives eye surgeons the ability to remove precise amounts of tissue from the cornea, allowing the cornea to be sculpted to achieve predictable changes in vision. This provides a high degree of safety and precision for laser-assisted procedures such as LASIK.
The Steps of LASIK Surgery
LASIK is an abbreviation for "laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis." The steps of LASIK surgery include:
Eye numbing drops are given before surgery to prevent pain.
An eyelid holder keeps the eye open and prevents blinking.
A suction ring is placed on the eye to keep the eye from moving and to lift and flatten the cornea.
The eye surgeon creates a flap in the cornea. The surgeon may use either a surgical blade called a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser. The flap is folded back to reveal the cornea's midsection (stroma).
The excimer laser sculpts the exposed corneal tissue.
The corneal flap is put back in place. It reattaches within a few minutes without sutures.
Eye drops are applied to aid healing.
After surgery, your eyes may burn, itch, or feel irritated. This usually goes away within a day or so. It's important not to rub your eyes because this could move the flap. You may notice improved vision by the next day, although it can take as long as three to six months for vision to stabilize.