You can hardly turn on the TV or the radio without hearing ads about a new,
low-cost eye surgery to rid you of those bothersome glasses or contacts. But
how can you be sure you're not playing Russian roulette with your eyes?
WebMD Health professional Bill Lloyd, MD, is a board-certified
ophthalmologist qualified to perform laser refractive surgery. LASIK is one of
the most frequently performed operations in America. In order to shed some
light on this very popular surgery, Lloyd outlines ten important things to know
before undergoing laser refractive surgery.
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
1. Know Yourself -- Why do you really want to have this
surgery? You will live with its results forever, so don't be caught up in a
fad. There are no guarantees. Many LASIK patients are still wearing
2. Know Your Surgeon -- Look for an experienced,
board-certified ophthalmologist. Ask direct questions regarding your surgeon's
experience and complication rate. Will your surgeon continue to take care of
you after the surgery, after surgery, or will you be redirected to a
3. Know Your Refractive Error -- The more nearsighted
(myopic) you are, the more likely you may need a repeat procedure
(euphemistically called "refinements"). Ask your doctor what the
chances are that you'll need a refinement.
4. Know if You Are Eligible -- LASIK is not for
everyone. People with severe dry eyes, certain corneal diseases, and other
select eye conditions should not undergo LASIK.
5. Know What Happens -- Be sure you fully understand the
entire procedure. Since you will be awake for the surgery, you don't want any
6. Know the Odds -- After laser refractive surgery, most
patients enjoy improved (not necessarily perfect) vision without their old
glasses. Nobody guarantees 20/20, 20/25, or 20/30 vision. If you hear such
claims, consider looking elsewhere.
7. Know the Risks -- Laser refractive surgery is
surgery. There is no such thing as "minor eye surgery." Complications
such as overcorrection, undercorrection, making the pupil off center, damaging
the cornea, inflammation, and infection can leave you miserable. You may hear
statistics about 2% or 5% complications, but if it happens to you, it's
8. Know the Limitations -- LASIK is used to help correct
nearsightedness and astigmatism. Laser refractive surgery will not prevent you
from needing reading glasses as you approach middle age. There may be future
advancement but, as of this writing, LASIK patients will need help to read
later in life just like their parents did.
The majority of people with mild or moderate nearsightedness
can expect to have uncorrected vision (without glasses or contacts) of 20/40 or
better after LASIK surgery. Some may have 20/20 vision or better. Good results
are less certain with more severe nearsightedness.
9. Know Your Postsurgical Care -- Be sure both you and
your partner understand the postoperative eye-drop routine. Since these
medications influence corneal healing, your final visual outcome will depend
heavily on the correct use of your eye drops. Make sure you find out what kind
of care you will receive after the surgery and how often your doctor will want
to see you. Be sure to ask about any limitations you may have after surgery,
such as sports or makeup.
10. Know About Alternative -- Alphabet soup! LASIK,
LASEK, PRK, INTACS, and many more. Don't hesitate to ask your surgeon, "Is
this the very best way to treat my situation? Are there other methods?"
Experienced eye surgeons typically know three or four ways to manage the same
patient. Carefully weigh any decision to participate in any innovative research
trials. It's hard to beat solid experience!