Laser refractive surgery is one of the most common procedures done to correct refractive errors in the eye such as Hyperopia (farsightedness), Myopia (nearsightedness), and Astigmatism.
Each one of these are typical eye conditions that occur in varying degree. They are all caused by the way light enters the eye and where it focuses an image; in front of, behind or otherwise not exactly on the retina. An abnormal shape of the cornea is another reason why light may not focus properly on the retina.
In almost all cases, this surgery is successful in eliminating the needs for corrective lenses or contacts. This can be a favourable option for people who do not want the hassle of contact lenses, or who do not want to change their appearance by wearing frames.
Common Types of Laser Refractive Surgery
A quick, mostly painless procedure, Laser Refractive Surgery is a popular option for those wishing to escape the symptoms and non-evasive treatments of common refractive errors. When we look for options under this category, the most popular are:
LASIK – Laser Assisted in situ Keratomileusis
Although there are multiple kinds of laser refractive surgery, LASIK is one of the most recognizable by name. A complicated procedure, LASIK is the process of cutting a flap out of the top of your cornea with a laser or blade, then using a precision, computer guided laser to remove tissue underneath this flap. Once complete, it is closed and the eye heals quickly under the initial incision.
PRK – Photo-Refractive Keratectomy
A calculated piece of the top of your cornea is removed and a guided laser is used to sculpt the remaining cornea. This reshapes the eye to allow for light to enter at the proper angles to produce a focused image. This requires approximately a week of recovery.
LASEK – Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis
A relatively new procedure, LASEK is a modified process to LASIK and PRK that uses similar methods. Like previously, the outer layer of the cornea is cut by a fine blade, but alcohol is used to remove this layer in a single piece. The guided laser is then used to remove tissue from the cornea underneath the removed layer. The removed layer is then reattached. The recovery for this surgery is around two weeks, and is a popular option for those who require only minor corrections.
Before, During and Recovery: What can you expect
Once your appointment is made and we have determined that you are a proper candidate for laser refractive eye surgery, you will be informed of the types of surgery that are best suited to correct your vision. At this stage, it is important to get as much information as you can on each type of recommended procedure to be sure that this is the right step for you.
The Day of Surgery
You will have a preoperative consultation with your surgeon. The main reason for this is to ensure that you are comfortable with the surgeon, and choice you have made. You will be informed of each step of the procedure and what to expect by the surgeon or attending nurse. A final eye exam will also occur and is used to accurately measure the current state of your vision to get the best results possible.
Immediately after your surgery you will not be allowed to drive, so you may be asked to secure a right home before the procedure begins.
The Procedure (for LASIK)
A relatively non-invasive procedure, this is usually completed within 15 minutes. Your experience may last a few hours from beginning to end which is mostly comprised of pre-surgery and observation.
It is common not to feel any pain during LASIK as numbing drops are used and your eyes lids are secured using a ‘lid speculum’. It is also typical to receive medication to help calm the nerves, and is recommended. All of these steps help alleviate any discomfort during surgery. Once you are prepped and ready, the surgeon will begin.
A laser will be pointed at your cornea and a point will be marked out by the surgeon. A corneal flap is then created and a computer guided laser is set in place based on your exact prescriptive needs. Laser light pulses then painlessly reshapes your cornea. You may feel some slight pressure on your eye, and hear a clicking sound as the laser does its work.
Each eye is performed separately and usually takes less than 5 minutes per eye.
Immediately after your surgery you may feel slightly uncomfortable and be asked to rest. A burning or itching sensation is common. You will have a brief exam before leaving, then released into the care of the person you’ve chosen to drive you home.
Although you will experience blurry and cloudy vision the day of your surgery, your vision will improve as early as the next day. It is advised that you take a few days rest before returning to work or operating a vehicle, or doing any strenuous activities like running or working out.