Everything You Need to Know about Laser Eye Correction

Refractive surgery is a medical procedure that can correct many common vision problems. This popular surgical technique enables you to see more clearly while reducing your dependency on prescription glasses and contact lenses. You will have the freedom to experience life without maintaining contact lenses or wearing glasses. If you are tired of using corrective lenses, you should consider laser eye surgery.

What Is Laser Eye Surgery?

Laser eye surgery is a medical procedure designed to improve vision so that individuals may no longer need corrective lenses. It can be used to treat many common vision problems like astigmatisms, farsightedness, and nearsightedness. Approved in the 1990s, laser eye surgery is the most common elective procedure in the world.

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What Are the Different Types?

There are two fundamental types of laser eye surgery. While LASIK is the most common procedure performed, another option is photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). Each procedure has some minor differences, but both are performed while the patient is awake. With either procedure begins, medicated drops are used to numb the eyes. From here, the process is guided by computer software and takes approximately 30 minutes.

During the LASIK procedure, a microkeratome metal blade is used to cut a flap on the outer layer of the cornea. A laser then reshapes the underlying portion of the lens. After the procedure, the flap is put back in place. Bladeless LASIK, another variation on the procedure, use a second laser to create the flap rather than the metal blade.

During PRK, the outermost layer of the cornea is removed, and the underlying layer is reshaped. The layer can be manually scraped away or vaporized depending upon the exact technique used. Healing times are significantly longer than LASIK because the outer corneal layer must grow back naturally. PRK is usually recommended for patients with thin corneas, as this procedure does not create a corneal flap.

What to Expect from the Procedure

After surgery, your eyes will be covered with protective pads that should be kept in place for approximately 24 hours. As a result, you should ensure that someone is available to drive you home. You may feel some slight discomfort that should subside after a few days. If this is an issue, your surgeon may prescribe pain medications if necessary. A course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory eye drops will help prevent infection and aid the healing process. Plan to wear sunglasses after the procedure to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun. It is important that you do not strain or rub your eyes.

You may experience blurred vision for a couple of days with LASIK and approximately a week after PRK. It is generally recommended that patients undergoing the procedure have help around the house during this period. While it takes roughly one month for your vision to stabilize after LASIK, it may take one to three months before the outer layer of the cornea grows back following PRK surgery. An additional three months may be required before your vision stabilizes. During this period, your surgeon will provide guidance on resuming your post-surgical routine. Most people can go back to work after a few days and engage in strenuous activity in a few weeks.

Are You a Good Candidate?

The success of laser eye surgery depends upon various factors. The following list is a good place to begin the process of determining if you are eligible for corrective eye surgery.

  • Your eyes must be healthy. If you have any eye condition that may affect the surgery or healing process, you must wait until the problem is resolved. This includes an eye injury, infection and severe dry eye syndrome.
  • Your corneas must have sufficient thickness. Because the procedure involves reshaping the cornea, enough tissue must be present. A cornea that is too thin, misshapen or irregular could impair the results.
  • You must not have overly large pupils to minimize possible side effects, such as halos and starbursts in low light conditions.
  • Your vision must be within a certain range. Surgical results for high refractive errors are unpredictable and may require the removal of too much corneal tissue. This increases the risks of complications.
  • You must have stable vision for over a year. Many young people experience changes in their corrective vision prescription over time. You must wait until your vision stabilizes.
  • Your overall health must be good. Certain medical conditions like diabetes and autoimmune diseases can affect your eyes and reduce your body’s ability to heal properly. Some medications may also interfere with the healing process.
  • You must be over a certain age. While there is no upper age limit, some procedures are typically done only on patients older than 21 years of age. A few may be performed on patients as young as 18.

What Costs to Expect

With elective surgical procedures like laser eye surgery, it may be hard to find solid price information online. The actual cost of the procedure can vary greatly depending on numerous factors. The price depends upon the type of technology used and the amount of vision correction required. The extent and difficulty of the procedure also affects the price. While you should get an estimate from your eye care professional, the average cost of laser eye surgery in the United States ranges between $2,000 and $2,500 per eye. Although laser eye surgery is generally categorized as an elective cosmetic procedure, your vision insurance provider may still cover the cost. You may also be able to use tax-free contributions made to your flexible spending account or a health savings account.

Is Laser Eye Surgery Right for You?

While the results for most procedures are excellent, you need to be aware of the potential risks and side effects. Consult with an experienced eye surgeon for more information as well as a thorough examination and evaluation. Provide the surgeon with all the information regarding your current health and medical history. The doctor can then determine whether you are a good candidate for laser eye surgery or if another option may be more appropriate for your situation.