Around 800,000 Americans undergo laser vision correction surgeries each year. These elective procedures repair common vision problems like nearsightedness and farsightedness. Some people never need to wear contact lenses or glasses again after surgery. Others may eventually need reading glasses or other corrective vision devices but still have improved eyesight.
Approximately 80% to 85% of people who get laser eye surgery choose LASIK. This popular procedure has become a household name thanks to enthusiastic marketing campaigns by national chains. You can find advertisements for LASIK in magazines, TV commercials, and radio shows. However, not everyone is an ideal candidate for LASIK. This guide explores the history of LASIK, debunks common myths, and discusses the qualifications you need for this surgery.
What Is LASIK and How Does It Work?
LASIK is an abbreviation for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. This surgery uses a gently pulsing laser to reshape the cornea so light enters the eye at a different angle. This minor correction can eliminate imperfections in your eye and improve your vision.
Eye doctors use LASIK to correct several common refractive errors, including:
- Myopia (nearsightedness): This occurs when you have an abnormally long eyeball or a steeply curving cornea. As a result, incoming light rays focus in front of the retina, and faraway objects look blurry.
- Hyperopia (farsightedness): It is characterized by a short eyeball or flat cornea. These structures cause light to focus behind the retina, so near objects look blurry.
- Astigmatism: This eye condition happens when the cornea has an uneven curvature, affecting both near and far vision.
LASIK for astigmatism, myopia, and hyperopia involves the same basic steps:
- Comprehensive Exam: You’ll receive an initial evaluation to determine if you’re a good candidate for LASIK. During this appointment, the eye doctor will measure the curve of your corneas and pupils. They’ll also take your medical history and check for active eye conditions like cataracts. These assessments help them evaluate your health and calculate how much corneal tissue they’ll remove during the procedure.
- Eye Numbing: Your surgeon and their team will get you comfortably situated in the operating room and apply numbing drops to your eye. You may also receive a mild sedative.
- Flap Creation: The LASIK surgeon uses an advanced laser to cut a flap in your cornea and raise it.
- Cornea Sculpting: A cutting laser removes tiny amounts of tissue from your cornea to sculpt it into a new shape.
- Flap Replacement: The surgeon places the cornea flap back in its regular position at the end of the procedure.
Corrective eye surgery may sound intimidating or horrifying if you’re not an eye doctor. But rest assured: LASIK is quick, low-risk, and painless. It also has a remarkably high success rate. According to a Food and Drug Administration survey, over 95% of LASIK patients were satisfied with their eyesight after the surgery.
The Evolution of LASIK Technology
Laser eye treatment has a long history. In 1885, Hjalmar Schiotz first proposed reshaping the cornea to correct vision conditions. In 1939, Tsutomu Sato began using radial keratotomy to flatten the cornea and correct myopia. LASIK technology continued to evolve steadily throughout the twentieth century as surgeons developed increasingly sophisticated lasers.
In 1999, LASIK surgery reached a critical milestone when it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The approved treatment reshaped the cornea with an excimer laser. Several years later, LASIK surgeons began using femtosecond laser technology to increase precision. In 2016, the FDA approved topography-guided ablation, which has better patient outcomes.
Common Misconceptions About LASIK Eye Surgery
There are many myths and misconceptions about LASIK and other vision correction procedures, such as:
- LASIK hurts: Your surgeon will place numbing drops in your eye so you won’t feel any pain during laser eye surgery. After the procedure, you may experience mild discomfort, itching, or burning as your eyes heal.
- LASIK wears off: This procedure permanently reshapes the surface of your eye so it doesn’t fade away. However, it’s normal for vision to change over time due to the natural aging process or eye diseases. You may need additional laser eye surgery or reading glasses in the future.
- LASIK is dangerous: No medical procedure is totally risk-free, but complications occur in less than 1% of LASIK surgeries.
Qualifications for LASIK: Who Is an Ideal Candidate?
Who is a candidate for LASIK? Eye doctors use several factors to determine whether this procedure suits you.
According to the FDA, the LASIK surgery age limit is 18 and older. However, many eye doctors don’t recommend LASIK for people in their early 20s because your eyesight can still change quickly at this age.
Currently, there is no maximum age for LASIK candidates, but eye clinics like West Texas Eye Associates often recommend this procedure for people under 45.
Eye Health Conditions
Surgeons typically don’t recommend refractive eye surgery for people with certain eye conditions, including:
- Dry eye syndrome
- Eye infection
- Corneal disease
- Optic nerve diseases
- Severe cataracts
Stable Vision Prescription
You don’t need terrible vision to qualify for LASIK. However, a stable prescription is one of the most essential LASIK requirements. You must have no contact lenses or glasses prescription changes for at least a year before LASIK because refractive instability leads to additional risks.
Corneal Thickness and Pupil Size
Your LASIK surgeon will measure the thickness of your cornea during your initial evaluation to ensure that you’ll have enough tissue left over after the procedure. They’ll also measure your pupils. People with large pupils may have more visual symptoms immediately following surgery, but they can still undergo LASIK successfully.
Talk to an Expert Today and Get Your LASIK or LASIK Alternative
Who is not a candidate for LASIK? Many factors, including corneal thinness and eye conditions, can make you an unsuitable candidate for this procedure. But don’t worry: If you don’t meet the requirements for LASIK, you’re not doomed to wear glasses or contacts forever.
West Texas Eye Associates offers LASIK and cutting-edge LASIK alternatives, including refractive lens exchange and implantable collamer lenses. Each of these procedures has various pros and cons. For instance, people who receive refractive lens exchange will never get cataracts.
Our compassionate and skilled team will educate you about your options and help you choose the best treatment to improve your eye health. Call us today or schedule an appointment online.