What is LASIK and how can it help me?
LASIK is an acronym that stands for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis”. It is an elective vision correction procedure that can be used to treat myopia (nearsightedness: those who can see up close), hyperopia (farsightedness: those who can see far away), and astigmatism. In fact, LASIK is one of the most common elective procedures in the United States—over 800,000 procedures were performed in 2018 alone.
Like other types of refractive surgery, the goal of LASIK is to improve your vision and help you achieve reduced or total independence from glasses and contact lenses. To do this, the LASIK procedure permanently reshapes your cornea, allowing your eye to focus light more clearly on the retina, which leads to clearer vision.
Since it was first approved by the FDA in 1998, there have been several advances in LASIK vision correction that have both broadened the range of patients who are eligible for the procedure and improved the results that patients can achieve with LASIK. Because of its well-documented safety and effectiveness, all branches of the U.S. military and NASA have approved LASIK vision correction for US service members and astronauts.
The Science of Vision
When we look at an object, a complex chain of events happens. First, light enters the eye through your cornea, where it is bent (or refracted). It then passes through the pupil and into the lens where it is bent (refracted) again. Finally, the light comes to a point and focuses on the retina, allowing you to see. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism occur when there’s a problem accurately bending or refracting incoming light; this is where the term refractive error comes from. These refractive errors are the most common causes of vision impairment. Below are some helpful diagrams to illustrate the different types of refractive errors.
Nearsightedness (myopia) occurs when the cornea is too steep or the eyeball is too long, which causes light rays to focus in front of the retina. Images of distant objects are blurred, but close objects appear clear.
Farsightedness (hyperopia) results when the cornea is too flat or the eyeball is too short, which causes the light rays to focus directly behind the retina. Near objects appear blurry to those with hyperopia. Some farsighted people cannot focus on distant or near objects.
Astigmatism occurs when the curvature of the cornea is uneven and is shaped more like a football than a round baseball. This irregularity creates multiple focal points in the eye and makes it difficult to clearly focus on near or distant objects.
Fortunately, LASIK can correct these refractive errors by reshaping the cornea so that refracted light focuses more directly on the retina, which leads to clearer vision. For a patient who undergoes LASIK, the need for glasses or contacts diminishes and oftentimes is completely eliminated.
All-Laser, Blade-Free LASIK Treatment
One of the most notable advancements in vision correction is the development of all-laser, blade-free LASIK. All-laser, blade-free LASIK uses a unique combination of the most advanced technology to provide a fast, safe, and proven way to improve vision. Traditionally, LASIK used to be performed using a bladed instrument that required manual operation. In 2008, the FDA approved the use of a femtosecond laser, a laser that would replace the bladed instrument. One of the first to adopt this new technology, The LASIK Center of Wilmington Eye is now the premier all-laser, blade-free LASIK provider in eastern North Carolina.
In general, all-laser, blade-free LASIK is performed in two steps:
- Using the first laser (called the femtosecond laser), a small flap is created on the protective surface of the eye: the cornea. With advanced medical technology, our surgeons are able to customize the depth and diameter of the flap made to meet the specific measurements of your eye. This can help achieve optimal visual results.
- Once a flap has been made, the second part of LASIK is the reshaping of your cornea. Using a second laser (called an excimer laser), we reshape the curvature of the cornea, correcting your refractive errors. Its new shape allows light to be focused more directly onto the retina, significantly improving your vision. Once this is complete, the flap is put back in place to allow the eye to naturally heal.
This video provides an in-depth look at the all-laser, blade-free LASIK procedure.
Some surgeons still use outdated technology (a blade called a microkeratome) instead of all-laser, blade-free LASIK. If you’re considering other LASIK providers, it’s important to know which technology they use. At Wilmington Eye, this new procedure allows us to offer LASIK that is completely customizable, safe, and precise.
Our team of board-certified, highly trained all-laser LASIK surgeons include Dr. Kathleen C. Leone, Dr. Matej Polomsky, Dr. Christopher Covington, and Dr. Travis Jenkins. Collectively, we have helped thousands of patients achieve increased or total independence from glasses and contacts!
LASIK Is Completely Customizable
Here at Wilmington Eye, we use the most advanced LASIK technology called iLASIK. This state-of-the-art procedure allows us to completely customize LASIK to your individual eyes. During your comprehensive LASIK consultation, we’ll develop a 3-D map of your eye, mapping any optical imperfections that can affect the quality of your vision. This map serves as the individual road map for your LASIK procedure. With the iLASIK procedure, we are able to provide patients with a completely personalized vision correction experience by taking into consideration both individual refractive errors and all optical imperfections.
With laser precision, we are able to both quantitatively and qualitatively improve your overall vision! With iLASIK, optimal visual clarity is achieved. And the entire procedure takes less than 20 minutes. In addition, 96% of people experience 20/20 vision or better with the iLASIK procedure.
Is LASIK Right For Me?
LASIK is unfortunately not a solution for everyone. To determine if LASIK is the right vision correction procedure for you, we require each patient to come in for a LASIK consultation. This comprehensive consultation takes approximately 2 hours. During your consultation, we’ll conduct a dilated eye exam and perform several diagnostic tests to evaluate the health of your eyes and document your refractive errors, as well as any personal eye characteristics. You will also meet with one of our experienced LASIK surgeons to discuss your vision goals and develop a personalized vision correction treatment plan specific to you.
While many factors are considered to determine true candidacy for LASIK—age, prescription strength, ocular history, and corneal structure being a few—there are some questions that can generally help you determine your potential candidacy.
- Are you at least 18 years or older?
- Are you generally in good health?
- Do you have a stable prescription for at least one year?
- Are you free of any existing eye diseases or conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, dry eye?
Occasionally, a patient’s anatomical measurements are outside of the FDA requirements for the LASIK procedure, or LASIK is simply deemed unsuitable for a patient. If this occurs, we offer additional refractive solutions to help you improve your vision.
PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy)
Like LASIK, PRK greatly improves your vision by reshaping your cornea using a laser. However, instead of creating a flap to expose the cornea, the entire protective (epithelial) layer is removed. Learn more about PRK.
ICL (Implantable Collamer Lens)
Best suited for patients with moderate to severe nearsightedness, implantable collamer lenses permanently correct your vision. A small opening is created in the eye and the lens is inserted and tucked behind the iris. Learn more about ICL.
Refractive Lens Exchange
If you’re a candidate for refractive surgery but have been diagnosed with presbyopia, a common age-related vision disorder, a Refractive Lens Exchange may be the best vision procedure for you. Learn more about Refractive Lens Exchange.
What To Expect Before, During, and After LASIK Surgery
Once our LASIK surgeon has determined that LASIK is the best vision correction procedure for you, it’s time to prepare for surgery day.
Before LASIK Surgery
Approximately 1 week leading up to your surgery, we ask that you refrain from using contact lenses and switch to glasses full-time. Contact lenses distort the natural shape of your cornea and may lead to a suboptimal surgical outcome. Another very important part of your pre-operative care is continuing any routine care, such as using your prescription eye drops for dry eye. Your surgeon will discuss any additional pre-operative care with you during your initial consultation.
The morning of your surgery, it is best to refrain from wearing lotion, sunscreen, or makeup as these things can interfere with surgery.
During LASIK Surgery
During surgery, your LASIK surgeon will apply numbing eye drops to alleviate any pain or discomfort you may feel during the procedure. These drops also suppress your urge to blink. Your surgeon will also apply a lid speculum to keep your eyelids open during the procedure.
The surgeon will position you under the first laser to create a thin corneal flap on the outer layer of your eye. With laser-precision, we customize the flap to meet the exact measurements of your eye. Once the corneal flap is safely made, the surgeon will then position you under the second laser. This laser is used to make the correction to your cornea based on the exact measurements of your eyes.
The entire procedure is completed in less than 20 minutes!
After LASIK Surgery
Immediately following your LASIK procedure, you’ll be given a pair of goggles to help protect your vulnerable cornea during this early postoperative stage. Driving is not permitted after LASIK surgery, so you will need to make arrangements for a loved one to drive you to and from the procedure. Once at home, you will be required to take a 4-hour nap. This nap ensures that the corneal flap begins to heal properly. Your surgeon may prescribe eye drops to aid in the healing process.
Blurry vision and haziness following your surgery are perfectly normal. However, many patients begin to see drastic improvements in their vision immediately after the procedure! Full recovery and stabilized eyesight can take days and, in some cases, weeks. You will be seen for your first post-operative exam within 24 hours following your procedure. During this exam, your surgeon will ensure that your corneal flap is in its proper place and healing accordingly.
At Wilmington Eye, post-operative care for an entire year following your surgery is included in the cost of LASIK eye surgery. Also included in our cost is one enhancement, should you need one, during your first year following surgery.
An important thing to remember for the long-term care of your vision is continued routine eye care. If you don’t have a regular optometrist, we can recommend one of our highly trained optometrists to help you manage and maintain your new vision.
The True Cost of LASIK
Our goal is to help you achieve 20/20 or better. During your comprehensive LASIK consultation, we will discuss procedure costs and affordable financing options available through CareCredit. Our fully comprehensive LASIK cost includes:
- All pre-operative measurements and exams
- A personalized and flexible surgical plan
- All post-operative checkups
- As-needed enhancement during the first year
In addition to affordable financing options, we also accept funds from FSA and HSA accounts. Please also ask us about discounts for teachers, military personal, and first responders! Request a consultation to discuss LASIK vision correction and pricing with a LASIK specialist today.
The Risks of LASIK
LASIK has a very high satisfaction rate; most patients report seeing 20/20 or better after surgery. However, like any surgery, there are associated risks with LASIK. Some associated risks include:
- Edema (swelling)
- Corneal Warpage Syndrome (commonly known as Ectasia)
- Loss of vision
- Corneal scarring
- Irregular astigmatism
- Dry Eye Syndrome (may require the frequent use of lubrication or other dry eye treatments)
- Need for reading glasses in the future
- Need for enhancements in the future
- Glare or halos
- Light sensitivity
While many of these side effects are temporary, there have been rare instances of reported long-term problems. Your LASIK surgeon will be able to explain any risks or side effects during your initial consultation. Schedule a consultation today to learn about the potential risks.
Are you a LASIK candidate?
Call us at 910-763-3601; We’ll answer all of your questions and schedule a consultation with one of our expert surgeons.