With so many different types of eye surgeries available, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. One common but often misunderstood procedure is laser eye surgery. There are a number of different procedures under the umbrella of laser eye surgery, with each one serving a different purpose.
Some correct refractive errors such as myopic or hyperopia, while others address issues such as strabismus (ocular misalignment) or keratoconus (a cone-shaped curvature of the cornea). Most laser eye surgeries are outpatient procedures that take just a few minutes and have very low risk. Read on to learn more about what laser eye surgery entails, its costs, and its pros and cons.
What Is Laser Eye Surgery?
So what is laser eye surgery? At its most basic, laser eye surgery is the use of a laser to correct vision problems.
The surgery works by reshaping the cornea, which is the clear part of the eye that covers the pupil and iris. The laser is used to remove a very thin layer of tissue from the cornea, and this results in a change in the way light enter the eye.
Laser eye surgery has been around for decades, and over time it has become a very safe and effective way to treat vision problems. Tens of millions of people have had the surgery, and the vast majority are happy with the results.
How Does Laser Eye Surgery Work?
The procedure is performed in an eye clinic, usually as an outpatient procedure. To begin the surgery, the eye surgeon administers topical anesthesia, followed by the application of an antiseptic solution to the eye. The surgeon then makes a very small flap in the cornea, followed by a controlled application of infrared laser energy to reshape the cornea.
The flap is then put back into place and allowed to heal for several days. In most cases, the procedure is completely painless and significantly reduces or eliminates dependence on glasses or contacts. One of the most commonly used laser eye surgery procedures is LASIK, short for laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses. During LASIK surgery, an ophthalmologist uses an automated microkeratome to create a thin flap in the cornea. The surgeon then uses a laser to reshape the underside of the cornea, followed by folding the flap back into place.
Pre and Post-Operative Complications & Risks
The most common complication is at the flap interface. You might notice a small fold or a crust in the eyelid that disappears throughout the recovery process. Other postoperative complications might include dry eyes, induced refractive surprises, over or under-correction, and nearsightedness. You are advised to follow doctors and ask questions in your post-surgery period.
Types of laser eye surgery
- Myopic Correction
- Laser eye surgery for nearsightedness (myopic) uses a reshaping of the cornea to correct for a high refractive error. A thin flap is created on the cornea, followed by a controlled application of laser energy to reshape the cornea to correct for nearsightedness.
- Hypermetropic Correction
- Reshaping of the cornea to correct for a low refractive error. A thin flap is created on the cornea, followed by a controlled application of laser energy to reshape the cornea to correct for farsightedness.
- Mixed Correction
- A mix of nearsightedness and farsightedness uses a combination of reshaping techniques to correct both refractive errors. While nearsightedness can be corrected with a thicker flap, farsightedness may require a thinner flap.
- Astigmatism Correction
- Laser eye surgery for astigmatism uses a reshaping of the cornea to correct for a refractive error with a spherical/cylindrical imbalance. A thin flap is created on the cornea, followed by a controlled application of laser energy to reshape the cornea to correct for astigmatism.
- Strabismus Correction
- laser eye surgery for strabismus uses a reshaping of the cornea to correct ocular misalignment. A thin flap is created on the cornea, followed by a controlled application of laser energy to reshape the cornea to correct for strabismus. This can be helpful to correct amblyopia (lazy eye) as well if diagnosed.
- Keratoconus Correction
- laser eye surgery for keratoconus uses a reshaping of the cornea to correct for a cone-shaped curvature of the cornea. A thin flap is created on the cornea, followed by a controlled application of laser energy to reshape the cornea to correct for keratoconus.
- Other uses other corrective laser eye surgery procedures include pterygium removal and removal of corneal scars and hyaloid defects.
Laser Eye Surgery Costs
The cost of laser eye surgery varies depending on the procedure, the degree of correction, and the experience of the surgeon.
While laser eye surgery is a one-time procedure, the costs of the procedure should also factor in follow-up care, any potential complications, and unexpected costs such as lost time at work or a trip to the emergency room.
The cost of laser eye surgery includes the cost of the procedure itself, follow-up care, and any potential complications. Costs vary based on the surgeon, geographical location, and the type of laser eye surgery performed.
Things to Consider Before Deciding on Laser Eye Surgery
- Individuals under the age of 18, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions (i.e. diabetes, degenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, and immunocompromised conditions) are usually not eligible for laser eye surgery.
- Medical Conditions
- Some medical conditions may make you ineligible for laser eye surgery. These conditions include glaucoma, retinal abnormalities, and severe allergies.
- Family History
- If there’s a family history of blindness or retinal detachment, you may want to reconsider laser eye surgery.
- Eye Health
- Individuals with certain eye conditions such as iritis, uveitis, unresolved corneal disease, or uncontrolled allergies may not be suitable candidates for laser eye surgery.
- Eye Dominance
- If you’re unsure of which eye is your dominant eye, discuss this with your eye surgeon prior to surgery.
- Expected Lifestyle Changes
- This may be a deal-breaker, but if you plan to travel or work abroad in the next 5 years, it is not recommended to get LASIK.
- Desired Outcomes
- Do you want better vision, or do you want to be free of glasses/contacts? Or perhaps you want to correct both but are unsure what the best procedure for you is.
- The cost of laser eye surgery may factor into your decision.
Are There Any Alternatives to Laser Eye Surgery?
The good news is that laser eye surgery is extremely safe. In fact, it’s one of the most common procedures performed in the United States. And with advances in technology, the chances of complications are lower than ever before.
But if you’re still not sure, or if you have questions about the surgery itself, you might want to consider some of the alternatives. There are a number of procedures that can help correct vision problems, and each one has its own benefits and drawbacks.
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