Many of us have been there before: you fall asleep with your glasses on and wake up to find the frames bent out of shape, or a lens (if not both of them) is popped out of place or broken. Or, for those who choose to wear contacts, maybe your trip to the beach was going well until splashing among the waves resulted in a lost contact, making it difficult to see for the rest of your trip.
If you’ve experienced any of these scenarios, you may be ready to give up on glasses and contacts in favor of a permanent solution to your vision problems – such as LASIK eye surgery. Here are six frequently asked questions – and their answers – about LASIK.
1. How Do I Know If I’m a Candidate for LASIK Eye Surgery?
“The good news about LASIK is that it’s fairly inclusive, meaning many adults are eligible for this procedure,” explained Regina H. Altemus, OD, optometrist at Scheie Eye Institute Penn Presbyterian. Current FDA approved parameters for LASIK state that a patient must have:
- Up to -12.00D of myopia, also known as nearsightedness
- Up to +6.00D of hyperopia, also called farsightedness
- Up to 6 diopters of astigmatism (cylinder), which is a common imperfection in the curvature of your eye
Before receiving LASIK, you will be required to meet with your eye doctor for a thorough eye exam. During this initial appointment, your doctor will evaluate the shape and thickness of your cornea, the size of your pupil, and check for refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and any other eye conditions. Your doctor may also check to see how moist your eyes are and may recommend a precautionary treatment to reduce your risk of developing dry eyes after surgery.
The ideal candidate for LASIK must:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Not have an autoimmune disease, which can make it difficult to heal after surgery.
- Not be pregnant or breastfeeding. Elevated hormone levels during pregnancy can affect the shape of your eyes, making it better to wait for surgery until your hormone levels return to normal.
- Have healthy eyes, including no history of cataracts, a chronic dry eye condition, or glaucoma.
2. Is LASIK Eye Surgery Painful?
Fortunately, LASIK eye surgery is not painful. Right before your procedure, your surgeon will place numbing eye drops into both of your eyes. While you may still feel a little bit of pressure during the procedure, you should not feel any pain.
Your surgeon may also give you another medication, such as Valium, to help you remain calm and relaxed during the procedure.
After your surgery, it is common to feel a slight itching or burning sensation in your eyes, but it should go away quickly.
3. What Does LASIK Eye Surgery Involve?
The main goal of LASIK eye surgery is to change the shape of the cornea so that it can better focus images onto the retina, allowing you to see more clearly. This effect is achieved through the use of two lasers.
On the day of your LASIK eye surgery you can expect the following:
- Your doctor will test your eyes to make sure your eye health history is correct and up to date.
- Numbing eye drops will be placed in both of your eyes and you’ll be given a sedative.
- Your surgeon will use a femtosecond laser to create a thin, circular “flap” in your cornea. The flap will then be folded back, allowing your surgeon to access the stroma, or underlying cornea.
- A laser with cool ultraviolet beams will be used to remove small amounts of tissue from your cornea to reshape it. This enables it to more accurately focus light on your retina for improved vision.
- If you are nearsighted, the laser will be used to flatten your cornea. If you are farsighted, the laser will create a steeper cornea.
- The flap will then be laid back in place, covering the area where the corneal tissue was removed.
- The cornea will then be given time to heal naturally.
LASIK eye surgery is a simple procedure. Though you are awake, numbing eye drops combined with medication will help you stay calm and unbothered by the procedure. “The LASIK procedure lasts approximately twenty minutes for both eyes,” said Dr. Altemus.
4. What Does Recovery from LASIK Entail?
After your LASIK eye surgery, you will be given a brief post-op eye exam. Once your doctor confirms that the surgery was successful, you will be allowed to go home, but must be driven by a family member or friend. You will not be allowed to drive until after your follow-up visit with your eye doctor, which will usually occur the day after your surgery. At that time, he or she will confirm that your vision is within the legal standard for driving.
About a week after your surgery, you’ll meet with your doctor again to make sure your eyes are healing properly. At that visit, your doctor will determine if more follow-up visits are necessary.
While you will be permitted to work the day after your procedure, it is recommended that you take a couple of days off to rest.
You should also refrain from strenuous exercise for the week after your surgery, as it can hinder the healing process. You should also avoid wearing eye makeup for a week, as well. Once you resume wearing makeup, you should use new products to avoid the risk of infection.
Dr. Altemus explained that, “Several prescription eye drops and artificial tears will be prescribed by your provider. These are given to help speed up the healing process, fight bacteria and infection, and combat dry eye syndrome.”
Furthermore, she stated that, “Some patients may experience a spot of blood on the white of the eye called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This is common and can take up to two weeks to resolve.”
5. When Will I See Results from LASIK Eye Surgery?
Immediately after your LASIK eye surgery, you should begin to see things from a distance that you couldn’t see before. While your eye sight will likely be fuzzy and hazy initially, it should stabilize and continue to improve within the first few days after surgery. It is not uncommon for your eyes to sting a bit or to feel a little gritty and/or sensitive to light after your procedure.
“Patients have described their vision after LASIK comparable to looking under water. I usually ask patients to go home and keep their eyes closed for a few hours. After four to six hours, patients may feel relatively comfortable with their vision. Most patients feel very comfortable with their new vision by the next day.” Dr. Altemus further explained, “20/20 vision is very achievable with LASIK surgery. However, this may depend on the severity of your eyesight prior to the procedure.”
6. Are There Any Risks or Side Effects Associated with LASIK Eye Surgery?
As with any surgery, there are some risks involved with LASIK eye surgery. Although it is rare, it may take several weeks before you see full results. You may also struggle with the following issues:
- Impaired night-time vision, such as seeing halos or starbursts, especially while driving
- Dry eyes
- The need for reading glasses several years after the procedure due to natural aging
- Under or overcorrection, which would require glasses or contact lenses for better vision
- Complications with the flap of corneal tissue at the time of surgery
Are you considering LASIK eye surgery? To learn more about this procedure and determine if you are a candidate, schedule an appointment with a Penn Medicine provider online.