In our guide to LASIK and laser eye surgery we explore what the process involves and the costs of the procedure.
There are many different forms of laser eye surgery available, though LASIK is the most common in the US. LASIK stands for laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis. It was FDA-approved in 1998 and is considered less invasive, with a quicker healing time than other forms of corrective eye surgery.
Among the most common forms of vision problems are short sightedness and long sightedness, which can have varying degrees of extremity. These problems occur thanks to a fault in the shape of the cornea. The cornea is the transparent layer on the front of the eye, which focuses light so you can see things. Short sightedness, also known as myopia, happens when the cornea is too curved. This means that light entering your eyes from outside focusses just before your cornea, and as a result, your vision is blurred. If you have to hold a book very close to read the writing, or if you need to wear glasses or contact lenses to drive or to get around, then you are short sighted. Long sightedness – or hypermetropia – is a similar problem but reversed: the cornea is too flat and light focusses to a point just past the cornea, again producing a blurry image at certain distances. If you suffer from either to the point of requiring glasses or contact lenses, then you will know all about the inconvenience and annoyance these conditions bring with them. In our guide to LASIK and laser eye surgery we explain the types of procedures available, the cost and also common concerns among those considering laser eye surgery.
All laser eye surgery essentially performs the same action: using a laser to reshape the cornea as needed. Laser eye surgery starts with an initial consultation. This will be followed by a thorough eye exam which looks at your cornea, your pupil, your current sight prescription and also the back of the eye to make sure all is normal. You will be asked not to wear contact lenses for 24 hours before the assessment, to avoid distortion of the results.
Once this has been completed and the provider has agreed they can help, the laser eye surgery is next. The entire procedure takes 15-20 minutes, though the laser is only working for a few seconds of this. It creates a thin flap in order to remove a small amount of corneal tissue underneath. The flap is replaced afterward and heals back into place. You are lying down through the whole procedure, and you will have received numbing anesthetic drops beforehand.
In our guide to LASIK and laser eye surgery we want to answer all of your questions. We’ve noticed a lot of people ask what happens if they cough or sneeze. The answer is that the laser responds to your eye movement many times in just a second, so this is all compensated for. An eyelid holder and suction ring are used to hold the eye in place for safety and heightened accuracy – though this sounds much scarier than it really is! You might feel a slight pressure on the eye, but no pain.
Once the procedure is done, your eyes may be blurry or misty because the cornea is swollen: this naturally reduces within 24 hours. Most people can return to normal activities the next day. Makeup can be worn two days later, though eye makeup is to be avoided for seven days after laser eye surgery. You will be given eye shields to wear at night to stop you rubbing your eyes while asleep – usually for a week to be safe. Aftercare should include checks during the week after surgery, and checks at regular points after that. Depending on the practitioner you have chosen, these may or may not be included in the cost.
The cost of laser eye surgery will vary a lot depending on where you choose and the condition of your own eyes. High prescriptions can be more complicated and therefore more expensive. Our guide to LASIK and laser eye surgery costs according to lasik.com, the average LASIK eye surgery price in the US is $2,000 per eye, though the LASIK eye surgery cost can range from $1,000 to over $4,000 per eye. Choosing a more experienced surgeon will probably mean a higher LASIK eye surgery cost, and it also depends where they are located, as the price of travel to the LASIK eye center will increase the LASIK eye surgery cost. To find a local LASIK eye center look up ‘LASIK eye surgery near me’ online or specify your location in the search, for example ‘LASIK eye surgery nyc’.
In our guide to LASIK and laser eye surgery we recommend opting for the best treatment you can afford – we are talking about your vision here, after all. This is especially important if you have an unusual prescription or eye condition. You need to make sure the practitioner is aware of all the risks, and that they are advising the best course of treatment for you. Different practitioners may offer different methods available to them: for example, if you have a very high prescription then a ‘budget’ national brand may not be able to treat you effectively, but a specialist may be able to help instead. As previously mentioned, you can search online for practitioners in your area by typing ‘LASIK eye surgery near me’ into a searchengine, or specifying your location, such as ‘LASIK eye surgery nyc’.
Laser eye surgery is quick and painless, but it is important to choose a reputable surgeon so it is also safe. Any kind of complications such as infection or inflammation can cause damage. Abrasions on the cornea, for example, may lead to scarring and vision may be permanently affected. There is a very small risk that vision may be worse than before. However it’s also important to be aware that the overall complication rate is very, very low and, while infections are possible (as with any surgical procedure), that doesn’t mean they are probable.
In our guide to LASIK and laser eye surgery we will address the more likely side effects, which include blurry vision in the first day or so, a ‘halo’ effect around lights, difficulty with night driving, and dry eyes. In all but a very small minority of cases, these are temporary issues while the eye is healing and will disappear gradually over time. The eyes can feel irritated for a day after treatment, though eye drops are normally provided to ease any discomfort.
Be aware that laser eye surgery does not guarantee perfect 20/20 vision. Mostly, it depends on the natural ability of your eyes. If you can only achieve 20/40 vision with your glasses or contact lenses for example, then this is a more realistic goal post surgery. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 90% of LASIK patients achieve between 20/20 and 20/40 vision as a result of the surgery. It’s also possible that you might need what’s known as an ‘enhancement’ a year later if the best result isn’t achieved the first time. Healing will differ person to person so it’s not always possible to predict the exact results, though they are generally very accurate for most. Approximately 10% of LASIK patients in the US require an enhancement at a later date.
If you have an unusual prescription then a tailored form of LASIK may be appropriate for you. Wavefront-guided LASIK is a more detailed procedure, whereby a ‘map’ of the cornea is used rather than just the patient’s eye prescription. This can make the results more accurate as well as reducing side effects. While this procedure is more expensive than the normal LASIK eye surgery price, it is worth consideration. It’s a myth that laser eye surgery can’t help in cases of astigmatism, but it actually can be corrected during the procedure by the laser.
The natural aging of the eyes, called presbyopia, can be compensated for by a process called monovision LASIK. This is where the laser is used to give each eye slightly different vision: one eye is intended for close up work, and the other for distance vision. The brain is able to work out the signals so you are not aware the eyes are working differently. This can remove the need for reading glasses effectively. It’s also possible to try this method out with contact lenses first, to see if it brings the results you want. PresByLASIK is a process where the eye has different prescriptions at different points, and it isn’t yet FDA-approved.
Although this our guide to LASIK and laser eye surgery, there are alternatives, though each comes with its own set of risks and benefits. LASEK is the LASIK alternative and is a similar process. It has a longer healing time of around a week, though it’s advised for patients with thinner corneas as it makes a shallower cut in the cornea than LASIK. There are other non-laser solutions such as implantable contact lenses (ICL), though these may come with increased health risks later on, such as cataracts. As with any major decision, it’s always best to do some research and seek as many opinions as possible before making your choice.
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