LASIK eye surgery has risen in popularity since it was first approved for use in the mid-1990s. Every year the LASIK procedure is performed thousands of times across Australia, providing people with freedom from the inconvenience of glasses and contact lenses.
LASIK eye surgery is one of several refractive surgery techniques, which are a type of operation used to surgically correct the refractive error of the eye, be it long-sightedness (hyperopia), short-sightedness (myopia), or astigmatism. As the eye is a highly sensitive part of the body, the idea of any sort of operation on such a delicate organ can cause some to feel squeamish. You may have heard both success stories and horror stories from friends or friends of friends who have gone through the LASIK procedure. Regardless of what you may have heard, if you’re considering LASIK for yourself, it’s worth being properly informed about what happens in LASIK eye surgery.
What Happens in LASIK Eye Surgery
Before undergoing the LASIK procedure, it’s important to have your eyes and vision comprehensively assessed by a trained clinician. The purpose of this is to ensure that LASIK eye surgery is really the best treatment option for you. Factors your specialist will consider in assessing your eligibility for LASIK include:
- Your corneal thickness – as will be discussed below, the LASIK procedure involves some removal of corneal tissue, which makes up the clear dome at the front of your eye. Patients with insufficient corneal thickness are better off with another refractive technique such as PRK, as there must be a minimum corneal thickness remaining after surgery to maintain the integrity of the eye.
- Your lifestyle – this forms an important part of the discussion you will have with the ophthalmologist. Patients who engage in activities that involve a risk of physical trauma, such as wrestling or the defence force, or patients who are often exposed to dirty environments such as in the construction industry, may find that LASIK is not the best option due to the increased risk of post-operative complications from these activities.
- Your eye health – there are some types of vision problems that cannot be fixed with any sort of refractive surgery, including LASIK, and in fact, some eye diseases may be exacerbated by surgical disturbances to the cornea.
Eye conditions such as dry eye and keratoconus can be made worse by LASIK eye surgery while patients who have an eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration or cataract may be counselled that undergoing LASIK will not have any significant benefit for their vision.
At the time of your LASIK eye surgery, your eye will be numbed with topical anaesthetic. In Australia, general anaesthesia is rarely used for refractive surgery, if ever, but particularly anxious or restless patients may be offered a light sedative to help calm the nerves.
LASIK is a two-step procedure. Some surgeons prefer to conduct the first step using a manual bladed instrument while others employ the use of a femtosecond laser. Whichever the tool, the purpose of this step is to move aside the top layers of the cornea, to allow the second step to take place. While on the operating bed, you will be asked to fixate on a target light to keep the eye steady, and a device will be used to keep your eyelids open – this may be slightly uncomfortable at first but patients tend to quickly get used to the sensation.
The first step of the procedures forms a hinged flap of corneal tissue, which is moved aside to allow an excimer laser to be applied to the underlying corneal layers in a process called photoablation. Guided by computer, the laser removes selected, pre-calculated areas of tissue to reshape the cornea. The result of this is to change the way light bends through the cornea so that light rays are focused to a clear point on the retina. The corneal flap is then repositioned and allowed to self-seal.
After surgery, your clinical team will provide you with care instructions, medicated eye drops, and a protective eye shield. Vision is generally noticeably better within the next 24 hours and will further stabilise over the coming weeks.
Eye Lasers Specialists provides a range of eye care treatment options. Contact us on 1300 297 583 to book in consultation with an expert vision specialist, and to discover how we can help in the maintenance of your eye health.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.