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HomeHealth A-Z LASIK
LASIK Eye Surgery
LASIK Eye Surgery
Your LASIK decision should not be based on cost alone, but on what you get for what you pay.

LASIK - Laser Eye Surgery


Definition of LASIK

LASIK is an acronym for Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis, a term derived from Greek words which translates "to reshape the cornea in place using laser." Keratomileusis is a combination of two Greek words and means "to shape the cornea" and In-Situ means "in place."

Overview of LASIK

Since the first LASIK procedure was performed in the early 1990's, millions of people have successfully undergone LASIK laser eye surgery. LASIK is indicated for the treatment of myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism (distorted vision) in order to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contacts.

The LASIK procedure is a combination of two sophisticated surgical techniques:

  • The first technique is the creation of a corneal flap. A thin layer is cut in the cornea, leaving a hinge at one end of the flap, that is folded back to reveal the middle section of the cornea, the area that will be sculpted with the laser. After laser treatment, the flap is replaced. The flap may be cut with either a special knife called a microkeratome as originally developed or with the newest technology using a laser, known as blade-free Intralase. Cutting a flap before laser treatment allows the eye to heal quicker and reduces post-surgical discomfort.
  • The second technique uses a computer controlled excimer laser (a cold, invisible, ultraviolet laser) to remove corneal tissue in order to sculpt the cornea and correct the refractive error.

LASIK surgery greatly advanced in 2003 when the Wavefront technology used in astronomy was applied to laser eye surgery. With wavefront technology, the computer takes a visual imprint of the eye that is then used to customize laser treatment. Compared to conventional LASIK, the results are more precise, night vision is improved, halo effects are reduced, and there is less of a need for enhancement (additional) treatments. Patients that qualify for custom Wavefront LASIK should choose it over conventional LASIK.

Two variations of laser eye surgery, the LASEK procedure or Epi-LASIK procedure, are options for some patients that do not qualify for LASIK due to thin corneas.

PRK, the original laser eye surgery is a no-flap procedure and is an alternate option for patients that do not qualify for LASIK. For the most part however, PRK has been replaced by LASIK because PRK patients can experience more discomfort during the healing process and vision can take from several days up to a week to clear.

LASIK Patient Criteria

It is important to meet patient criteria for laser eye surgery in order to achieve positive results. Unfortunately not everyone is a good candidate for the LASIK procedure. Your eye surgeon will examine your eyes and assess your overall health to determine if you are a good candidate for the LASIK procedure.

It is important to have stable vision for at least a year before laser eye surgery is performed. This limits children and teens from having LASIK because eyes continue to change until growth is complete - usually in the early twenties. Also women who are nursing or are pregnant need to wait until hormones return to normal levels and eyesight stabilizes. Other conditions that may make a person unsuitable for LASIK include severe dry eyes, thin or steep corneas, or autoimmune conditions.

Choosing a LASIK Surgeon

When choosing a LASIK surgeon, experience matters. Choose an eye surgeon that is trained and certified for the equipment and technology that will be used for the surgery. It is helpful to get a referral or recommendation from your doctor, eye provider, family, or friends when you are looking for a reputable doctor. Make sure your surgeon performs pre-operative exams and tests to qualify you as a good patient, answers all your questions, explains the procedure and risks, and provides follow-up care.

Cost of LASIK

There is not one right price for LASIK. With advertised prices that often range from $500 per eye to $3000 per eye, differences exist in care and treatment, not just in cost. Your decision should not be based on cost alone, but on what you get for what you pay. Some of the factors that affect the cost of LASIK eye surgery are:

  • choice of surgeon - experience and expertise usually costs more than inexperience and incompetence
  • type of equipment - it costs more to have state-of-the-art equipment and to properly maintain sophisticated machinery
  • type of procedure - Custom Wavefront adds $200 to $500 per eye and Blade-free Intralase adds $250 to $500 per eye, costs needed to cover the cost of the equipmentcosts needed to cover the cost of the equipment
  • vision prescription and amount of correction needed
  • time given to each patient and procedure
  • follow-up care and appointments included in the price

LASIK cost is a valid consideration, but rather than sacrifice quality of care and treatment it is recommended that you find the best financing options available or wait until you can afford the proper treatment. You only have one set of eyes and you should not jeopardize your eyesight over financial concerns.

Possible Risks and Complications of LASIK

There are always risks associated with any surgical procedure, even with a procedure such as LASIK that has a very high success rate. LASIK is an elective surgery so it is important to consider all outcomes. Many risks and complications can be reduced by proper patient screening, choosing custom Wavefront LASIK, choosing an experienced surgeon, and following your surgeons recommendations during the healing process.

Some of the more common problems often disappear as the eyes heal such as dry eye and visual aberrations (halos, glare, poor night vision). Some problems can be corrected with further treatment such as an undercorrection, irregular astigmatism, and flap folds or wrinkles. There is also the possibility of overcorrection or infections, although the occurrence is rare.

LASIK Results

LASIK has a very high success rate! Millions of people have had laser eye surgery and according to numerous surveys, from 92% to 98% are satisfied with their outcomes. 95% of patients report improved vision and 85% said their quality of life improved. It is estimated that about 5% to 10% of surgeries need an enhancement (further treatment). Although vision is usually clear the day following surgery, complete healing can take from six to twelve months during which time vision may fluctuate before stabilizing. Before undergoing LASIK surgery make sure you talk to your surgeon about expected results as satisfaction with the outcome is often due to realistic expectations.

External Resources

Eye Surgery Education Council

FDA Consumer Information

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