Since laser eye surgery was introduced in the nineties, millions of Americans have undergone some type of laser vision correction. LASIK and PRK are the most common and most popular types, but there are other surgeries available to patients looking to correct their vision without glasses or contacts. Whether you have nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, there are various laser eye surgery procedures that might be the right fit for your eye care needs.
LASIK is often the first surgery that comes to mind when people think of laser eye surgery. The process of the surgery is relatively simple. First, your surgeon will create a flap from your cornea with an excimer laser. Then, a computer-guided laser is used to shape your eye to correct your vision. Finally, the corneal flap is folded back into place for healing. Healing is usually faster for LASIK than other procedures like PRK, with some patients being able to return to work the next day.
LASIK is an option for patients with myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. For myopia and hyperopia, vision is corrected by altering the steepness of the cornea. In astigmatism correction, the curve of the cornea is smoothed to correct irregularities and your vision.
Side effects include dry eye, blurry vision, halos, and light sensitively, although these symptoms usually go away over time. Most patients are fully healed in a matter of months and achieve vision correction between 20/20 and 20/40.
Wavefront-guided LASIK is the same procedure as LASIK, except wavefront data is used to guide the laser. Wavefront technology creates a 3D map of your eye, allowing the laser to correct even minor details in the shape of your cornea.
Some side effects can be reduced compared to traditional LASIK, such as improved night vision and contrast sensitivity. Wavefront-guided LASIK also has a higher percentage of patients who end up with 20/20 vision after surgery.
PRK was introduced a few years before LASIK and follows a similar process, except for the cornea flap. Instead of a corneal flap, the outer layer of the cornea is removed using a blade, laser, brush, or alcohol solution. Then, a computer-guided laser is used to remove a predetermined amount of tissue from the cornea in order to correct your vision.
Once the surgery is complete, your surgeon will place a clear lens-like bandage on your eye, similar to a contact lens, for healing. Your eyes may be painful, irritated or itchy for 3 to 4 days after surgery and it usually takes about a week for your eyes to recover.
PRK can be used to correct myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. Compared to LASIK, PRK may be a better option for patients with thin corneas, dry eyes, or those with an active lifestyle. Because there is no corneal flap involved, there is no potential to dislodge the flap if you are an active person or have a high-activity job.
The main difference between LASIK and LASEK with an “E” is the corneal flap. In LASEK, the hinged flap is made in the epithelial layer of the eye, not the cornea. As a result, the flap created is much thinner, making LASEK a potential option for those with thin corneas.
After the epithelial flap is created, the procedure is very similar to LASIK. A laser is used to correct the refractive error and then the flap is put back in place. Healing usually takes at least 4 days and there is less risk of flap-related complications associated with LASIK. That said, healing for this method often takes a bit longer than other methods like PRK.
Some types of laser surgery can correct cataracts, in addition to refractive errors. During RLE and PRELEX, an artificial lens is inserted into the eye, making this procedure effective for correcting cataracts, presbyopia, and extreme myopia and hyperopia.
First, a surgeon makes an incision in the cornea. For patients with cataracts, a laser is used to break up the cataract. Then, a prosthetic lens is inserted according to the patient’s needs.
If the surgery is correcting cataracts, a clear lens is inserted. For myopia and hyperopia, a lens with the appropriate correction is inserted. RLE and PRELEX are the only surgeries that can correct presbyopia by inserting a multifocal lens.
RLE and PRELEX are not recommended if you are a candidate for LASIK or PRK, as this procedure carries more risk from the artificial lens. Risks include infection, bleeding, increased eye pressure, and retinal detachment.
For cataract patients, there is a risk of burn from the laser, which could cause astigmatism. Aside from that, many of the side effects are similar to most other laser eye procedures and include itchiness, blurred vision, halos, and glare.
If any of these procedures sound like they might be the right choice for you, the first step is to schedule a laser eye surgery consultation. We offer laser eye surgery consultations to thoroughly examine your eyes and determine what the best surgery option is for you.
Your options aren’t limited to glasses or contacts– book your appointment today to start seeing clearly without the fuss of corrective lenses.