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Statistics show that more than 20 million Americans who were living with myopia (i.e., nearsightedness or the inability to see objects in the distance), hyperopia (i.e., farsightedness or the inability to see nearby objects) and astigmatism (i.e., the inability to see objects at any distance clearly) have been able to do away with contact lenses and eyeglasses following laser eye surgery since 1991. This will undoubtedly be promising news to individuals currently living with visual impairments, but is laser eye surgery right for all of them? The aim of this article is to answer that question by describing what laser eye surgery is and how it can be beneficial to people living with astigmatism.

What is laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery is a procedure that either greatly diminishes or eliminates an individual’s need to wear contact lenses or eyeglasses in order to see clearly. After applying numbing agents via eye drops or injections to their patient’s eyes, ophthalmologists use cool laser pulses or cool pulses of light to correct the irregular shape of their corneas. This prevents “light scattering” or blurred vision resulting from astigmatism.

Two of the most popular procedures are laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) and Photo refractive keratectomy (PRK).

The LASIK method involves creating a tiny curtain-like incision on the outermost layer of the patient’s cornea via laser or blade. The flap of tissue is then lifted and a laser is used on the cornea to reshape it. Once the cornea has been reshaped, the curtain-like flap of tissue is smoothed over the cornea so that it can heal.

The PRK method involves completely removing the outermost layer of the cornea and then using a laser to reshape the cornea.

Is LASIK better than PRK or vice versa?

Not necessarily. Both procedures have their pros and cons. For example, individuals who opt for LASIK surgery usually require less recovery time than people who opt for PRK surgery because the outermost layer of the cornea is not removed. On the other hand, studies have shown that some people who undergo LASIK surgery have “flap-related complications” such as “dry eye syndrome.”

Does laser eye surgery cure all visual impairments?

Unfortunately, no. As of the date of this article, people living with visual impairments such as thin corneas, corneal scarring, autoimmune deficiencies, “keratoconus, ocular herpes, and diabetic retinopathy” may not be viable candidates for laser eye surgery. Medical professionals will be able to determine which procedures are most beneficial to their patients.

How long does the procedure take?

Laser eye surgery procedures can, on average, be completed in less than one hour. It is worth mentioning that the procedures may take more time based on the severity of an individual’s visual impairment.

Does it hurt?

Pain is subjective; however, a number of studies have shown that most individuals only experience mild and fleeting discomfort during the procedure.

How long is recovery time?

As is the case with all surgical procedures, recovery time varies from person to person. Some individuals may fully recover within 24 hours while it may take others longer than a week before they feel “normal” again. On average, most people who have laser eye surgery experience perfect or near perfect vision within two months.

How much does laser eye surgery cost?

Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question since no two people will have the same medical needs, health insurance plans or financing options. Prices will also vary according to an individual’s place of residence.

Does laser eye surgery have to be repeated?

Re-treatment may be necessary for some individuals. For example, representatives of the American Optometric Association (aoa.org) have stated that many individuals notice changes in their visual acuity “beginning in the early to mid-40s.” In addition to aging, hormonal changes due to pregnancy, perimenopause or menopause and other issues are other reasons why additional procedures may be necessary in the future.

In conclusion, laser eye surgery has many benefits, but it also has some drawbacks. This is why it is imperative that individuals who are interested in this form of corrective surgery take it upon themselves to do additional research and carefully weigh the pros and cons of each procedure before making a final decision.

References

Number of LASIK surgeries in the United States 2020 | Statistic. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/271478/number-of-lasik-surgeries-in-the-us/

What Will Disqualify Patients From Being Candidates | QualSight LASIK. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.qualsight.com/what-will-disqualify-patients-being-candidates-lasik-surgery

Adult Vision: 41 to 60 Years of Age. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/good-vision-throughout-life/adult-vision-19-to-40-years-of-age/adult-vision-41-to-60-years-of-age?sso=y

Kohnen, T., & O’hEineachain, R. (n.d.). PRK vs LASIK: an evolving debate. Retrieved from http://www.escrs.org/publications/eurotimes/08julyaug/prkvslasik.pdf