Laser eye surgery to treat either refractive problems of the eye or to treat conditions such as cataracts are a great improvement over more traditional types of eye surgery. When performed by a skilled surgeon, laser surgery reduces the risk of infection and damage to structures in the eye. Some types of laser surgery are at least partially computer controlled, which makes these operations even more accurate. Here are some types of laser eye surgery:
Refractive Laser Eye Surgery
With what’s called 20/20 vision, the light falls through the eye and focuses directly on the retina at the back part of the eye. In nearsightedness, the light focuses just short of the retina, and in farsightedness, the light focuses past the retina. Astigmatism is usually caused by irregularities in the patient’s cornea. These are called refractive errors.
Refractive laser eye surgery is performed to correct nearsightedness, astigmatism or farsightedness. It basically reshapes the cornea, the clear area in the front of the eye or the tissue underneath the cornea.
One of the most popular types of refractive laser eye surgery is LASIK, also called laser in-situ keratomileusis. It is used to correct all three of the conditions cited above. It is different from some other laser eye surgeries because the surgeon makes a tiny flap in the cornea to access the tissue beneath it. The LASIK surgeon can also be guided by computer imaging.
In a variation called Epi-LASIK, the doctor uses alcohol to loosen a layer of tissue from the cornea and then uses a laser to resculpt it. The surgeon then places a contact lens over the flap to protect it as it heals.
During LASEK, or laser epithelial keratomileusis, the surgeon also creates a flap, again by loosening the eye tissue with alcohol. The tissue beneath is treated and then the patient is fitted with a special contact lens while the flap heals. Epi-LASEK is very much like Epi-lASIK
Photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK uses a laser to correct vision but doesn’t treat the tissue beneath the cornea. It only reshapes the outer part of the cornea itself.
PRELEX is used to treat presbyopia. This is the farsightedness of older age and is caused when the eye becomes less flexible than it was when the patient was younger. The doctor removes the patient’s natural lens and replaces it with an artificial lens.
In refractive lens exchange, or RLE, the surgeon makes an incision at the edge of the cornea, removes the natural lens and replaces it with a lens made of plastic or silicone. This treatment is for people who are nearsighted or severely farsighted. It is a good option for people who have problems with their corneas or dry eyes. RLE surgery is very much like cataract surgery.
Laser Cataract Surgery
This is one of the most common laser eye surgeries. The doctor uses a three dimensional image of the eye called optical coherence tomography to make the surgery as accurate and safe as possible. The surgery itself is performed with a precise femtosecond laser.
Laser eye surgery represents a great improvement over traditional eye surgery. It is safer and more predictable than ever and often allows patients to see the world with even more clarity than before.