Laser eye surgery is the most popular elective surgical procedure in the United States , with more than a million people having the operation each year. With demand comes competition and it's worth having a good look around before deciding which of the myriad clinics and surgeons best caters for your individual needs. Educate yourself thoroughly beforehand and find an experienced surgeon who you trust. Laser eye surgery is still an experimental medical procedure and new methods of operating on the eye are being developed all the time, advances in laser technology mean procedures are constantly being refined.
Eye care specialists had long been aware of the limitations of glasses and contact lenses, but it wasn't until the mid 1980s that a workable alternative was found. Advances in laser technology suddenly allowed precise and minute shaping of the corneal tissue; which could be used to correct visual defects. The first type of laser eye surgery was given the acronym PRK and worked by surgically removing the outer layer of the cornea (the epithelium) and using the laser on the underlying tissue. However, PRK had its limitations: recovery was painful and it often took months for full vision to be attained. Nevertheless many patients were pleased with the results.
LASEK was the next method developed. The epithelium was only partially removed before the corneal tissue beneath was re-shaped and so recovery was quicker and less painful. The most recent method, LASIK, sees surgeons cutting a small flap into the eye that allows them to laser the tissue beneath. After the operation the flap is re-folded and recovery is very rapid. On the downside LASIK involves removing a greater amount of corneal tissue, which means that any complications can be more profound.
Laser eye surgery enjoys a high success rate, but failure reported in about one percent of procedures. Hence, if you have both eyes done that's a two percent chance. However, reliable statistics are difficult to come by so it's a good idea to seek independent information. It's also worth noting that even successful operations can have side-effects such as impaired night vision, halo effects and ghosting. Laser eye surgery has come a long way in a very short period of time, but it still isn't suitable for everyone. Patients with large pupils, thin corneas and a variety of medical conditions will be advised to avoid the procedure.
Overall the chances for a positive outcome are good but surgery always carries an element of risk.
LASIK is the term used to describe the latest surgical procedure to correct visual problems using laser technology. LASIK grew out of earlier procedures that also use excimer lasers to re-sculpt the cornea, but has the advantage of being less painful and having a substantially quicker recovery time (days instead of months).
The eye care specialists behind LASIK realised that previous surgical techniques (notably PRK and LASEK) were causing too much trauma to the cornea. They figured that if the cornea could be left intact, rather than being fully or partially removed, the number of potential complications would plummet. They developed an innovative surgical technique whereby thin-hinged flap is cut in the cornea and lifted back with the help of a specialised instrument called a microkeratome . This then exposes the middle of the cornea (known technically as the stroma ), which can be reshaped using the laser. The flap is then folded back over the cornea.
LASIK received the official thumbs up by the FDA in America in 1998 and has become the most popular type of laser eye surgery. In fact, there are now so many surgeons and clinics offering the procedure that it's often difficult knowing where to begin. However, there are a number of factors to watch out for:
Firstly make sure that your initial consultation and examination is thorough. LASIK laser eye surgery isn't appropriate for everyone and people with large pupils or thin corneas and may be advised against the procedure. LASIK is an out-patient procedure but should be carried out in clinical conditions by a trained surgeon. Do not hesitate to ask for data on the success rate of the surgeon and statistics on the likelihood of post operative complications. Finally make sure that the clinic offers a good level of aftercare.
Generally LASIK enjoys a high level of success. Failure rates are recorded at about one percent per eye. However, there may be additional complications affecting your vision which are not "counted' as failures. For example: your vision may be recorded as 20/20, but you could experience such visual disturbances as "ghosting' or "haloing'. The patient and surgeon may have different ideas of what "success' means and unreasonable expectations could cause disappointment.
LASIK is still a relatively new medical procedure which is constantly being developed to ensure ever better results.
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