For those who have experienced a lifetime of wearing glasses and contact lenses, refractive laser eye surgery such as LASIK may be a very appealing option. While LASIK may be the most commonly known and advertised method of refractive surgery, there are other options to consider. Read on for a simple, easy to understand guide on the different methods of vision correcting surgeries.
LASIK uses a laser or a blade to create a thin flap on the cornea. A laser is then used to reshape the deeper corneal tissue, which ultimately results in the correction of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. LASIK is the most common form of refractive laser eye surgery, and millions of people have undergone the procedure since the method was introduced. The procedure is short, painless, and generally very safe. Like any surgical procedure, there are some risks, mostly revolving around potential displacement of the corneal flap following surgery. The most common side effects are dryness and glare, though more serious complications can arise. The overwhelming majority of LASIK patients are happy with the results of their surgery. Before undergoing LASIK surgery, an eye care professional will have to determine if you are a good candidate for the surgery based on refractive error, corneal thickness, age, and a multitude of other health factors.
The predecessor to LASIK was PRK, which stands for photorefractive keratectomy. Like LASIK, PRK uses a laser to reshape the corneal tissue and correct refractive error. The main difference lies in the beginning of the surgery; in LASIK, a flap is formed and replaced following surgical reshaping, while in PRK the thin outer layer of the cornea is completely removed and discarded. This outermost corneal layer grows back within a few days. While PRK has a longer recovery time than LASIK, the outcome is essentially the same. PRK may also have decreased risks following surgery as there is no possibility of flap displacement. Like LASIK, an eye care professional will have to evaluate whether or not you are a good candidate for PRK.
LASIK and PRK are common laser surgery options to correct refractive error, but other options exist. Corneal implants known as Intacs can be used to treat low levels of nearsightedness, and has also proven to be an effective treatment of a corneal condition known as keratoconus. This surgery involves implanting a biocompatible lens into the cornea in order to reshape the front of the eye and correct vision, and like LASIK and PRK is a quick outpatient surgery with a low occurrence of side effects. A different surgical option is known as Refractive Lens Exchange, or RLE. Similar to cataract surgery, RLE involves replacing the crystalline lens which lies behind the iris with a specially designed lens to help correct vision. It is usually used for patients with presbyopia or farsightedness. Your optometrist can determine if you are an ideal candidate for Intacs or RLE.