If you’re a fan of the radio you’ve likely heard your fair share of advertisements touting the incredible effectiveness of laser refractive surgery. Generally referred to by its most popular variation, LASIK, laser refractive surgery is a popular (and increasingly so) method of correcting the common refractive errors that impair vision (hyperopia, myopia, and astigmatism).
While LASIK may be the version you hear about on the radio all the time, it’s just one of several variations of the surgery.
All versions of laser refractive surgery use a powerful laser to reshape the corneal tissue in order to correct the refractive error. Each variation is a different process used to achieve the same goal. In all versions of laser refractive surgery, your eye and surrounding tissues are numbed in order to ensure maximum comfort during and after the surgery.
Surgery generally lasts for around two hours, with approximately 20 minutes being actual surgery and the remainder being pre/post-operative preparation and care. Recovery is generally quite rapid, with most people enjoying clearer vision and being free of complications within a few days to a couple of weeks post-surgery.
The most popular version of laser refractive surgery, LASIK, uses a keratome (either a laser keratome or a microkeratome) to incise a small flap into the thin layer of cells on top of your cornea. This flap is peeled back, exposing the cornea underneath, and the laser is used to reshape the area.
This version of the surgery has the shortest recovery period (by a few days to a week), with most patients enjoying significantly improved vision in as little as one day post-surgery.
In this version of refractive surgery, no flap is created (unlike LASIK), avoiding potential complications associated with the skin flap. Instead of a “flap” being created, the entire cellular area is removed, preserved during surgery, and reconnected upon completion.
Compared to LASIK, recovery generally takes about a week longer. It is also considered to be more uncomfortable than LASIK, though that is relative as both versions of refractive surgery cause minimal discomfort overall.
The original variant of laser refractive surgery, PRK differs from the more-popular LASIK version in one key area: instead of creating a flap made up of corneal epithelial cells, the entire flap is simply removed. The epithelial layer will regrow in a few days to a week.
This version of the surgery is ideal for people that have thin corneas or other complications that make LASIK unattractive.
In most cases, laser refractive surgery involves minimal complications. However, some side effects are known. They include:
Side effects are fairly uncommon and are generally resolved quickly.