Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgery is the most common laser vision correction procedure. It can improve vision and reduce reliance on glasses and contact lenses for people with nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
“LASIK surgery is a safe and effective procedure that corrects vision to mimic your glasses or contact prescription. Since LASIK surgery restores vision for one distance, most people still need corrective glasses for reading or nighttime driving as they age,” says Lily Van Laere, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Henry Ford Health.
What Conditions Does LASIK Surgery Treat?
Vision problems that cause blurriness happen when the cornea (which lets light into your eye) is misshapen. The result is that light doesn’t focus properly on the retina, the part of your eye that forms images. These vision problems include:
- Nearsightedness (myopia) occurs when the cornea has a sharper curve, reflecting light to the front of the retina. As a result, your near vision is better than your distance vision.
- Farsightedness (hyperopia) results from a flatter cornea, which reflects light behind the retina rather than directly on it. With this condition, people have difficulty seeing objects nearby, but distance vision is clear.
- Astigmatism happens when the cornea’s surface is uneven, causing blurry vision for images near and far away.
Glasses and contacts treat these conditions by bending (refracting) light and focusing it properly on the retina. With LASIK surgery, an ophthalmologist reshapes the cornea to duplicate your glasses or contact prescription.
There are two types of LASIK procedures:
- Standard LASIK surgery: This procedure is used for people with moderate nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. With this approach, the doctor manually programs the laser to reshape the cornea during surgery.
- Customized LASIK surgery: People with stronger refraction corrections or other imperfections on their cornea may need custom LASIK. The doctor uses image-guided technology to map the cornea. The laser then uses that information to reshape the cornea.
LASIK surgery does not prevent age-related changes to the eyes. So you may still need to wear glasses for reading or driving at night.
What Are The Benefits And Risks Of LASIK Surgery?
“The main benefit of LASIK surgery is having good vision with less dependence on glasses and contacts,” says Dr. Van Laere. “While it doesn’t restore everyone’s vision to 20/20, it does improve your vision to the level of your eye prescription.”
The most common side effect after LASIK surgery is dry eyes, which improve over time. Other complications are rare but may include:
- Ectasia (thinning of the cornea)
- Over- or under-correction of vision
Who Is A Good Candidate For LASIK Surgery?
An ophthalmologist can assess your eye health and determine if LASIK surgery is a treatment option for you. Before your evaluation, the doctor will tell you when to stop wearing contacts so your cornea can return to its natural shape.
During your appointment, an ophthalmologist will:
- Ask about your medical history
- Do a refraction exam to identify the amount of correction needed to improve your vision
- Perform a thorough eye exam
- Map the surface of the cornea with computer-aided imaging
If you have stable vision and good overall eye health, you may be a candidate for LASIK surgery. The procedure is not recommended for individuals who have:
- Other eye conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma
- Conditions affecting your immune system that may prevent proper healing or increase your risk of infection
- Uncontrolled diabetes
“Even if you’re not a candidate for LASIK surgery, other procedures may improve your vision. Talk with your doctor about treatment options that may be right for you,” says Dr. Van Laere.
LASIK Surgery: How It Works
LASIK surgery is an outpatient procedure performed at a hospital or clinic. Just as you did prior to your evaluation, you’ll be asked to stop wearing contacts before LASIK surgery so your cornea returns to its natural shape.
You’ll be given medication to help you relax and be awake during LASIK surgery, which lasts about 20 minutes. The ophthalmologist will use computer-guided laser light to reshape your cornea to match your corrective prescription.
Most patients go home, rest and recover. You may experience some irritation or dry eyes immediately after the procedure. These symptoms improve over time.
Most people experience improved vision and return to work the day after surgery. It may take several weeks before your vision reaches its best level.
Reviewed by Dr. Lily Van Laere, an ophthalmologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center - Royal Oak and Henry Ford OptimEyes Super Vision Center - Southfield.