Widely regarded as one of the safest of all medical procedures, LASIK is a modern medical miracle. For millions of people condemned to wearing contacts and glasses, LASIK spells freedom and crystal clear 20/20 vision or better. LASIK addresses the cause of poor vision by using cool lasers to correct the irregularities of the cornea.
Recently NASA approved the use of advanced all-laser LASIK as safe and reliable enough for astronauts, and the US Navy has also recently specified advanced all-laser LASIK for its fighter pilots. These two official recognitions of the safety and reliability of LASIK are very reassuring for anyone who may have been hesitant in the past about having LASIK.
How LASIK Works
There are three main parts to the human eye: the cornea, the lens, and the retina. In normal vision, the cornea refracts (bends) light so it can be directed correctly through the lens and onto the retina.
Vision problems are usually the result of disorders or irregularities of the shape of the cornea.
LASIK solves these problems by using cool lasers to reshape the curve of the cornea so you can have normal, clear, vision.
What Vision Problems Can LASIK Solve?
Astigmatism is the inability to focus clearly at any distance because the cornea is shaped more like a football than a basketball. LASIK corrects this oval shape, making the cornea more round and achieving clear vision.
Nearsighted people see close objects clearly but not distant objects. In Nearsightedness the curve of the cornea is too steep, and images are focused in front of the retina. LASIK corrects this condition by flattening the curve of the cornea.
Farsighted people see distant objects clearly, but all other objects are blurred. In Farsightedness the shape of the cornea is too flat, and light rays are focused behind the retina. LASIK corrects this condition by shaping the cornea so that it focuses correctly.
Sometime between age 40 and 50, the typical person will begin to need reading glasses whether they have had LASIK or not. This condition is called Presbyopia: the loss of the ability to see up close due to birthdays. This need for reading glasses can often be greatly reduced through a special LASIK technique known as monovision that has successfully given thousands of patients the ability to see both close up and far away.
Three Steps To 20/20 Vision
- The first step of a LASIK procedure is the creation of the corneal flap, which is a thin segment of the outer layer of the cornea. This step can be perfomed with an instrument called a microkeratome, or with a special laser called the IntraLase laser.
- Next, a different laser is used to re-shape the underlying corneal tissue to correct any irregularities. This step in Custom LASIK, is based on an individual 3D map taken of the eye, so the most precise corrections are possible.
- Finally, the flap is folded back into place where it bonds quickly. Healing is rapid and most people can return to work the next day.
How Long Does LASIK Take? Will It Hurt?
The actual LASIK procedure takes minutes per eye. You can expect to feel no pain at all, and perhaps just the slightest sensation of pressure. Inserting or removing contact lenses or just rubbing tired eyes from wearing glasses produces more discomfort than an LASIK procedure.
What Is Blade-FREE LASIK?
The use of a laser instead of the microkeratome blade is what is meant by 'bladeless', 'blade free' or 'all-laser' LASIK. In the 'bladeless' technique, a laser forms a series of bubbles to create the flap. All-laser LASIK is the newest evolution for this flap-creation step but a surgeon will occasionally use the microkeratome method depending on technical considerations for a particular set of eyes.
IntaralaseIntralase is one name you have probably heard, for good reason. Intralase was the first laser approved by the FDA to replace the microkeratome blade for the first step of LASIK.
Which Technology Solves Night Vision Problems?
In the earliest days of laser vision correction, some patients reported halos and 'starring' after their procedures, specially when driving at night.
Today's more advanced lasers have dealt very authoritatively with these issues. In FDA clinical trials of the VisX Wavefront laser, large pupil patients noticed an improvement in their night vision quality , with more than 98 percent of participants seeing 20/20 or better.