Once we have determined that you are a candidate for LASIK, you will have a preoperative appointment where we make the final plan for your procedure. If you wear soft contact lenses, they must be removed at least one week prior to this visit to allow your eye and cornea to return to its most natural shape. Rigid gas permeable contacts or other specialty contact lenses may have to be removed for an even longer period of time.
At the pre-op visit, we will take wavefront mapping scans of your eyes to determine your exact vision problems along with several other tests to measure the amount of correction you need. Your eyes will be dilated and a full eye exam will be performed. Once we have all of the information, your procedure could be as soon as the next day, or anytime over the next month.
The day of LASIK
It is important that you arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery. You will be offered a mild sedative to keep you comfortable but awake during the procedure. Dr. Porter is with you every step of the operation and will let you know as little or as much information as you desire to help ease any anxiety you may have. We use a safety device with your eyelids so you don’t have to worry about holding your eyes open or blinking.
We first treat the right eye, and then treat the left eye. The entire procedure lasts less than 30 minutes, and the laser will usually run for only less than one minute per eye. Most of the time of the procedure is used preparing for the laser and finishing after the laser treatment.
There is a target light to watch when the laser is running, which helps keep your eye aligned as much as possible. You don’t have to worry about any problems from your eye moving during the operation because the laser tracks your eye before every pulse of the laser, which occurs many times per second. LASIK is a safe and effective procedure, although with any operation there are always some risks.
You will want to rest during the day after your eye surgery. We expect your vision to be cloudy immediately afterwards, somewhat like looking through fog. This generally clears through the day of the procedure. Usually, our patients return to work the next day or two days after LASIK. Since the laser vision correction has been completed at the end of the procedure, most patients are amazed how far they can see as soon as they sit up.
You will be given antibiotic and steroid drops to help your eye heal. These drops can be started one to two hours after LASIK and you should wait at least five minutes between the drops to make sure that you do not wash out one drop with the next one.
Dr. Porter will examine you the day after surgery in the office to ensure that your eyes are healing well. If it is more convenient for you and if it is safe to do so, we can help coordinate follow up visits with your regular eye doctor afterwards. The next visit is usually one week later.
It is important that you do not rub your eyes or squeeze your eyelids for the first day and then the first week after LASIK since we do not want the flap to move. This is a rare occurrence since the flap is already holding itself in place at the end of surgery, but it gains strength over time. We will give you a shield to wear over your eyes while sleeping for the first week to help ensure that you don’t accidentally bump or rub your eyes.
During your LASIK recovery time, it is possible to experience some side effects as your eyes heal. If noticed, these side effects are usually short term and may not affect your day-to-day routine. The most common side effects are eye dryness, glare, night halos or starbursts, and slightly blurred vision. When they occur, they usually improve with time. Patients who are very bothered may prefer to reduce driving at night until the symptoms have eased.
LASIK vs PRK
LASIK and PRK are similar types of surgery in that both are known as refractive laser vision correction procedures. Refraction is the ability of something to change the direction of light. In your eyes, refraction is one of the primary functions of the cornea. If your cornea is not focusing light correctly on your retina, your vision can be impacted and require the use of glasses or contact lenses to see clearly. LASIK and PRK correct these refractive issues to improve the ability of the cornea to focus light.
Not everyone is a candidate for LASIK, especially if you have a thin or scarred cornea. If you are not a good candidate for LASIK, PRK may be an option for you. PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) was invented in the 1980s and was the first FDA approved procedure that used an excimer laser to reshape the cornea. LASIK evolved from this original procedure in the mid-1990s.
PRK differs from LASIK in that no corneal flap is created prior to the corneal reshaping. Instead, the surface layer of the cornea, the epithelium, is first removed. Then, the corneal tissue underneath, the corneal stroma, is reshaped. Patients will experience some discomfort for a few days afterward and may experience some visual fluctuations as the eye heals.
Long term outcomes for PRK are similar to LASIK and actually may be better suited for people who in engage in high impact sports or other activities that have a risk of eye injury.