The FDA first approved LASIK over two decades ago, in 1999. Since then, about ten million Americans have had their vision permanently enhanced thanks to this procedure.
Its name is still the first that comes to mind when considering laser eye surgery for most people. The popularity and staying power of LASIK are understandable when you look at the numbers and effects.
LASIK permanently corrects nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. It has a high rate of patient satisfaction, with over ninety-six percent happy with their result.
The procedure also happens to be fast, with a minimal recovery period afterward. Keep reading to learn more about LASIK and what happens during the LASIK procedure!
What Does LASIK Fix, Exactly?
LASIK corrects refractive errors where they begin: at the cornea. The cornea is the thin dome of tissue at the front of your eye covering the pupil and iris.
The cornea is more than just a protective barrier. Its curved shape focuses the light passing through it.
The focused light goes through the lens inside the eye, being further focused onto the retina. The retina senses the light with special cells and feeds the information to the brain in an instant.
When it comes to focusing power, the cornea does most of the heavy lifting. That’s why when the curvature of the cornea is wrong, it can cause a variety of visual symptoms, including blurry vision.
A refractive error occurs when the light isn’t being focused on the retina correctly. This is usually due to the cornea being shaped irregularly or the eye being too short or too long.
For example, nearsightedness is caused when the light gets focused too soon in front of the retina. That is what happens if the cornea or eye is too long or cylindrical.
If the cornea is flat, the opposite happens. The light entering the eye comes into focus behind the retina, resulting in farsightedness.
Astigmatism is slightly unique. The curvature of the cornea is uneven, like an egg.
This makes the light focus on several points inside the eye. Most people have astigmatism to some degree, although it might not be noticeable.
How Does the Surgeon Change My Cornea with LASIK?
The changes LASIK makes to your cornea are very subtle. The goal is simply to alter it enough to correct your refractive error.
Modern LASIK is done using scanning technology to create a virtual map of the surface of your cornea. Everyone’s cornea is a little bit different, so using software customizes the surgery to your vision needs.
Another thing to know about the cornea is that it actually has layers. The two layers that are important for LASIK are the top layer and the middle layer.
LASIK alters the shape of the middle layer of the cornea, which is the thickest. To get to the middle layer, the surgeon needs to create a flap in the thin top layer. These two steps are done with two separate lasers.
This tiny, thin flap of tissue is very important. After the tissue has been removed from the center layer of the cornea, the flap is folded back over.
Once folded over, your LASIK surgeon is able to correct the middle layer of your cornea for your refractive error. Then, the flap is replaced and essentially creates a natural bandage.
This tissue quickly reattaches to the rest of the cornea. That means there’s no need for stitches, and recovery time is minimized.
What Is Recovery From LASIK Like?
Technically, it can take between three to six months to fully heal from LASIK. However, you won’t be trapped in your bed for months on end.
Recovering from LASIK is progressive, so you will be able to quickly get back to your normal routine and add more as your eyes gain strength. Immediately after surgery, you should focus on resting.
Your eyes will be the most vulnerable at this time. Sleep is an important part of recovering, so don’t be afraid to take extra naps.
Just be sure to wear the eye shields given to you, so you don’t rub your eyes by accident. Above all, do not do anything remotely strenuous. Even bending over incorrectly can damage the corneal flap at this stage.
You should be able to return to light activity and work that is not physically demanding within a day or two after the surgery. Symptoms from the surgery should be going away at this point, and your eyes will get stronger.
Do not touch your eyes or eyelids for at least a week. After a week or two, you can begin exercising again. This does not include anything high-risk like contact sports.
Continue to avoid water as much as possible, and don’t swim until your eye doctor clears you. Don’t forget that your eye doctor will be with you before, during, and after the procedure.
Ask questions and voice concerns whenever they come up.
Do you want to learn if you may be a candidate for LASIK? Schedule a LASIK consultation at Westlake Eye Specialists in Austin, TX, today!