What is LASIK?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) is a type of refractive surgery used to treat common vision problems such as astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness. It is also called laser eye surgery, in a reference to the device used to perform the surgery. The voluntary procedure is usually undertaken out of a desire to stop wearing glasses and contacts, and the success rate varies depending on the skill of the surgeon and the patient.

There are several steps to the LASIK procedure. In the first, the patient is evaluated to determine whether or not he or she is a good candidate. If the patient is a good fit, a number of tests are performed to determine that the eyes are healthy and in good condition. In addition, the surgeon decides how much correction each eye needs, and the patient is informed of the risks of LASIK.

On the day of the LASIK surgery, the patient is given a series of eye drops to numb the eye, reduce the risk of infection, and cut down on inflammation. The patient reclines on a table, and the surgeon first cuts a flap in the upper layer of the cornea, moving it aside for the duration of the surgery. Next, a laser is focused on the middle section of the cornea, and it reshapes it with a series of brief pulses. This reshaping is called ablation.


After the ablation is complete, the corneal flap is resettled on the eye, and the surgeon checks for wrinkles and debris. The patient usually notices an immediate vision difference, and the surgeon will provide aftercare recommendations to promote healing. The cornea is one of the fastest healing part of the body, so the healing process is often brief.

In another type of laser surgery, Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK), the upper surface of the cornea is actually removed and discarded. This area of the eye will regenerate after the surgery, forming a fresh layer of cells to replace the removed portion. PRK is associated with more post-operative pain, but the patient does not run the risk of dislocating the corneal flap, a known problem with LASIK. This procedure may also be called Advanced Surface Ablation (ASA).

Eye surgery is a serious choice, and patients should not take it on lightly. Finding a good ophthalmologist is crucial, and patients should make sure that they are informed about the potential risks of the procedure, which can include everything from burst blood vessels to loss of vision. As is the case with all medical procedures, LASIK is constantly improving, but it will never be entirely risk free.


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