Laser eye surgery is a medical procedure consisting of the use of laser for reshaping the surface of the cornea. It is used to improve shortsightedness, long sightedness or astigmatism. The first information on laser eye surgery dates back from over twenty years ago, and the FDA approved excimer laser eye surgery in 1995.
During laser eye surgery, an excimer laser, controlled by a computer is used to remove tiny amounts of corneal tissue. The aim of the procedure is to restore normal vision, eliminating the need for glasses or contacts. Although laser surgery has risen in popularity in the past few years, only about 20% of ophthalmologists have been trained to use it.
In one type of laser eye surgery, the outer layer of the cornea, also called epithelium, is removed and an excimer laser is used to reshape underneath tissue. This procedure is called photorefractive keratectomy (PRK).
In a newer procedure, a microkeratome is used to cut a flap in the corneal tissue, which is then lifted and an excimer laser is used to reshape underlying tissue. In the end, the flap is put back to its place. This type of laser eye surgery is called laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK). Nowadays, it is more commonly used than PRK.
What Happens During Laser Eye Surgery Procedure
The surgery should take less than 30 minutes. You will lie on your back, reclining in a chair, or on a table. You may be given a sedative before the procedure, to help you relax.
Local anesthetic eye drops are used before the surgery. The procedure takes a few minutes per eye. The actual time when the laser is used for reshaping the corneal tissue is generally less than a minute. An instrument called a lid speculum will be used to hold your eyelids open. A ring is placed on your eye, and the cutting instrument is attached to the ring. A microkeratome, the cutting instrument, is used to cut a flap in your cornea. A laser is positioned over your eye, and you will be asked to stare at the light. This light is to help you keep your eye fixed in one spot when the laser comes on.
Once your eye is in the correct position, the doctor will turn the laser on. Pulses of laser energy vaporize the corneal tissue, and then the flap is placed back into position
You will need to wear an eye shield for protection after the procedure. This will prevent you from rubbing your eyes, and protect your eye from being accidentally hit or poked until the flap has healed.
After laser eye surgery, you should expect some minor discomfort. However, you should be able to see, although not very clearly. You won’t be able to drive on your own, so you need to have someone drive you home or take a cab. You should see your doctor within the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery, and then at regular intervals for about six months. You will have to wait for up to two weeks before using make-up, creams or lotions, to prevent infection or irritation. You should also avoid swimming and hot tubs for about 6 weeks.
Although you should see well the day after surgery, your vision will continue to improve over the next several months. As the eye heals, your vision will continue to improve. It is important to keep all your follow-up appointments with your doctor, to make sure that everything is going according to plan.