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January 12, 2021

Considering laser eye surgery? Here’s what you need to know

Adult Health Vision

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If you’ve spent much of your life wrestling with contact lenses or wearing glasses, the appeal of corrective laser eye surgery is obvious: imagine waking up each day and seeing the world with clear, uncorrected vision! If you want 20/20 vision, laser eye surgery is worth looking into — but like any health procedure, there are risks and benefits.

Laser eye surgery basics

Corrective laser surgery reshapes the cornea to achieve better vision. The cornea is the clear lens that focuses light as it enters your eye. When it is not shaped correctly or has other errors, it changes the way light lands on your retina, and in turn, the quality of your vision. Laser eye surgery reshapes the cornea to change its focusing power.

You may know laser surgery under the name LASIK, which stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It’s only one type of laser eye surgery, but it is the most common. Not all LASIK surgeries result in 20/20 vision, but it can usually reduce some need for corrective lenses.

Who can get laser eye surgery?

Just because you wear eyeglasses or contacts doesn’t mean you are a good candidate for laser eye surgery. The most important criterion is that your vision is no longer changing: you should be 18 years of age or older (ideally over 21) and without any changes in your eye prescription for at least a year. You need to be in good eye health, with thick corneas, and a refractive error that’s correctable. People with cataracts, extreme myopia or astigmatism, or damage to their corneas can’t benefit from laser surgery.

Ultimately, you need to discuss laser surgery with your ophthalmologist and agree on expectations for the surgery.

Basics for the procedure

If you and your ophthalmologist agree that you’re a good fit for laser surgery, the procedure itself is pretty straightforward. Well in advance, you’ll undergo a physical exam to test your vision, check for other eye problems, and measure both your cornea and your pupil. These precise measurements — including a detailed map of your cornea — are used to program the computer that controls the laser during surgery.

Laser surgery itself is an outpatient procedure that is generally pretty quick. Your ophthalmologist will prepare your eye for surgery with numbing drops and eyelid holders. At that point, you stare into the light while your surgeon uses a laser to quickly reshape the cornea. Overall, the surgery only takes a few minutes.

Risks of laser eye surgery

Although laser eye surgery is very safe, every medical procedure has risks. The vast majority of side effects are temporary: expect dry eyes and changing vision after the surgery. It’s possible, though, that other side effects such as discomfort, blurred vision, light sensitivity and scratchy eye, could persist for some time. And there’s a small chance that blindness or worse vision could result from the surgery.

Overall, laser eye surgery is generally a safe option for adults who don’t enjoy wearing glasses or contact lenses and want an alternative that better aligns with their lifestyle. If you fit the basic criteria and think it’s a fit for you, let your ophthalmologist know.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

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