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The surgical procedure LASIK, which stands for "Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis," is popular and widely used to treat refractive vision issues, especially myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. LASIK surgery aims to enhance a patient's vision by reshaping the cornea (the transparent front portion of the eye) to help the light that enters the eye focus on the retina (situated behind the eye).
The LASIK procedure has revolutionised the field of ophthalmology and is now a common procedure for people who want to minimise or eliminate their need for glasses or contact lenses. The procedure typically takes little time, is not too painful, and has a high success rate.
The Procedure of LASIK Surgery:
- Preoperative Exam: Before LASIK surgery, you will have a thorough eye exam to evaluate your overall eye health and establish your eligibility for the procedure. Variables like corneal thickness, refractive error, and general eye health are assessed during this examination.
- Anaesthesia: To ensure comfort during the procedure, numbing eye drops will be used on your eyes before the surgery starts. You may occasionally receive a mild sedative to aid in relaxation.
- Corneal Flap Creation: The first stage of the procedure involves the creation of a tiny, hinged flap on the cornea's outer layer by the surgeon using a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser. Alternatively, some current LASIK procedures (bladeless LASIK) only use a laser to create the flap.
- Corneal Reshaping: An excimer laser is used to reshape the corneal tissue after the corneal flap has been made and gently lifted. The laser reshapes the cornea according to your unique refractive error by removing minute amounts of tissue with a tightly focused ultraviolet light beam.
- The cornea is flattened to treat myopia.
- The cornea is made steeper to treat hyperopia.
- The cornea is reshaped to be more symmetrical to treat astigmatism.
- Flap Replacement: After reshaping the cornea, the surgeon carefully places the corneal flap in its original location, where it naturally adheres without stitches.
- Postoperative Care: You will be given a protective shield to wear over your eyes to prevent unintentional rubbing after the procedure and will have to be on rest. Never miss your follow-up appointments to track recovery.
LASIK Surgery Side Effects
LASIK surgery is safe and effective for correcting vision. Several patients report improved vision without experiencing severe side effects. However, just like any surgical procedure, there are LASIK surgery side effects and risks. The following are some typical risks LASIK post surgery side effects:
1. Dry Eyes: Temporary eye dryness and discomfort are among LASIK's most frequent side effects. This happens due to the surgery's potential to temporarily disrupt the nerve endings in the cornea that are important for producing tears. Most people experience dry eyes for a few days to weeks after LASIK, but it could last longer in rare circumstances.
2. Glare, Halos, and Starbursts: Some patients, particularly at night, may experience visual disturbances like glare, halos, or starbursts around lights. The majority of the time, these side effects subside as the eyes heal, but they can occasionally last longer.
3. Under-correction or Overcorrection: In some circumstances, the desired vision correction may not be attainable, resulting in either under-correction (which causes residual myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism) or over-correction (which causes hyperopia). You may require to start wearing glasses or contact lenses to help your vision further.
4. Visual Fluctuations: During the healing process, vision changes frequently. You might go through phases of clear vision followed by haze or blurriness. Usually, as the eyes continue to heal, this stabilises.
5. Infection: Although it is unlikely, getting an infection after LASIK surgery is possible. To lower this risk, surgeons take preventative measures, and patients are given antibiotic eye drops to lessen the possibility of infection.
6. Corneal Ectasia: It is a severe but infrequent complication in which the cornea weakens and thins. It can often result in a bulging and distorted cornea that may lead to severe vision issues. Hence, requiring corneal transplantation.
LASIK Surgery Complications:
Here are some situations that can occur with LASIK surgery complications:
1. Corneal Haze: In some cases, the cornea may develop a haze or cloudiness, reducing visual clarity. Corneal haze can result from an abnormal healing response to the surgery.
2. Corneal Abrasion: During the creation of the corneal flap or the reshaping process, a corneal abrasion, a scratch on the corneal surface, may occur. While most heal without lasting consequences, severe abrasions cause discomfort and infection.
3. Irregular Astigmatism: The cornea may become irregularly shaped after LASIK, resulting in astigmatism. This can lead to distorted or blurry vision.
4. Epithelial Basement Membrane Dystrophy (EBMD): Individuals with this pre-existing condition may experience exacerbated symptoms after LASIK. EBMD can cause discomfort, vision fluctuations, and difficulty with contact lens wear.
5. Debris Under the Flap: Occasionally, small debris or cells can get trapped under the corneal flap during surgery, causing discomfort or visual disturbances.
6. Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD): In some cases, LASIK can induce PVD, causing the gel-like substance in the eye to separate from the retina. PVD can lead to floaters or flashes of light in the vision.
7. Keratoconus Progression: LASIK is not recommended for individuals with keratoconus, as it may worsen the condition, a degenerative disorder where the cornea thins and bulges.
8. Retinal Detachment: Although rare, retinal detachment can be a severe complication after LASIK. This condition requires immediate medical attention.
9. Higher-Order Aberrations: LASIK can sometimes induce higher-order aberrations in the eye, leading to visual disturbances like halos, double vision, or glare.
When Should You See a Doctor?
Here are some general guidelines for when you should see a doctor after LASIK surgery:
- Postoperative Appointments: Your ophthalmologist will schedule several postoperative appointments to monitor your healing progress and evaluate the surgery results. These appointments are typically scheduled within 24 to 48 hours after surgery, followed by additional visits in the coming weeks and months. Attend all scheduled appointments as advised by your doctor.
- Unusual Pain or Discomfort: Some degree of discomfort or mild pain is normal in the first few days after LASIK surgery. However, if you experience severe or persistent pain even after taking prescribed medications, contact your doctor immediately.
- Significant Vision Changes: While some fluctuations in vision are expected during the initial healing period, sudden and significant changes in vision, especially if accompanied by pain or redness, should be promptly evaluated by your ophthalmologist.
- Persistent Dry Eyes: Dry eyes are a common side effect after LASIK, but if the symptoms persist or worsen over time, or if you develop eye redness or discharge, seek medical attention.
- Excessive Tearing: If you experience excessive tearing (epiphora) after LASIK that doesn't improve within a reasonable timeframe, consult your doctor.
- Signs of Infection: Redness, swelling, increased pain, or pus-like discharge from the eyes could be signs of infection. In case of infection, contact your doctor immediately.
- Light Sensitivity: While some light sensitivity is normal after LASIK, if you are excessively sensitive to light or experience severe photophobia, let your doctor know.
- Visual Aberrations: If you notice persistent or worsening halos, glare, starbursts, or other visual disturbances that significantly impact your daily activities, discuss these issues with your doctor.
LASIK surgery is an effective procedure for correcting refractive vision problems. While LASIK surgery complications and LASIK surgery side effects are possible, they are rare, and most patients experience improved vision with minimal discomfort. A thorough preoperative evaluation and postoperative care under the guidance of an experienced ophthalmologist are crucial for optimal outcomes. LASIK offers the benefits of reduced dependence on glasses or contact lenses, enhanced visual clarity, and improved quality of life for many individuals. However, potential candidates should consider individual factors, risks, and alternatives before deciding on LASIK, ensuring informed decisions about their vision correction options.