Medical procedures such as laser surgery for eyes may sound intimidating but with LASIK it doesn’t have to be. Dr Dylan Joseph explains what LASIK is, how it works, cost options, benefits and more! Keep reading to find out how LASIK can improve your vision.
LASIK, or Laser-Assisted in-Situ Keratomileusis, is an eye laser surgery procedure used to correct vision problems such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), astigmatism, presbyopia and age-related loss of vision.
To improve near-sightedness, LASIK surgery’s goal is to flatten the central cornea which is too steep. While with far-sightedness, a steeper cornea is desired, so laser ablation is done in the peripheral cornea. This procedure can also correct astigmatism by smoothing an irregular shaped cornea into a normal one.
LASIK can also be offered to patients who’ve had cataract surgery in South Africa (or even the rest of the world) or refractive lens exchange: those who are seeking independence from their glasses or to improve uncorrected distance vision.
Bladeless LASIK Eye Surgery
During the LASIK procedure, an ultra-thin flap is made in the cornea using a laser for eye surgery called a femtosecond pulse laser (FS200). This procedure is completely bladeless and painless, as 2,000,000 gas bubbles gently separate the tissue layers.
Once the flap in the cornea is made, it’s folded back. The corneal tissue underneath is removed using an EX500 WaveLight excimer laser. This flap is then placed in its original position, covering the area where the tissue was removed.
Experience technology so advanced that there are several customised profiles tailored to your cornea and vision. LASIK systems and diagnostic equipment can pick up any lumps and bumps on the surface of your eye and smooth them out, giving you the best optical quality under all lighting conditions.
Advanced equipment is used to detect corneal pathology and is essential in the workup of LASIK. Dr Joseph uses a computer to adjust the laser to suit your prescription.
The LASIK Procedure
Prior to surgery, you are met by Dr Joseph in the pre-op lounge to run through the details of the procedure. The LASIK surgery lasts around 20 minutes.
Before undergoing the procedure, Dr Joseph will perform a thorough eye exam, taking numerous factors into account. This ensures your eyes are healthy enough to undergo the eye surgery with laser.
Dr Joseph will also note your general health history and any medications you take to determine whether you’re a suitable candidate for LASIK surgery. Please note that you need to stop wearing soft contact lenses at least three days before your initial evaluation and a week before your surgery. Should you wear hard contact lenses, they’ll need to be removed two weeks prior to seeing Dr Joseph.
On surgery day, you’ll come to our office about an hour before the procedure to fill out and discuss consent forms. You will then move to a pre-operative room. Should you have no contra-indications for taking a mild tranquillizer, we’ll provide a tablet to relax you before surgery. Topical anaesthetic laser surgery eye drops and antibiotics will be instilled in your eyes.
Next, Dr Joseph will run through the procedure and discuss all points you need to follow during it. Once relaxed, you will be taken through to our theatre and be placed under the laser.
Your single focus for the duration of this procedure is to concentrate on a green flashing light. Remembering that will make the procedure as accurate as possible.
Dr Joseph will place a speculum between your eyelids, keeping them open. He will then take a few pictures of your eye and you will feel the bed swing over to the FS200. During this time, your vision will disappear for about 40 seconds. Upon returning, it’ll be hazy – this is normal.
Your bed will swing back to its original position under the EX500 excimer laser. Dr Joseph proceeds to fold back the hinged flap to access the underlying cornea, the stroma, and activates the eye tracking. The tracking is so advanced on this WaveLight suite, that it tracks each pulse twice before it’s delivered. This laser delivers 500 pulses per second.
A buzzing sound will be heard and a slight burning sensation may be experienced. This specialised laser uses a cool ultraviolet light beam to remove (“ablate”) microscopic amounts of tissue from the cornea, reshaping it for improved vision.
After laser reshaping of the cornea, the flap is laid back in place, covering the area where your corneal tissue was removed. Your eye is irrigated, cleaned and antibiotic drops are instilled. The other eye is then done using the same procedure.
You will go home that day with both eyes closed with hard shields, protecting them. Be sure to rest before your follow-up. Usually, the shields are removed the next day and antibiotic, as well as steroid drops, are initiated that same evening.
Is the LASIK Eye Surgery Procedure Safe?
Here are the most common side effects you may experience after laser vision correction such as LASIK. We will also provide you with a clear understanding of each possible issue that may affect your procedure or recovery process from LASIK eye surgery during your consultation.
Just like any medical procedure, there are potential side effects and risks, but it’s about minimising these and treating them if they do occur. In most instances, complications can be rectified straight away. Undergoing LASIK surgery with a highly trained surgeon poses an extremely low risk.
What are the more common side effects of LASIK eye surgery?
Difficulty driving at night
Fluctuation in vision
Foreign body sensation
*It’s important for LASIK eye surgery patients to note that light sensitivity is normal after any laser vision correction procedure. Not only can this happen after LASIK, but also after advanced surface ablation procedures like LASEK, PRK or trans-epithelial PRK.
Lasering the cornea results in a permanent change in eye shape, which cannot wear off. However, several factors can result in what is called ‘regression’. Basically, you start to notice a degree of short-sightedness/far-sightedness returning. Should you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, growth in the length of your eye will be induced. Unfortunately, this could result in you becoming short-sighted again.
There are massive advances in the field of epithelial mapping, which holds the key to the causes of regression. We have access to a fantastic diagnostic device, the MS-39, at our clinic. This device gives an in-depth analysis of the healing of those epithelial cells after laser vision correction and the potential impact they have on the approach to correcting your vision again.
Don’t panic if you notice your vision slipping again. Usually, if you’ve undergone LASIK eye surgery and you have enough tissue left, we can lift the flap if the original procedure was done within two years. Then, we’ll be able to repeat the laser eye treatment and put the flap back down. If the original procedure was done more than two years ago, it may become dangerous to lift the flap and so we simply laser on top of the flap instead.
A side effect of this procedure is that, from a vision perspective, the recovery time is prolonged: ranging from 1-4 weeks. The sandy, gritty feeling in your eyes should be gone about one week after surgery.
If the laser treatment wears off, it’s essentially a misnomer. Your body’s response to the healing process and remodelling of tissue is what largely accounts for needing an enhancement. Looking at the general population, one will require an enhancement in 1-5% of the population who are myopic, has astigmatism or mixed astigmatism. This figure increases slightly to about 10% should you be far-sighted or have a ‘plus’ script in your treatment.
LASIK Surgery Recovery
The best advice on the same day of the surgery is to rest afterwards. Our clinic can prescribe you pain medication after your treatment if you need it. One day after LASIK eye surgery, you will return to the clinic and have the shields removed before seeing Dr Joseph for a visual assessment. Once you start noticing the difference, it will be an incredibly liberating experience.
LASIK is a beautiful procedure when considering your visual recovery and comfort.
After LASIK surgery is performed, it’s common to feel like you are sitting in a smoky bar for the first 4-6 days. This settles every day until it eventually disappears. Your visual recovery with LASIK usually takes 1-6 days after surgery. If you wear spectacles/contact lenses, you can expect your vision to be as good as, if not better than what your specs/contact lenses gave you after the first week.
Another massive benefit of undergoing LASIK is, once again, comfort. There is very little discomfort within the first 24-hours – in fact, it’s merely a mild discomfort or scratchy sensation. One in four people notice their eyes streaming with tears within this first day. It’s completely normal, and you don’t need to worry about it at all. Make time to rest, take pain medication if necessary and use preservative-free lubricants if you want to soothe your eye.