Abby's Guide to Lasik Surgery
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Lasik surgery 101

Lasik surgery is a popular procedure with a lot of advantages over other methods of correcting your vision. There is almost no pain afterwards, recovery is quick, and your vision improves within a day or two. But how does Lasik work, and are you a good candidate for this kind of surgery? Let's take a look at what you need to know before you get into things. It could be a huge help in the long run.

How It Works

In Lasik surgery, either a laser or an instrument called a microkeratome is used to make a thin, round flap in the cornea of the eye. The surgeon folds back this flap, and uses a cool ultraviolet laser to carefully and precisely remove extremely small amounts of tissue from the cornea. This reshapes the eye so that it focuses light onto the retina more accurately giving us clearer vision. Once that's done, the surgeon lays the flap back into place. Since eyes heal very quickly, the flap will soon become part of the eye again.

Farsighted and nearsighted people alike can benefit from this kind of surgery depending on how the procedure is done. Even people with astigmatism can have clearer vision using this type of surgery. Unfortunately, this procedure works best on people who do not have severe distortion in their eyes, so those with significant distortion may not get the best effect. They may be able to wear lighter glasses or contact lenses in the future, however.

Before Lasik

If you're thinking about having Lasik surgery performed, you will need to choose a surgeon. The more experienced the surgeon, the better your results are likely to be. Most problems occur with surgeons who don't have a lot of experience with the procedure. Interview more than one eye doctor to figure out who will be best for you.

Once you have chosen a doctor, you will need to be examined to decide if you are an appropriate candidate. He or she will determine how healthy your eyes are, what your vision problems are, and how much of a change needs to occur. Your doctor will also look to see if you have dry eye disease - a condition which must be treated before you can undergo Lasic surgery. Your doctor may measure the curvature of your eye and map the cornea using a corneal topographer and may give you a wavefront analysis to get a better idea of what your vision is like. Expect to be asked about medications you are taking and health conditions you may currently have. Some of them will keep you from having the procedure, but it is important to be honest.

The Procedure

Lasik is a surprisingly quick and painless procedure. In most cases, you'll walk in, wait for the procedure, spend a few minutes under surgery, and walk right out again. You will need to have someone else drive you, since you may receive a mild sedative and full vision is not expected immediately after the procedure.

You'll receive an anesthetic eyedrop before the surgery starts and, therefore, should not feel any pain. The doctor will ask you to lie down under the laser and place a retainer under your eyelids to prevent you from blinking while the work is going on. The surgeon will mark the cornea, then ask you to look at a light. The procedure should be very short - as little as five minutes in some cases. People with a higher prescription do spend longer in surgery. If you are having both eyes done on the same day, surgery will happen one after the other. Some people have the second eye done as much as a week later.

Once the surgery is over, you may receive medication for post operative pain, but many people don't need it. Your eyes may feel itchy, but usually don't hurt much. Just make sure you don't rub them, and follow your doctor's instructions afterward. Use all medications as directed, and call right away if you think something has gone wrong. You will probably need to rest for a few days, but you can go back to work shortly after.

What To Expect

Most people's vision improves right away after Lasik surgery, but some people find that they get a gradual improvement over a few days or weeks. Many people get 20/20 vision or better, but some will get only 20/40 or less. However, in most states, this is still enough for driving and is usually a big improvement over your old vision. While some patients still need contact lenses or glasses, they will usually have a much lower prescription.

Side Effects

Complications are rare with Lasik, but they do happen. Some people get eye infections. Others start having night glare - halos or starbursts around lights at night. Some people also have brief improvement, then their vision becomes worse. A touchup surgery may fix this. Lasik also will not prevent you from needing reading glasses once you hit middle age, though they are working on ways to fix that with surgery, too. In general, though, Lasik eye surgery is safe, convenient, and has few to no side effects.

Lasik could make a huge difference in the way you live your life, especially if you've always had glasses. Take a little time to find out whether it's the right choice for you. You might be surprised by how easy it could be to have great vision!

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