Since the invention of the laser back in 1954, innovative applications have poured forth from nearly every branch of industry. In the surgical field, lasers have replaced invasive operations with in-office procedures. This is best seen in the field of laser eye surgery where a number of eye surgery options are available.
For centuries, either glasses or squinting were the only options to correct for blurry vision. Then contact lenses replaced the heavy frames pressing on the nose. But contacts could be lost or broken easily. Today, thanks to laser light, corrective lenses can, for many, be eliminated entirely. This is true for people with nearsightedness, farsightedness, and even astigmatism and presbyopia.
If you are interested in this possibility, what are the options before you? The best known option for eye surgery is called LASIK. This stands for Laser-Assisted in SItu Keratomileusis. The procedure involves cutting a flap in the cornea just .001 mm deep. Then an excimer laser is used to reshape the cornea to compensate for the irregularity. It is quick and relatively painless and the patient usually experiences marked improvement in vision within twenty-four hours.
However, not everyone qualifies for LASIK surgery. For example, someone with a thin cornea may not be able to have a flap cut into the eye. The good news is that other options are available. For example, another procedure called LASEK may accomplish the goal by sidestepping the disqualifying problem. LASEK stands for Laser Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratomileusis. As in LASIK, a flap is cut into the cornea and an excimer laser is used to reshape the corneal tissue. However, the LASEK flap is only half as deep because it does not go past the epithelial (outermost) layer. This procedure is usually more painful than LASIK and takes longer for full healing.
A third option in laser eye surgery is called PRK, short for PhotoRefractive Keratectomy. With PRK no flap is cut in the cornea at all. Instead, the epithelial layer of the cornea is removed and then sculpting of the cornea is done below this layer. Since the outer layer is actually removed in the center of vision, the patient wears a contact lens for one to three days after surgery while healing begins. This option eliminates the complications that sometimes accompany the first two options including the flap getting out of place or hazy vision. However, since the pain nerves of the cornea are in the epithelial layer, PRK is usually much more painful and takes longer than the other two options to heal.
For every one patient who elects to have LASEK surgery, seven choose the more established LASIK surgery. However, as we noted, some people do not qualify for LASIK surgery. The other two options, along with variations of these, may be the only choice.
Which option is best for you? This article is designed only to introduce you to the options. You will need to visit a laser eye surgery center to discuss your personal options with a reputable eye specialist or ophthalmologist.