Is LASIK Eye Surgery Right For You?

You might be tempted to consider LASIK eye surgery simply because of the many benefits it offers. For example, you can go about your daily activities without having to worry about finding a pair of glasses or removing and putting in contact lenses. You can also save money by not needing to spend on new glasses or contact lens solutions, and you can stop spending time trying to find your glasses, or relocating them when you move.

But the truth is, LASIK eye surgery isn’t for everyone. That’s because the procedure involves reshaping your cornea to change the way light hits your retina, which lines the back of your eye and sends signals to your brain that allow you to see. The procedure’s full name is laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, and reshaping your cornea can affect your vision for life.

Before you can undergo LASIK, your ophthalmologist will check your overall health and perform tests to evaluate the shape of your eyes. These include corneal topography, epithelial thickness mapping and a comprehensive ocular health history. In addition, if you have certain diseases or take medications that affect your immune system or increase the likelihood of infection — including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and HIV medication — LASIK may not be right for you.

During your LASIK eye surgery, you’ll be awake but relaxed, and a topical numbing agent will likely be applied to your eyes to prevent pain. Then, your doctor will place a small flap on the cornea’s surface. A laser then reshapes the cornea to improve its ability to focus on the retina. Once complete, your surgeon will put the flap back in place and it begins healing immediately.

Your vision should be relatively clear within a few hours, and you can resume most of your normal activities. However, the initial recovery can take a few months, and you’ll probably need to use special drops to reduce dryness. You’ll also need to protect your eyes from light-sensitive activities such as staring at a computer screen or driving a car at night, as bright lights can cause pain and halos around objects.

One downside to LASIK is that it can’t correct presbyopia, the condition in which you get older and need reading glasses. The reason is that LASIK alters your cornea, but not the stiffened eye lens that helps you see close up. Another type of refractive surgery, known as PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), can help with this, but it’s not right for everyone.

Most people who undergo LASIK reach 20/20 or better without glasses or contacts. But the decision to have this procedure is a big one. It is important to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons. You can also ask friends and family who have had the procedure. They can tell you what to expect and how their vision has changed afterward. Ultimately, the most important thing is to decide if you want to wake up each morning free from reaching for your glasses or worrying about putting in your contacts.