Our eyes are probably the most precious asset we have. Having a crystal clear vision is a privilege, but sometimes ageing and genetics can interfere with this, making it difficult to visualise objects either close to you or far away from you. For quite a while, spectacles have been used to correct both short sightedness and long sightedness.
However, in the last few years, laser eye surgery has become a popular treatment, offering excellent vision with minimal discomfort to people who undergo the procedure. In this article, we shall take a look at this procedure in a bit more detail.
What is laser eye surgery?
Laser eye surgery is a procedure performed to help correct vision. It involves the utilisation of a targeted laser that corrects the refractive power of the cornea in a variety of different ways. There are a number of different types of laser eye surgical procedure, and most of them are based on the principle of reshaping the cornea of the eye to enable clear focusing of light that passes through it onto the retina.
This is different from other eye surgeries that involve replacement of the lens of the eye.
Types of laser eye surgery
There are a number of different kinds of laser eye surgery. Below is a brief discussion about each of them.
1. Laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK)
This is a useful type of laser eye surgery that is utilised to treat near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism. The procedure involves creating a flap in the cornea using the laser, correcting the underlying surface by reshaping it and then replacing the flap again. It is not very useful for patients with high power, and whether or not the procedure is suited for the patient is considered on a case by case basis.
The video below demonstrates how LASIK is performed.
2. Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis (LASEK)
This is similar to LASIK, and a corneal flap is created here as well using a laser beam. The flap is created in the epithelial layer, and with the help of an alcohol solution the surface epithelial cells are mobilised. Once this is complete, the flap is replaced and is covered by a contact lens to allow it to heal. As is the case with LASIK, LASEK is also used for a number of different vision problems.
This video demonstrates how LASEK is performed.
3. Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)
In this procedure, no flap is created and the cornea is fixed using a laser beam that is delivered along with ultraviolet light.
4. Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty (ALK)
This procedure was previously used to help correct vision and involves creation of a flap in the cornea and using another incision to change the shape of the cornea to crrect the vision. However, in ALK, laser is not used. This procedure is not commonly used anymore.
This is another similar procedure that involves reshaping the cornea using laser.
The above are the commonly adopted laser eye procedures that are currently being performed in a number of ophthalmology practices. Other procedures include radial keratotomy, astigmatic keratotomy and intracorneal ring segments.
With every procedure, there is always concern about whether or not it is safe and effective. A number of laser eye surgery procedures have been performed over the years, and so far the results have been excellent. However, if you are undergoing the procedure, it is good to have an idea about the different side effects and risks associated with laser eye surgery.
1. Poor correction of vision – With laser eye surgery, though unlikely, there is always a possibility that the vision may be either under-corrected or over-corrected. During the initial stages just after the surgery, patients may notice blurred vision, though this often corrects itself once the cornea heals completely. If there is poor correction of vision following laser surgery, then patients may need further surgery to help treat this.
2. Infection – This risk is very small as the procedure is performed under strict aseptic precautions. In the event of infection occurring, antibiotic drops may be required. The presence of an infection can result in long time for full healing. In most cases following laser eye surgery, prophylactic antibiotics eye drops may be prescribed to prevent infections from occurring.
3. Worsening of vision – Once again, a rare complication. The procedure is very accurate, and the chance of the vision getting worse is highly unlikely. This can be due to the development of haziness of the cornea. Often, haziness of the cornea is a normal occurrence following laser eye surgery, and it does not interfere with vision. However, in some cases, it can do so. The development of haziness of the cornea and worsening of vision can be prevented by the use of medication such as mitomycin.
4. Visual halos – This refers to the appearance of halos around dim lights. This aspect is factored into when performed laser eye surgery, and the chances of this occurring are rare. Visual halos are often visible when driving at night.
5. Drying of the eyes – This is fairly common, and can be easily treated with artificial eye drops. The dryness lasts for just a short time following surgery, and can resolve itself.
The video below summarizes some of the side effects
When laser eye surgery is not performed
There are certain times when laser eye surgery cannot be offered to patients. In cases where the visual problems are severe, laser eye surgery may not be able to correct the defects. In the event of degenerative diseases that affect the eye, the procedure should not be performed. Clinical conditions such as autoimmune disease can also affect the eye and the procedure must be avoided there as well. Your doctor will always make a full assessment to make sure it is safe to perform the procedure.
Laser eye surgery is a modern way to correct vision. Treatments are safe and effective, and side effects are rare.
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