Laser Eye Surgery

Laser surgery for eyes

Laser eye surgery is a relatively new technique for restoring vision in patients who were previously dependent on glasses or contact lenses. It involves using a laser to reshape the cornea, bringing clear, focused and detailed vision to each eye. The most common forms of laser vision correction are PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and LASIK surgery. While not a direct form of cosmetic surgery, many people opt for laser surgery because they dislike contact lenses and look better without glasses.

The Cost of Laser Eye Surgery

The price of laser refractive surgery hinges on whether you choose PRK or LASIK, as well as the type of laser used. PRK costs range from $1,000 to $1,800 per eye, while LASIK costs range from $1,400 to $2,500 per eye. The cost of LASIK eye surgery can also change, depending on whether you opt for the traditional treatment or the more expensive Wavefront procedure that incorporates cutting-edge technology.

Some medical insurance plans may cover laser eye surgery; if not, ask if your clinic offers financing options or payment plans.

Patient Evaluation

Ideal candidates for eye surgery are at least 25 years old, with refractive stability (no change in prescription lenses or eyeglasses for the past year), healthy eyes and no chronic conditions or serious diseases. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, as well as those that participate in contact sports, may be refused treatment. Also, those that suffer from dry eyes may not wish to have laser vision correction, since dry eyes often get worse after laser eye treatment.

The Laser Eye Surgery Procedure

PRK laser eye surgery is performed with an exciplex laser, which uses a cool ultraviolet beam to remove small portions of tissue from the cornea surface. The goal is to reshape the cornea, enhancing the eye's ability to focus light.

LASIK eye surgery is more complex than PRK. A microkeratome knife is used by the surgeon to create a flap of corneal tissue, which exposes the tissue beneath it. This tissue is removed by the laser and the flap is replaced. The benefits of LASIK include a shorter recovery time and the ability to correct even severe refractive errors.

Like laser hair removal, both PRK and LASIK procedures are performed on an outpatient basis; patients often head home as little as 30 minutes after the operation. There is generally noticeable sight improvement within three to five days.

Risks of Laser Eye Surgery

As in other types of facial surgery, there are some risks involved. Risks that are specific to laser eye surgery include:

  • Corneal haze – less present with LASIK than with PRK
  • Regression or reversal of vision quality
  • Halo effect – impedes night driving
  • Flap damage (LASIK only)
  • Incomplete procedure due to equipment malfunction
  • Delay between eye treatments; eye glasses or lenses may not be tolerated, and both eyes may not function well together in the meantime
  • Eyes may continue to change with age, requiring further treatment

Because an incision is made in the cornea, LASIK surgery requires an extremely skilled and experienced surgeon. Reshaping the eye is not an exact science, and there is a chance that your eyesight might actually worsen after the surgery. If so, you'll require further vision correction treatments.

Recovering from the Operation

It is common to have light sensitivity and minor irritation for several hours after eye surgery. Avoid rubbing the eye, especially after LASIK surgery, as you may displace the flap created on the cornea. Your surgeon may offer you a transparent shield to protect your eye while you sleep.

You'll need someone to drive you home after the procedure, but you should be able to see well enough to drive yourself to the follow-up visit the next day. It may take up to six months for your vision to fully stabilize.

Alternative Procedure

The obvious choice for non-invasive sight correction is to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. Otherwise, there are other refractive surgeries available, including implantable contact lenses. Meet with your eye doctor to discuss all the possible treatments.