What Is LASIK Eye Surgery?
LASIK, which stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, is
an operation on the eyes that corrects vision and reduces (and sometimes
eliminates) the need for glasses or contact lenses. It corrects the shape of
the cornea so that it refracts (bends) light properly. The cornea is the
transparent part on the front of the eye. The cornea bending light incorrectly
causes several common vision disorders, including:
- farsightedness (inability to see near)
- nearsightedness (inability to see far)
- astigmatism (improper curvature of the cornea)
LASIK surgery occurs in an eye doctor’s office with a local
anesthetic (drops to numb the surface of the eye) and sedation. It takes about
10 to 15 minutes for each eye. LASIK originally used a special surgical knife,
but now LASIK uses a specialized laser.
Who Is a Good Candidate for LASIK Eye
According to the U.
S. Food and Drug Administration, the ideal candidate for LASIK is:
- at least 18 years old (preferably 21 or older)
- not pregnant or breastfeeding
- not taking drugs like Accutane (potent acne
medication) or oral prednisone
- someone with healthy eyes
- someone who has a stabilized vision prescription
(usually occurs in the mid to late 20s)
- someone in good health
- someone experiencing vision problems due to a
refractory error (usually nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism)
Some people, especially those over age 45, experience both
farsightedness and nearsightedness. Unfortunately, LASIK technology can’t yet
create a bifocal effect, so these patients have two options:
could have the doctor correct for your nearsightedness and then use reading
glasses to see items that are close to you.
could also ask the doctor about monovision,
a surgical intervention that corrects one eye for farsightedness and the other
for nearsightedness. Some people find monovision disconcerting, while others
adapt to it.
How Is LASIK Eye Surgery Performed?
LASIK occurs as an outpatient procedure under local anesthetic.
If your doctor plans to give you a sedative, they may ask you to not eat or
drink after midnight the night before the surgery.
After checking in at your eye doctor’s office, a nurse or
technician may place an IV in your hand, wrist, or arm so that your doctor can
sedate you for the procedure. An IV also allows your doctor to give you
medicine and fluids quickly if there’s a problem.
You will then lie down on your back on a gurney or sit in a chair
that reclines like a dentist’s chair. The doctor will numb the surface of your
eye with eye drops. They’ll then use a small blade or laser to cut a flap in
the cornea and roll it back to expose the stroma (the middle section of the cornea).
Using a laser, the doctor will carefully burn away part of the
stroma, changing the shape of the cornea to better refract light. Then they’ll
replace the flap. No stitches are necessary—the flap will join with the
surrounding tissue on its own. You’ll wear an eye patch or other protective
covering on the eye for the first 24 to 48 hours after the procedure.
What Happens After LASIK Eye Surgery?
You will go home when the procedure is over. If you received
sedation, you may feel groggy for the rest of the day. Arrange to have someone
drive you home from the doctor’s office.
You may experience burning, itching, and irritation in your eyes.
The doctor may prescribe pain medication to control these symptoms. Typically,
they only last for about six hours after surgery. It’s important to not rub
your eyes. This will only irritate them further and increase your risk of
The next day, you can resume most of your usual activities, with
a few exceptions. Don’t drive without the doctor’s permission. Avoid swimming,
contact sports, and wearing eye makeup for two to four weeks after LASIK.
You’ll have a follow-up appointment with your doctor in 24 to 48
hours. At that time, they will remove your eye patch, make sure that your eye
is healing properly, and test your vision. Some people notice improved vision
immediately. It takes a few days for others’ eyes to heal before they can see a
What Are the Complications Associated with
LASIK Eye Surgery?
As with any surgical procedure, there’s always a small risk of
complications. Very rarely, LASIK may actually harm your vision.
More common but less serious complications include:
- eye infections
- corneal scarring that makes it impossible to
wear contact lenses
- sensitivity to light
- seeing a glare or perceiving a halo around
- vision problems when driving at night
Some of these complications, such as having trouble with night
driving, may fade four to eight weeks after surgery.