Developments in laser technology have expanded its use in the medical field as a solution for treating a wide variety of conditions. Laser technology and techniques have had a significant impact on eye and vision care, with treatments now available to correct vision impairments such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Laser eye surgery is able to restore perfect or near-perfect vision, so that the use of glasses or contacts is no longer necessary. The most widely used type of laser eye surgery is LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis), known for being fast, painless and providing lasting results.
Vision impairment conditions have to do with how light focuses on the retina of the eye, which is determined by the shape of the cornea. The cornea is the window in the front of the eye, which gives it the majority of its focusing power. Laser eye surgery works to change the shape of the cornea, either removing tissue to flatten it (for nearsightedness) or steeping it (for farsightedness). This re-shaping of the cornea makes it possible for light to focus properly on the retina, as it does for normal 20/20 vision.
Before undergoing laser eye surgery, patients need to submit to a consultation and a variety of tests. The doctor must gather precise information on the degree of vision impairment, cornea thickness and other factors that will determine the type of laser technology used and the protocol of the procedure. This pre-procedure part of the process may require one to three appointments, depending on the doctor's office and eye condition.
According to WebMD, gas permeable contact lenses should not be worn three weeks before surgery. Other contacts shouldn't be worn for three days prior. Patients are asked to eat light before surgery, and arrive without makeup.
LASIK eye surgery typically takes under 10 minutes, according to WebMD. It is performed under local anesthesia. There are various types of laser technology, but the most widely used type cuts a thin flap on the cornea, which is peeled back so that its underlying tissue can be removed or reshaped by the laser. Then the flap is put back into place, and the laser eye surgery is finished. Patients need to have someone take them home after the procedure, since their vision will be impaired immediately following the surgery.
Recovery time after laser eye surgery is rapid, according to WebMD. Prescription eye drops are given to prevent infection and keep the eyes moist during the healing time. The eyes will feel dry and the patient will likely have blurry vision for one to two days. The improved vision will be noticeable within a few days after surgery.
Results are permanent. Patients usually achieve perfect or near-perfect vision, but results are affected by the patient's overall health and the extent of the initial vision problems. The skill of the surgeon should never be overlooked as a major variable. AllAboutVision.com summarizes the results of 64 studies on LASIK eye surgery since 2000, and reports that success rates for the method's correction of various vision conditions ranges from 88 to 95 percent, showing the most success with correcting mild to moderate vision conditions. In 2008, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery reported that the overall LASIK patient satisfaction rate is 95.4 percent worldwide.
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