If you're one of the millions of Canadians who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, chances are you've considered getting laser eye surgery at some point in your life.
The fact is that laser eye surgery (also known as "refractive surgery") has become increasingly popular over the past decade. And while the technology has become safer and more sophisticated in recent years, the procedure still has certain risks associated with it. Below are a few things you should consider if you're thinking about getting laser eye surgery.
When it comes to laser eye surgery there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, there are a number of conditions that can prevent you from getting laser eye surgery, including severe dry eyes and corneal diseases. Speak to your optometrist or ophthalmologist first to find out if you're an ideal candidate for laser eye surgery.
Most people tend to think of laser eye surgery as a single procedure. In fact, there are multiple types of the surgery. Two of the most common are LASIK and PRK eye surgery (short for Photorefractive Keratectomy), both of which can treat nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. With LASIK, a flap is cut into the cornea through the top layer, to access the treatment area, whereas PRK removes the top layer of the cornea, which then grows back in place over approximately 72 hours. A PRK variation called LASEK also involves removing a layer of cornea and then replacing it afterward.
Despite now being widely available, laser surgery can only be performed by an experienced and licensed ophthalmologist. Be sure to ask your surgeon about their experience level, success rates, the risks involved, and what types of care they'll offer after your surgery. Your optometrist will have a history of your eyes and vision. They most likely know the area and can help you with a referral if they think you are a good candidate. You may also want to check out other patient reviews and referrals to ensure you're getting the best possible care.
There is no such thing as a "minor eye surgery". Laser eye surgery is still an invasive procedure and complications can occur. The most common risk is overcorrection or undercorrection, which leads to decreased vision. In addition, it's also possible (though rare) to damage the cornea, resulting in inflammation and infection. In some cases, patients may need a second surgery to deal with an overcorrection or undercorrection. Talk to your optometrist about the risks involved in the procedure.
While most laser surgery patients will experience an improvement to their vision, no surgeon will guarantee 20/20 vision or that patients won't still require corrective eyewear after the procedure. According to a 2018 Vision Eye Institute article, you may still need corrective glasses depending on your initial prescription strength and your age. One other important thing to consider is that laser surgery will not correct presbyopia, meaning that as you age you may still need reading glasses.
Be sure to speak with your surgeon to find out what kind of post-operative eye care they provide and what exactly you'll need to do to ensure the procedure is as effective as possible. Many surgery centers work with your optometrist to return you to them for aftercare. This aftercare typically includes using medicated eye drops and follow-ups with the optometrist or surgeon to ensure there are no complications. Also be sure to ask if there are any limitations after the surgery, such as playing sports or wearing eye makeup for a certain period of time.
While laser eye surgery can offer freedom from corrective eyewear, it's important to consider all factors involved. The more you know about your own eye health, your surgeon and the procedure itself, the better you'll be able to determine if laser eye surgery is right for you.
To find out if you're a laser eye surgery candidate and to get a referral, book an appointment with an optometrist at an FYidoctors near you.