Debunking LASIK Myths
Since its inception, many questions, concerns, and misconceptions have arisen regarding LASIK. Hopefully this article will put to rest any false impressions you or someone you know might have about LASIK and LASIK surgery.
MYTH: LASIK is painful.
FACT: The operative eye is anesthetized (numbed) to increase patient comfort during the LASIK procedure, which typically lasts about ten minutes for both eyes. Some feelings of pressure during the creation of the corneal flap are to be expected, but the actual application of the laser is typically painless. Surgeons may provide a mild sedative for those patients who are anxious to help keep them calm before and during the procedure. Patients will sometimes describe sensations of grittiness in the few hours immediately following the LASIK procedure, but most patients report only mild discomfort, which resolves very successfully with an aspirin or ibuprofen.
MYTH: LASIK surgery can cause blindness.
FACT: While serious complications from or after LASIK have occurred, they are extremely rare. One of the reasons our surgeons take the time to meet personally with patients during the consultation process is to review each patient’s personal history and discuss any potential risks while determining their candidacy for surgery.
MYTH: There is no fixing a poor LASIK outcome.
FACT: The satisfactory rate with LASIK is greater than 99%. Should a patient not be satisfied with their vision after surgery, there are numerous options available for treatment to better improve your vision. It is also worth mentioning that potential side effects of LASIK, such as dry eyes, are usually temporary and manageable.
MYTH: LASIK is too risky
FACT: Modern medicine widely regards LASIK as one of the safest elective procedures. A 2009 study conducted worldwide and published in Ophthalmology shows that of any procedure, LASIK yields some of the greatest levels of satisfaction among patients. In fact, there are a great number of risks in extended contact lens wear that patients debating LASIK should take into consideration. See this article from the American Academy of Ophthalmology for further details.
MYTH: LASIK corrects nearsightedness, but not farsightedness or astigmatism.
FACT: LASIK is one of a few refractive surgery options that can correct all three refractive errors (i.e. nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism), and actually treats astigmatism extremely well. Astigmatic patients often report better quality correction and clearer vision with LASIK than with glasses or contacts.
MYTH: LASIK is not real surgery.
FACT: LASIK is absolutely surgery, although a minimally invasive one. With all proper and necessary precautions, risks and danger of complication is extremely low. As with any surgery, there are inherent risks involved with the procedure, but several clinical studies maintain that the possibilities of major vision-reducing complications are very, very slight.
MYTH: One should expect complications and side effects like glare at night and dry eyes after LASIK.
FACT: Again, LASIK surgery, as with any other, does carry certain risks of complications and potential side effects. While the likelihood of these is low, the most common side effect of LASIK is postoperative dryness, which typically lasts just three to six months. A part of your preoperative assessment is an evaluation of your risk for likelihood of long-term effects or complications, including dryness.
MYTH: LASIK patients have trouble with their night vision
FACT: One of the most common complaints following LASIK surgery in the past was the advent of post-operative nighttime vision complaints (particularly glare and halos). Fortunately, the latest advancements in Custom Wavefront technology have significantly reduced the likelihood of these side effects.
MYTH: Because laser vision correction is such a new procedure, the long-term effects are unknown
FACT: Admittedly, laser vision correct didn’t become widely available in the United States until the mid-1990s, but the technology was developed over a decade prior. The first US patient was treated in 1987 and in the 20 years and over 35 million procedures performed worldwide since its inception, significant long-term adverse effects have yet to be discovered.
MYTH: Since the laser does all the work, it won’t matter what surgeon performs your case because the outcomes will be the same
FACT: The laser is one of many tools that your surgeon will use to achieve your vision correction. One of the most important tools is the surgeon’s own skill. Developing the treatment plan, determining the most effective treatment options, generating the corneal flap, and executing the treatment are done personally by the surgeon and are unique to each patient. Because each of these areas is extremely delicate, it’s important to be confident in your surgeon’s abilities. Pre- and postoperative care are also major contributing factors to the success of a patient’s outcome, which is why it’s important to have a surgeon who works closely with you and your rendering eye care provider.
In most cases, you only have two eyes, so it is necessary and wise to do your research when selecting a surgeon. Pay particular attention to how long they’ve been performing LASIK, their record of visual success and satisfaction among patients, and their willingness to provide and availability of patient references. In instances like these, it’s quality, not quantity, of patient care provided. Trusted referrals from your current eye care provider, friends, or family are a great place to start.
MYTH: After LASIK, you’ll never need glasses.
FACT: LASIK is one of the most effective and successful methods of reducing a patient’s dependence on glasses or contacts, but the degree of improvement varies depending on each individual, as each patient’s reliance on glasses depends on their individual refractive errors. The majority of patients with mild to moderate refractive errors are able to achieve 20/20 (or close to) vision after LASIK. These types of results can drastically reduce the patient’s dependence on visual aids for most activities like driving, working, or recreation. This is another reason the consultation process is vital to determining a patient’s treatment plan; your surgeon will be able to evaluate you at that time to assess your range or probable success after surgery. All patients must keep in mind that the need for reading glasses after age 40 cannot always be eliminated or may surface in the future, as these types of anatomical changes occur inside the eye and are not addressed by (but can often be compensated for with) LASIK. Regardless, it is still necessary to continue routine examinations for your overall eye health following LASIK.
MYTH: Because the outcomes are all the same, the cheapest surgery is no different than the most expensive one.
FACT: We must always bear in mind that we get what we pay for. It is certainly true that prices for laser vision correction can vary from center to center, but is necessary to take into account what that “discounted” pricing might (or might not) entail. Be aware of centers or practices that could compromise their patient screening and care to keep their prices low. This is another area where it pays (no pun intended) to do your research and compare care and experience when choosing your provider. Surgeons at discounted centers may be less experienced or less skilled. Typically, the procedures that appear more expensive include additional benefits that discounted procedures do not, such as cornea fellowship-trained surgeons and personal follow-up care with your rendering surgeon coordinated with your rendering eye care provider. We only get one pair of eyes, take time to make sure you’re getting the best care you can.
MYTH: Because LASIK technology is still being developed and advances being made every year, patients may be better served by waiting until the technology is “perfected.”
FACT: LASIK as it stands today yields better results than ever before. There are many LASIK surgeons who have undergone laser vision correction themselves with current technology. New technology that may be developed or introduced may make LASIK more widely available to patients who had been previously deemed non-candidates.
MYTH: The laser could “burn” the patient’s eye.
FACT: All laser vision correction, including LASIK, uses a “cold” laser to ablate (remove) the corneal tissue and should not cause any burn to the surface of the eye.
MYTH: The recovery period after LASIK is long
FACT: Most patients are able to notice an improvement in their vision immediately following the procedure. The first day post-operatively often yields further improvement in clarity. In the majority of cases, patients are able to return to work and resume most regular activities the day following their procedure.
MYTH: I'm too old to have LASIK
FACT: Nearly 100% of patients who undergo laser vision correction are between the ages of 18 and 70, and even post-cataract surgery patients over 70 may be candidates for LASIK.
MYTH: LASIK is a luxury I can't afford
FACT: LASIK is an investment, not unlike glasses or contacts, but is a long-term solution. If you consider what you spend on frames, lenses, and contacts every year, LASIK is an affordable alternative.
At Cornea Associates of Texas, we pride ourselves on providing the best possible care for our patients. That starts with making certain that they have all the knowledge they need to make an informed decision about LASIK (or PRK). We encourage our patients to research and ask questions. Our qualified staff and team of surgeons are well-versed and happy to address any questions or concerns a patient may have.