Many people are surprised to learn that LASIK surgery is often completed in as little 20 minutes. Preparation before the procedure and recovery after often require much more time and effort than the actual procedure.
Before the Procedure
Careful evaluation is needed before any LASIK procedure to determine if a prospective candidate is a good fit for the surgery. LASIK can be very effective, but it is only recommended for certain vision problems. Medical history, medications and lifestyle will also determine if LASIK is an ideal choice for your situation.
A LASIK evaluation is common before scheduling surgery to determine if the procedure will benefit a particular patient. During this evaluation you will receive a comprehensive eye exam to determine if your eyes are ready for LASIK. Here are some general guidelines for prospective LASIK patients:
- At least 18 years old
- Not pregnant or nursing
- Stable vision for at least a year
Those with a diminished ability to heal or with immune problems may experience increased complications with LASIK surgery and may not be able to undergo the procedure. Diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts and certain medications may also pose problems. Additionally LASIK is not recommended for those that regularly sustain blows to the face or eyes (like boxers or wrestlers) since this can lead displacing the flap created by surgery.
During the initial evaluation it is important to be very open and honest with your doctor concerning any medical or vision issues you may have. While LASIK surgery can be very effective it is not without risks and a comprehensive medical history will help your doctor determine if this procedure is right for you.
In addition to evaluating your medical history, your doctor will also discuss the risks and benefits of LASIK surgery with you. Many people believe that LASIK surgery will correct all of their vision problems, but most of the time this is not the case. Many people must still wear glasses or contacts after LASIK, although they may need a lower prescription. Having realistic expectations for the outcome of the surgery will help you to avoid disappointment and determine if you are willing to undergo the procedure.
If you decide to schedule LASIK surgery, measurements of the eye will be taken during this initial pre-operative appointment. This helps the doctor to determine the amount of corneal reshaping needed and to prepare for the actual surgery. The results from these measurements are used to program the lasers that are used during surgery.
To get the most accurate measurements possible most doctors recommend avoiding contacts for several days to weeks before your initial appointment. Contact lenses temporarily reshape the eye which can interfere with accurate measurements.
During the Procedure
The actual LASIK procedure is typically completed in 20 minutes or less. It will take place in a special room at your doctor’s office. Most people are able to go home soon after the procedure is completed, although you will need someone else to drive or escort you.
The procedure consists of multiple steps. Patients are seated in a reclining chair. Then numbing eye drops are applied to decrease corneal sensation. The eye is cleaned and held open using a special device known as a lid speculum. A flap is cut into the cornea using either a manual instrument or a laser. Then the cornea is reshaped by burning off the excess tissue using a laser. Finally the corneal flap is replaced and the eye is shielded for protection.
After the Procedure
Most people recover fairly quickly from their LASIK surgery. Many people report feeling pain and discomfort in the day or two after the procedure. It may take several weeks for your vision to stabilize and return to normal. You will meet with your doctor again for an initial follow up appointment 24-48 hours after surgery. Additional follow up may be needed in the coming weeks and months as your eye heals.
It is important to give your eye time to heal after any surgery, including LASIK. It is recommended that you avoid all sports for a few days after surgery. Swimming and hot tubs will need to be avoided for up to eight weeks. You will also need to sleep with an eye patch and to avoid makeups, creams and lotions for a period of time after surgery.
The actual LASIK procedure will only take a few minutes, but preparing and recovering are just as important and often much more time consuming.
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