Should I Get Lasik? Everything You Need To Know Before Getting LASIK
What exactly is Lasik and how does it work?
If you’re like me in the past, you probably believe that lasik is a high risk procedure with great rewards -- you either score a perfect vision like a newborn, or you go blind forever. (no, you won't go blind forever. At least not immediately)
And the thought of some dude touching my eyeballs with equipment and lasers? I still fidget and become really uncomfortable -- like someone with trypophobia (fear of clusters of small holes) having an image of a hand filled with thousands of small holes downloaded into their brain.
Without further ado, let’s discuss business.
LASIK -- “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis”, is the most popular eye surgery for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
This 15-minute, pain-free surgery reshapes the cornea using lasers to make light entering the eye to be directly focused onto the retina, resulting in sharp vision.
Once the procedure is over, you might immediately notice improved eyesight without the aid of contact lenses or glasses, and your vision will continue to get sharper over the next few days.
90% of LASIK patients reported 20/20 or better vision, while 99% of patients reported 20/40 vision or better.
What you can expect out of a LASIK surgery
- Corrects vision back to near perfect vision. The lower your degree, the higher chance for a better vision after lasik.
- Painless surgery due to numbing drops, but patients reported that the surgery can feel weird or uncomfortable.
- No stitches or any bandages needed.
- Large decrease in dependency on spectacles or contact lenses. Most patients throw them away.
Why LASIK is so popular
There are also professions like artists, photographers, engineers, and scientists, where sharp & accurate vision holds paramount importance in deciding the quality of their work.
According to Eye & Laser Centre, these are 11 occupations (but not limited to) that require excellent vision:
- Airline Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers
- Defence Force Personnel
- Web Developers
- Surgeons and Paramedics
- Construction Workers
- Hospitality Workers
Without the need for eyewear, you’ll be able to enjoy sports way more, like playing basketball or soccer without the constant fear that your spectacles will be drilled into your face by the ball.
Especially swimming -- say goodbye to prescription goggles.
But in our humble opinion, you don’t need to desire a eyewear-free sport or job experience to get LASIK. You could just want to enjoy sharp vision and the freedom from spectacles or contacts.
Who LASIK is not for
They include, but not limited to:
- Your vision is decent. If you only require the aid of glasses for short periods, the risk of long term discomfort from LASIK may be something you need to consider.
- Your face regularly receives blows. Contact sports such as boxing or Muay Thai may result in your eye condition worsening due to repeated blows.
- If your vision prescription is still fluctuating. Majority of doctors advise LASIK only if your prescription has been stable for the past 1-2 years.
- Taking certain prescription drugs. For example, certain steroids might affect the outcome.
The risk of LASIK surgery
But that doesn’t mean it won’t come with negative side effects -- sometimes temporary, sometimes for life.
Let’s look at some of the risks:
- Dry eyes
Lasik may cause a reduction in tear production, resulting in eye discomfort and/or blurred sight. According to the American Journal of Ophthalmology, close to half of all patients experience a certain degree of dry eye syndrome temporarily. The dryness usually goes away after your eyes heal, but in some cases, this dryness could last up to 6 months.
In very rare cases, this dryness may last years or even decades.
- Irregular astigmatism
It may result in undesirable symptoms like double vision (“ghost images”)
Your eye surface may over-bulge if too much cornea tissue is accidentally removed during the surgery. Without appropriate and prompt treatment, this can lead to vision impairment, but not total blindness.
- Eye infections
Can be cured with medicated eye drops.
- Diffuse Lamellar Keratitis
This is when there is uncontrolled inflammation of the cornea, leading to slow healing and potentially vision loss. They can be reversed with medication and professional removal of the inflammatory cells.
Alternatives to LASIK surgery for better vision
- Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)
The surgeon will remove the cornea’s top layer using the same exact laser as LASIK. What separates them is the layer of the cornea being targeted by the laser. This process will reshape the layer to adjust the curvature of your cornea, making it a great alternative for thin corneas.
The biggest difference, sometimes also the deal breaker, is that PRK surgery requires a month to heal, while LASIK is just a couple of days.
- Laser Epithelial keratomileusis (LASEK)
LASEK is another version of PRK, and it can be used to treat problems like astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness. During the surgery, the microscopic outer layer of cells on the cornea is carefully removed, before the laser corrects the surface of the cornea.
- Refractive Lens Exchange
This is when your natural lens is surgically removed and replaced with intraocular lenses. The surgery procedure has similarities to cataract surgery.
- Small Incision Lenticule Extraction (SMILE)
A small incision is made in the cornea using a femtosecond laser, which modifies the cornea’s curvature and improves the sharpness of vision.
We recommend going to a professional for a custom-tailored diagnosis on which procedure is best for your situation.
Choosing the right eye surgeon
- The surgeon should be experienced, preferably with at least 10,000 successful surgeries performed.
- Make sure the surgeon meets industry standards with their LASIK screening process.
- Be comfortable with your surgeon. They should be eager to give informed answers to any questions you have.
- You shouldn’t feel pressured to have LASIK done, and the consultation shouldn’t feel like a sales pitch.
- Look out for surgeons who over-promise results. LASIK is intended to improve vision, not necessarily perfect it.
Lasik is a life-changing decision that enables a 1000 degree myopic person to wake up the next day with possibly perfect 20/20 vision.
At the same time, it may also cause serious symptoms like dry eyes and starbursts that could last for months to years in rare cases.
Do take the time to carefully consider if LASIK is the best choice for you. In permanent decisions like these, it’s better to dwell on it more than less.
Over-research if you have to, ask friends and relatives about their LASIK experience, and most importantly, clear any doubts and concerns with your eye surgeon.
Your eye surgeon is there to help you gain clarity on whether this procedure is really the best for you. Request for them to walk you through the entire procedure, from the risks & complications to how the actual surgery will flow and look like.
A person’s experience of the LASIK procedure
Remember, once you do LASIK and end up with negative side effects, there might be no going back. So make sure to invest in a highly experienced surgeon. You get what you pay for.
Whether you choose to go ahead with LASIK or not, just make a decision that you won’t regret.