The Pros and Cons of Laser Eye Surgery (LASIK)

Laser eye surgery, also commonly referred to as Lasik (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), is a type of refractive surgery for the correction of myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. The LASIK surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist who uses a laser to reshape the eye’s cornea in order to improve visual acuity. For most patients, LASIK provides a permanent alternative to eyeglasses or contact lenses.

The vast majority of people who undergo LASIK experience amazing results, but the procedure is not without its risks. As with any medical procedure, LASIK can have negative effects. Thinking about LASIK surgery? Below we have listed some of the more common benefits and drawbacks to help you decide whether to go forward with this procedure.

Benefits of LASIK:

+ Improved vision

A study shows that 95% of patients who have undergone LASIK surgery have an uncorrected visual acuity of at least 20/40, whereas approximately 85% were able to achieve 20/20 vision. Many patients notice an almost immediate improvement in their vision after undergoing Laser eye surgery. As the cornea heals, this effect becomes more noticeable. Most patients experience improved vision as soon as 3 or 4 days following surgery. Complete healing occurs within 3 to 6 months.

+ No more glasses

Glasses can negatively affect people’s self image, as well as being somewhat of a nuisance. For some people, contact lenses are simply not an option. For patients used to being fully dependent on glasses or contact lenses, freedom from those vision aids is most often described as life-changing.

+ No more contact lenses

Contact lenses can be very dangerous.  They harbour bacteria which can cause serious damage to ones eyes and can even lead to permanent vision loss due to infections. They can also lead to dry eyes and allergies. You cannot sleep in contacts and they must be removed well before going to bed or swimming in a pool.

+ A fast and painless procedure

It is done in an outpatient basis and only a local anesthetic will be used. LASIK is painless, although some many find it uncomfortable. The procedure takes approximately an hour – 50 minutes of setup and checks and 10 minutes for the actual surgery, plus 20-30 minutes relaxing following treatment. You are given anaesthetic eye drops before your surgery which numb your eyes, and the procedure is considered painless. You will feel a pressure for about 20 seconds while the femtosecond laser is used.

+ More economical than glasses or contact lenses

This may come as a surprise to some readers, but laser eye surgery will work out cheaper than glasses or contact lenses over your lifetime. Though the initial outlay is significant for most people, when compared with the average lifetime cost a person spends on glasses or contact lenses, laser eye surgery will often actually work out cheaper.

+ Long-lasting results

Following a stabilization period of about 3 months, your eye will adjust, and the LASIK results are permanent. There is no need for follow-up procedures, unless the surgeon over or under-corrected your eye. Your improved eyesight will last barring any normal loss due to aging or illness.

Drawbacks of LASIK:

–  Risk of complications

Complications of laser eye surgery are primarily related to suitability. Well selected candidates operated on by an expert surgeon do well and with a very low risk of complications. Make sure you choose your surgeon and clinic very carefully, and place yourself in the best possible hands. Laser eye surgery risks are actually rare, with vision reducing complications occurring in 1 per 10,000 cases. Most problems can be resolved with medical treatment or additional “enhancement” surgery.

– Not everyone can have LASIK eye surgery

Certain conditions and anatomical factors can increase your risk of an undesirable outcome or limit optimal LASIK results, including too thin or irregular corneas, large pupils, unstable vision, dry eyes, pregnancy or certain degenerative or active autoimmune disorders.

– Dry eyes

LASIK causes an acute dry eye condition in most people that can last from one week to three months or even more. For most people, topical artificial tears, topical dry eye medications and use of oral omega-3 fatty acids can alleviate most of the symptoms and signs of LASIK-induced dry eyes. In rare individuals, the dry eye can persist for up to a year or more.

– Night vision issues

Many people will notice nighttime glare, halos and sensitivity to bright light after their LASIK procedure. These issues usually resolve within a few months. Rarely, some people will have persistent night vision issues that last longer than one year. While these side effects rarely persist for such a long period, they are some of the risks of the procedure. Most people who have LASIK do not experience these types of effects in the long-term.

– Subconjunctival hemorrhages

Subconjunctival hemorrhages — red spots on the white of the eye — are very common immediately following LASIK. The red spots can last from one week to one month and can be small or cover the majority of the white part of the eye. A subconjunctival hemorrhage is usually a harmless condition that disappears within two weeks or so.

The bottom line: It Works for most people, but not everyone

Many people find laser eye surgery worth doing — they like being able to see without having to fuss with glasses or contacts. Others say the experience is okay, and some advise against it because it didn’t work for them. Like any surgical procedure, this isn’t for everyone. If you do go through with it, make sure you do your research to find the best surgeon you can – even if this may cost a bit more – you don’t want to save a few bucks when it comes to the health of your eyes!