Just about everyone has heard about laser eye surgery and many of those who wear glasses or contact lenses have probably considered having the procedure done, but do people actually know what it is and how it works?
Laser eye surgery is currently the most common elective surgery there is, with hundreds of thousands of people having the procedure each year. There is a lot of terminology associated with the treatment and it can get confusing when you are initially doing your research. The following helps explain the main terms which you are likely to come across:
Lasik and Lasek: Both these are types of laser eye surgery, with Lasik being by far the most common type of procedure. Lasek (sometimes called PRK) is less popular, as the recovery period following the procedure is longer and more uncomfortable than following Lasik. Most people are able to resume normal activities (including working and driving) within 48 hours of having Lasik whereas it can take up to one week following Lasek surgery. The main difference in the 2 procedures is that a flap is created during Lasik but is not with Lasek. The flap is a thin layer of cornea (outer clear part of your eye) which is separated from the surface of your eye before the laser is applied. No flap is created during Lasek as the laser is applied to the surface of the eye.
Intralase: This is a type of Lasik and describes the way in which the flap is created during the procedure. With standard Lasik, the flap is created using a surgical blade (microkeratome) whereas with Intralase a laser is used. There is therefore no blade used with Intralase and this is something that appeals to a lot of people. Intralase is generally considered to be a safer and more accurate procedure.
Wavefront: This can be added to both Lasik and Lasek and describes the way in which the laser is applied. During wavefront a lot more measurements are taken across the cornea resulting in a more accurate laser eye surgery. Standard Lasik or Lasik relies on just one measurement of the prescription of the eye, whereas wavefront uses over 25 measurements. Wavefront increases your chances of achieving 20:20 vision.
The actual lasering of the eye:
The reason our vision is blurred is because light entering the eye is not focussing precisely onto the retina at the back of the eye. If you are long sighted the light falls behind the retina whereas if you are short sighted the light falls in front of the retina. How laser eye surgery works is by effectively reshaping the cornea (outer surface of the eye) to take into account your prescription. If you are short sighted the lasering ensures that the focussed light is moved from in front of your retina to being on your retina and the opposite is true for long sighted prescriptions. If the light is successfully focussed on to the retina you will have 20:20 vision and will no longer need glasses or contact lenses.