Seeing Clearly Now: The Truth about LASIK

If you are tired of wearing glasses or contacts lenses, you have probably at least considered LASIK surgery.

Each year, about 700,000 people undergo the laser surgery used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. But many are still skeptical.

In Friday’s Medical Moment, some new techniques are being used that can cut the risk.

For 13-years, Chelsey Vandemark's morning began unlike most peoples.

"I would look at the alarm clock and like all I could see was just blurry,” says Chelsey Vandemark who had LASIK. “Like I can't define between a person."

Tired of wearing contacts, she considered LASIK but was apprehensive.

"The benefits are I can see great,” says Chelsey. “The risks are something goes wrong and I can't see ever again."

It's a concern ophthalmologist Sherri Rowen hears often.

"We really do like LASIK today,” explains Dr. Sheri Rowen, MD, FACS, Directory of Ophthalmology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland. “We wish we could get rid of the fear factor."

In fact, she says contacts can be much worse.

"If you have an infection from a contact lens and it's in the center of your eye, there's nothing you can do about it,” says Dr. Rowen. “You've lost vision."

Doctor Rowen says lasers are safer and more precise than ever.

"There are not a lot of high end risks anymore like there used to be," says Dr. Rowen.

A study of over 3,000 LASIK surgeries performed, using a femtosecond laser for flap creation, had a complication rate of less than one-half of one-percent. And all complications were taken care of during the same procedure.

"The laser is better than anything we have ever had to create a perfect flap," says Dr. Rowen.

Studies from the American Academy of Ophthalmology report seven out of ten patients achieve 20/20 vision or better following surgery.

"The predominance of patients walk out and say, 'I'm only sorry I didn't do this five to 10 to 20 years earlier,'" says Dr. Rowen.

Chelsey is one of them. Her vision went from minus 450, to 20/15. Now she can set her sights on other things, like playing fetch with cocoa.

Custom LASIK can cost $2,000 to $3,000 per eye. And even with LASIK, most people over the age of 40 will still need reading glasses.

To know if you're a good candidate, doctors must evaluate the severity of your prescription, your age, and how thick your cornea is.

Seeing Clearly Now: The Truth about LASIK
REPORT #2022

BACKGROUND: LASIK stands for laser in-situ keratomileusis. All laser vision correction surgeries work by reshaping the clear front part of the eye, called the cornea, so that light traveling through it is properly focused onto the retina located at the back of the eye. LASIK is only one of a number of different surgeries used to reshape the cornea. (Source: www.webmd.com)
ADVANTAGES: LASIK has many benefits. They include:
* No bandages or stiches are required.
* Vision is corrected almost immediately or the day after.
* Adjustments can be made years after the surgery to correct the vision further.
* After the procedure, most patients have a dramatic reduction in eyeglass or contact lens dependence.
* It corrects vision. About 90 percent of patients will have their desired vision after LASIK. (Source: www.webmd.com)

DISADVANTAGES: Although there are some good advantages, LASIK still has some disadvantages.
* Changes made to the cornea cannot be reversed.
* LASIK is technically complex. Problems could occur when doctors cut the flap, which can permanently affect vision.
* LASIK can rarely cause a loss of "best" vision, referring to the highest degree of vision that you can achieve while wearing contacts or eyeglasses.
* There are some potential side effects, including: dry eyes, glare, seeing halos around images, fluctuating vision, and difficulty driving at night. (Source: www.webmd.com)

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS DURING SURGERY: During LASIK, an instrument called a femtosecond or microkeratome laser is used to cut a thin flap in the cornea. The cornea is then peeled back and the underlying corneal tissue is reshaped using another laser. After the cornea is reshaped, the cornea flap is put back in place and the surgery is complete. The patient is under local anesthesia in the form of eye drops and usually takes about ten minutes. Sometimes, patients can request mild sedation. After the surgery, patients' eyes will be dry even though they do not feel like they are. The doctor will give prescription eye drops to prevent infection and inflammation and eye drops to keep the eyes moist. Healing after LASIK is usually rapid. Vision could be hazy and blurry for the first day, but most patients notice improved vision within a few days after surgery. (Source: www.webmd.com)

For More Information, Contact:

Sheri Rowen, MD, FACS
Directory of Ophthalmology, Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore
Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
srowen10@gmail.com

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