Laser eye surgery, or laser vision correction, involves the use of a laser to change the shape of the surface of the eye (the cornea).
By altering the shape of the cornea, laser eye surgery can remove any focusing error just like wearing a pair of glasses or contact lenses. The difference is that laser eye surgery is a permanent solution, so you can live life to the full again and enjoy clear vision without the hassle and restrictions of wearing glasses or contacts.
There are two main types of laser eye surgery: Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) and Laser Assisted Epithelial Keratomileusis (LASEK).
In a LASEK operation, a very thin layer of cells from the surface of the cornea (the ‘epithelium’) is removed. This is done by applying a dilute alcohol solution to soften the surface layer and then carefully folding it away to allow the laser vision correction to take place near the surface of the cornea rather than deeper inside. This process is also called ‘surface laser treatment’ or ‘epi-LASEK’.
Next the surface layer of the cornea is replaced and the cornea is left to heal naturally over several days. A protective contact lens is then placed on your eye to help reduce any discomfort and protect the cornea while it heals.
You will also be given clear protective eye shields to wear at night for the first few days and will need to plan a light schedule for around one week.
It is quite common to feel some pain for a few days after surgery and some discomfort for around one week. However, most people feel that the benefits of clearer vision without glasses or contacts far outweigh the drawbacks of LASEK surgery. Clear vision is expected around one week after surgery.
LASEK surgery begins with you entering the laser room, and lying down in a relaxed position on the procedure bed.
Next, anaesthetic drops are applied to numb your eye. The surgeon will then position you properly under the laser machine. A painless lid-separating device, will keep you from having to worry about blinking or closing your eye during the procedure.
Next, your doctor will create a thin hinged sheet in the outermost layer of the cornea, called the epithelium. Then the eye is covered with a diluted alcohol solution, for approximately 30 seconds, which loosens the edges of the epithelium. The thin sheet is then pushed to one side, giving the surgeon access to the underlying corneal tissue.
You’ll be asked to fixate on a blinking, fuzzy red light, and your doctor will precisely align the laser beam with your eye. When everything is just right, your doctor will activate the laser. Painlessly, computer-controlled laser light pulses will remove microscopic amounts of tissue, gently re-shaping the cornea.
The pattern of laser treatment is determined by a sophisticated program and based on the detailed measurements, that were taken during your pre-operative examination. Following exposure to the laser beam, and correction of the refractive error, the surgeon will fold back the epithelial flap to its normal position on the cornea.
Once in place, the surgeon will place a special contact lens on the eye, to protect the area while it heals.
Because there is no need to create a corneal flap with LASEK, it may be a better treatment for people with very thin or steep corneas, or those with mild vision imperfections or specific lifestyle issues.
You should only have LASEK if your ophthalmic surgeon recommends it for you. At Exeter Eye we will only recommend a treatment if we feel it is appropriate for you and believe it will help you achieve the results you are looking for.
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Exeter Eye is a specialist ophthalmic eye clinic treating all eye conditions and offering the very best in patient care and comfort. We always ensure we fully understand your condition and lifestyle before identifying your treatment options and then help you choose the best one for you.