LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomilieusis and is a popular form of refractive surgery where a laser is used to reshape the cornea. In a person who has vision problems, like short-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism, the shape of the eye, cornea and even the lens play a part in incorrectly focusing images onto the retina – this is the area at the back of the eye, where the light is transferred into nerve signals and comprehended by the brain. LASIK works to correct this by reshaping the cornea.
This allows a person who undergoes LASIK to stop using eye glasses (spectacles) or contact lens. The cosmetic appeal of LASIK is obvious but it is not an essential procedure. You can do without LASIK and continue using your glasses or contact lens.
Before the LASIK Procedure
The cornea is the outer part of the eye. It varies in thickness and a host of eye related disorders and systemic diseases can affect the cornea. For this reason it is important for your eye doctor (opthamologist/opthalmic specialist) to first evaluate the cornea and decide if you are a suitable candidate for LASIK. Apart from the cornea itself your doctor will ensure that you don’t have any disorders that can complicate the procedure or result in serious side effects.
Your doctor will do a corneal scan – this is an imaging study of the eye. It looks at how thick the cornea is, if there are any other defects or structural problems that may affect the outcome of the procedure. A device known as a corneal topographer will assess the thickness of the cornea and the curvature of your eye. Your doctor may also do a waveform analysis which will assess how light travels into the eye and picks up other imperfections.
There are certain contraindications for LASIK – this means that the procedure should not be conducted because it can result in serious complications. Your eye doctor will take a thorough case history and may do some tests to ensure that you ill qualify for the LASIK procedure. If you have frequent eye infections, suffer with dry eyes, currently pregnant or using certain drugs, you may not be a suitable candidate. This does not mean that you can never undergo LASIK. You will have to wait till these problems are corrected or the situation passes before you can consider the procedure.
You have to be an adult to undergo LASIK and your eyesight must have been stable for at least one year. This means that the strength of your eye glasses or contact lens have not changed for over a year because you did not have any change in your vision problem. It is important to be honest with your eye doctor. Some chronic conditions may not be picked up by in the screening phase so if you know that you suffer with one of the conditions below, be honest and tell the doctor upfront. Failure to do so can risk your long term vision.
- SLE (Lupus)
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
If you have any concerns about the procedure, you should speak to your eye doctor. As part of informed consent, you doctor has to ensure that you are fully aware of all parts of the treatment and the effects during and after the surgery. The costs of LASIK should also be discussed and not all medical aids pay for LASIK in full so you must also discuss this with your medical scheme.