LASIK: Breakthrough Eye Surgery Procedure

By: Shannon Brown

LASIK, one of the biggest breakthroughs in eye surgery, is a surgical procedure that uses non-thermal technology to change the shape of the cornea in order to improve vision. LASIK, which is actually an acronym for Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis (though few people ever know about it), meaning “reshape the cornea with laser.”

There are other kinds of refractive surgical procedures, but LASIK is the most advanced. Although LASIK and PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) use the same type of laser, their procedures are different with the way the stroma, the middle layer of the cornea is exposed. In PRK, the top layer of the cornea is scraped to espose the stromal layer while in LASIK, only a flap is cut in the layer and then folded back.

LASIK involves a two-step procedure. The first step involves the creation of a micro-thin flap of corneal tissue with the use of a disposable blade through microkeratome or with a laser, through IntraLase. Throughout the procedure, a small area of the eye is left untouched at one end to keep it attached to the eye. The second step involves the folding back of the flap and using an excimer laser to treat the corneal tissue. The excimer laser corrects myopia by flattening the cornea, hyperopia by steepening the cornea and astigmatism by making the cornea more symmetrical.

In addition, LASIK also corrects presbyopia, which is a condition that often occurs with old age. Presbyopia is the inability of the eye to see things clearly or to focus sharply on nearby objects. LASIK, however, can only correct one eye for clear distance vision and the other eye for clear near vision. This is called monovision.

The Excimer laser, which is the secret behind the procedure was actually originally developed by IBM for computer chips. The technology makes use of a cool beam of ultraviolet light, meaning that most of the heat generated dissipates quickly. This cooling property makes Excimer laser very ideal for eye surgery because it can vaporize corneal tissue without damaging the eye tissue through heat.

And because it is originally developed with computers in mind, the laser is extremely precise, with an accuracy of 0.25 microns. That is less than one one-thousandth of a millimeter. For most procedures, one need only to remove or correct 50 microns of thickness, which is as thick as a single human hair.

Aside from it being a safe procedure, LASIK also allows for rapid visual recovery and little post-operative discomfort unlike other kinds of surgery. There is also less chance for corneal haze and scarring as well as fluctuations of vision.

As “perfect” as the procedure may seem, LASIK, like any other surgeries, can still result in complications and may involve several risks.

Some temporary conditions that could occur are:

1. Dry eyes
2. Sensitivity to bright lights
3. Glare or streaks around bright lights

The following conditions are also possible, but very rare:

1. Under-corrections and over-corrections that require an enhancement, which has about 10 percent risk

2. Wrinkling of the corneal flap that requires repositioning of the flap, which is really infrequent

3. Permanently blurred vision that may not be corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses or any other enhancements; and infection of the cornea that leads to the scarring and permanently blurred vision.

Knowing these conditions can happen, it is important that before a person decides to undergo the procedure, he or she consults with specialists. Doctors also provide surgical consent that patients must sign before undergoing any procedure.

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Shannon Brown is the editor of This site caters to Lasik
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