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Laser Vision FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Table of Contents

  1. What is laser vision correction?

  2. Is laser vision correction right for me?

  3. Can laser vision correction help all vision problems?

  4. Is laser vision correction painful?

  5. Are there any risks involved?

  6. How soon can I return to my daily activities?

What Is Laser Vision Correction?

Laser vision correction treats vision problems such as hyperopia, myopia and astigmatism using a state-of-the-art, computer-controlled Excimer laser. This gentle beam of cool laser light carefully reshapes a thin layer of the cornea, flattening or steepening the curvature and improving the focusing problem. The laser pulses remove less tissue from the cornea far less than the width of a human hair( 0.25 microns per pulse). These pulses "dissolve" the molecular bonds of the corneal tissue without generating any heat ensuring that thermal damage to adjacent tissue does not occur, and that the structural integrity of the cornea is maintained. Since 1988, more than 2 million Excimer procedures have been performed worldwide.

There are currently two procedures available in the U.S. utilizing the Excimer laser: Laser Assisted Epithelial Keratomileusis (LASEK)-Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) and Laser Assisted Intrastromal Keratomileusis(LASIK). Both LASIK and PRK use the laser to sculpt the cornea with microscopic accuracy, differing primarily in the treatment of the outermost layer of the corneal (epithelium). In PRK, the surgeon gently  slides or removes the epithelium with a sponge, alcohol, and/or laser pulses, and then sculpts the cornea underneath. With LASIK, a small, mechanical device called a microkeratome creates a cap of tissue from the cornea. The cap is folded back from the surface and the laser then sculpts the inner layer of the cornea, altering the shape to correct the curvature. The corneal cap is then returned to its original position, adhering back to the cornea within minutes, without stitches.  In LASEK-PRK the much thinner epithelium is reposited over the cornea and a contact lens is applied until healed

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Is Laser Vision Correction Right For Me?

Laser vision correction is well-suited for active people who find glasses and contacts to be a nuisance and those who simply don't want to be so dependent on them.

If you wear glasses or contacts and are over 18 years old, you may be a good candidate. Your lens prescription should be relatively stable for at least one year and you should be free of medical problems related to your eyes. You should also make sure you have realistic expectations about laser vision correction. Though laser vision correction has the potential to greatly reduce or eliminate dependency on corrective lenses, there can be no assurances that you will obtain perfectly corrected vision. If necessary, visual sharpness after laser vision correction can be enhanced with lenses, however, for most people, the use of glasses should be merely occasional.

The patients most satisfied with the results of laser vision correction clearly understand the potential risks and side effects and have realistic expectations of what their vision will be like after surgery.

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Can Laser Vision Correction Help All Vision Problems?

The quality of one's vision depends on three elements:

When these three elements are correctly proportioned and configured, light focuses on the retina correctly and clear vision is the result. When not arranged correctly, as is the case for millions of people, a refractive problem occurs.

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Is Laser Vision Correction Painful?

There is virtually no discomfort during the procedure. No needles or general anesthetics are used. The eyes are anesthetized with eye drops that are instilled prior to the procedure.

Some PRK patients experience mild discomfort during the initial healing period after the procedure performed. This level of discomfort, rarely experienced by LASIK patients, is often compared to having sand or an eyelash under a contact lens.

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Are There Any Risks Involved?

The Excimer laser procedure, like all medical procedures, has limitations and risks, although the risk of having a serious vision-threatening complication is less than 1%.

While rare, some side effects that may be encountered after laser vision correction include infection, delayed healing of epithelium resulting in haze, corneal flap problems, corneal surface irregularities, under or overcorrection, contact lens intolerance, or regression. Your doctor will review the potential risks with you in detail.

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How Soon Can I Return To My Daily Activities?

For the first 12 hours immediately following your procedure, we strongly encourage you to rest and keep your eyes closed as much as possible. Typically, PRK patients will wear a clear bandage contact lens for 3 to 5 days. With LASIK, patients wear a protective eye shield until the next morning. Most PRK patients can work and drive 4 or 7days after the procedure, while the wait time for LASIK patients is typically 1 or 2 days. You should avoid rubbing or touching your eye for 24 hours and then only do so with caution for 1 week. Avoid getting soap, shampoo, hair spray, et cetera in your eyes for 1 week. Wear proper eye protection when participating in active sports and working with machinery, tools, or hazardous materials. These are only guidelines and the healing response varies from person to person--your doctor may suggest longer waiting periods for certain activities.

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David S. Pfoff
Copyright 2004 Pfoff Laser and Eye. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/12/08.