Facts for Patients Considering Laser Surgery For Vision Correction:

Thinking Out the Choices
By Dr. Ernest Loewenstein

Laser surgery for vision correction has been with us since about 1995. Some two million patients have undergone the procedure with a very high rate of success and satisfaction.

There are two common types of procedure - Both involve removal of tissue from the cornea, the thin transparent structure that lies at the front of the eye and covers the iris and pupil, which can be seen through it.

PhotoRefractive Keratectomy or PRK - The first procedure approved by the FDA, in which material is removed from the front surface of the cornea. It is effective and is still done but is not the preferred procedure. Some patients experience pain for a few days after PRK. Pain medication and a steroid are usually prescribed.

LASer In-Situ Keratomileusis or LASIK - The second procedure involves lifting a thin flap of the cornea and removing some tissue of the mid cornea. The flap is then laid back down and adheres without any sutures. There is less post-operative pain with LASIK and usually no prescribed medication. Some patients have long lasting dryness of the eyes.

No guarantees - Neither procedure guarantees you can "throw away your glasses." Here's why:

  • It is not always possible to reduce the correction precisely to zero
  • The cornea may change with time, making glasses necessary later
  • The correction is usually for distance vision and glasses may be needed for reading and other near tasks
  • Post-Operative Risks - the most common is a reduction in the sharpness of vision that cannot be improved by any eyeglass or contact lens. Some patients also experience increased glare from oncoming headlights, sometimes serious enough to make night driving hazardous.
  • Successful, but -Though the surgery has a high success rate, it is important to think about the possible downside. This is cosmetic surgery and what's on the line is your vision. If there's an unhappy outcome, how will you feel about sacrificing reasonably good vision for the ability to read the alarm clock on the bedside table without putting your glasses on?