A few years ago corrective eye surgery was only available to the wealthier clients of private doctors. However, technology has progressed rapidly, and now laser eye treatments are available at much lower prices. There are now several different types of corrective surgery available, each of which utilises a different technology.
Types of treatment
Lasik is short for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It involves having a thin flap cut into the cornea, which is pulled back to allow a laser to correct problems with vision. The flap is then replaced.
- Advantages: Healing time is quick – within 24 hours patients’ vision will be improved and within 48 they will be able to take on most normal activities.
- Disadvantages: Lasik is not suitable for people with thin corneas and patients can be vulnerable to detachment via a blow to the eye, so it is not recommended for people who take part in contact sports. See below for some potential complications associated with Lasik treatment.
Lasek, short for laser-assisted sub-epithelial keratectomy, involves the removal of the top layer of the cornea chemically before a laser corrects vision problems. A contact lens bandage is then placed over the eye and removed several days later. The top layer of the cornea grows back naturally.
- Advantages: Better for sporty people or those with thin corneas.
- Disadvantages: Recovery takes up to a week and vision improves over weeks, not days.
Intralase is a method, which allows Lasik incisions to be made by laser rather than the traditional blade. It is a cleaner method but unfortunately is more expensive to administer.
Wavefront Technology is a more advanced form of laser action, which is used for both the Lasik and Lasek procedures. Previously surgeons would carry out a standard correction over the whole eye. Wavefront allows measurement and correction of unique imperfections in each patient’s vision.
Choosing a Laser Eye Treatment
Although there are now several methods to choose from, if you have thin corneas then you may be restricted to Lasek treatments. For more complex eye problems, Wavefront may be suggested. Also, different eye surgeries and vision specialists may suggest different procedures, depending on their own personal expertise.
The most common complication from Lasik refractive surgery is the incidence of dry eyes. According to an American Journal of Ophthalmology study of March 2006, the incidence rate of dry eyes from Lasik after the six month post operative healing period was 36%. The FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) website states that dry eyes may be permanent.
The risk for a patient suffering from disturbing visual side effects such as halos, double vision (ghosting), loss of contrast sensitivity (foggy vision) and glare after Lasik depends on the degree of ametropia before the laser eye surgery and other risk factors. For this reason, it is important to take into account the individual risk potential of a patient and not just the average probability for all patients.
The following are some of the more frequently reported complications of Lasik:
- Surgery induced dry eyes
- Overcorrection or undercorrection
- Visual acuity fluctuation
- Halos or starbursts around light sources at night
- Light sensitivity
- Ghost images or double vision
- Wrinkles in flap (striae)
- Decentered ablation
- Debris or growth under flap
- Thin or buttonhole flap
- Induced astigmatism
- Corneal Ectasia
- Epithelium erosion
- Posterior vitreous detachment
- Macular hole
If you chose to have corrective eye surgery, ensure that you read up well on all the possible side effects, and take more than one medical opinion if possible. Although a majority of patients experience a successful treatment, there are still risks and complications associated with this type of treatment.