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For more than three decades, laser vision correction has been the dominant method for refractive surgery. Today, LASIK is most frequently used as an outpatient procedure for the correction of low, moderate and high prescriptions.
Prior to LASIK surgery, your eye doctor will create a computer-generated map of the surface of your eye. This information is calibrated into the laser used for the surgery. After anesthetizing the eye with eye drops, the surgeon then uses a microsurgical instrument to create a corneal flap. An excimer laser directs a cool beam of light onto the surface under the flap in order to precisely and gently reshape the eye. The flap is put back in place, completing the brief surgery (usually five minutes or less per eye). Patients are usually back to their normal activity level within 24 hours.
Good candidates for LASIK are at least 18 years of age, in generally good health, with no eye diseases (such as cataracts or glaucoma) or certain health problems (such as uncontrolled diabetes or autoimmune disease). Candidates must also have a stable glasses prescription for at least one year. Because of hormonal shifts, pregnant or nursing women are not eligible for at least two menstrual cycles after nursing has been discontinued.
PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy)
PRK is another commonly used form of laser correction surgery. No scalpels are used nor are any incisions made in this procedure. PRK is often used when the patient does not have enough corneal thickness for LASIK.
Once again, your eye doctor prepares a detailed map of your eyes' surface which is calibrated to the excimer laser. After anesthetizing the eye with eye drops, the surgeon gently removes the eye's protective first layer of cells (epithelium) with the excimer laser and carefully reshapes the area with computer-controlled pulses of cool laser light. Deeper cell layers remain virtually untouched and the epithelial layer regenerates itself in days.
Post-operatively, PRK patients are placed on antibiotic drops and anti-inflammatory agents to reduce swelling and promote comfort. Patients are also fitted with a bandage contact lens for the first two or three days until the epithelium is healed. To complete the healing process, PRK patients use steroid anti-inflammatory drops for about two months after the procedure.