I’m considering LASIK. What are the most important facts that I should know?

You can hardly turn on the TV or the radio without hearing ads about a new, low-cost eye surgery to rid you of those bothersome glasses or contacts. In fact, LASIK is one of the most frequently performed operations in America. But how can you be sure you’re not playing Russian roulette with your eyes?

Here are ten important things to know before undergoing laser refractive surgery:

  • Know Yourself – Why do you really want to have this surgery? You will live with its results forever, so don’t be caught up in a fad. There are no guarantees. Many LASIK patients are still wearing glasses!
  • Know Your Surgeon – Look for an experienced, board-certified ophthalmologist. Ask direct questions regarding your surgeon’s experience and complication rate. Will your surgeon continue to take care of you after the surgery, after surgery, or will you be redirected to a non-physician?
  • Know Your Refractive Error – The more nearsighted (myopic) you are, the more likely you may need a repeat procedure (euphemistically called “refinements”). Ask your doctor what the chances are that you’ll need a refinement.
  • Know if You Are Eligible – LASIK is not for everyone. People with severe dry eyes, certain corneal diseases, and other select eye conditions should not undergo LASIK.
  • Know What Happens – Be sure you fully understand the entire procedure. Since you will be awake for the surgery, you don’t want any surprises.
  • Know the Odds – After laser refractive surgery, most patients enjoy improved (not necessarily perfect) vision without their old glasses. Nobody guarantees 20/20, 20/25, or 20/30 vision. If you hear such claims, consider looking elsewhere.
  • Know the Risks – Laser refractive surgery is surgery. There is no such thing as “minor eye surgery.” Complications such as overcorrection, undercorrection, making the pupil off center, damaging the cornea, inflammation, and infection can leave you miserable. You may hear statistics about 2% or 5% complications, but if it happens to you, it’s 100%!
  • Know the Limitations – LASIK is used to help correct nearsightedness and astigmatism. Laser refractive surgery will not prevent you from needing reading glasses as you approach middle age. There may be future advancement but, as of this writing, LASIK patients will need help to read later in life just like their parents did. The majority of people with mild or moderate nearsightedness can expect to have uncorrected vision (without glasses or contacts) of 20/40 or better after LASIK surgery. Some may have 20/20 vision or better. Good results are less certain with more severe nearsightedness.
  • Know Your Postsurgical Care – Be sure both you and your partner understand the postoperative eye-drop routine. Since these medications influence corneal healing, your final visual outcome will depend heavily on the correct use of your eye drops. Make sure you find out what kindof care you will receive after the surgery and how often your doctor will want to see you. Be sure to ask about any limitations you may have after surgery, such as sports or makeup.
  • Know About Alternative – Alphabet soup! LASIK, LASEK, PRK, INTACS, and many more. Don’t hesitate to ask your surgeon, “Is this the very best way to treat my situation? Are there other methods?” Experienced eye surgeons typically know three or four ways to manage the samepatient. Carefully weigh any decision to participate in any innovative research trials. It’s hard to beat solid experience!

Bill Lloyd, MD

WebMD Expert Blogs

Surgeon, clinician, and lecturer Bill Lloyd, MD, is an experienced ophthalmologist who has devoted the last two decades to practicing and teaching medicine. His writings have appeared in leading medical journals, and he has been a contributing author to many leading textbooks in this interesting medical specialty.

Lloyd is a diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology and an elected Fellow to both the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He is a six-time recipient of the American Medical Association Physicians’ Recognition Award.

Practicing in Sacramento, Calif., Lloyd is professor of ophthalmology at the University of California – Davis Medical Center. An experienced physician broadcaster, Lloyd discusses health issues regularly on local and national television newscasts. Additionally, he produces and hosts two nationally syndicated daily features over Sirius Satellite Radio.

Source: WebMD – WebMD provides valuable health information, tools for managing your health, and support to those who seek information.

See also…

Healthcare Law and Malpractice