Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Understanding Laser Eye Surgery: Benefits and Risks by Kathryn Dawson

According to an article published in the New York Times (“As Economy Slows, So Do Laser Eye Surgeries”, April 24, 2008), more than 12 million patients have undertaken laser eye surgery since 1995, the year in which this surgery was approved in the US. The article also revealed that approximately 95% of the patients have achieved satisfactory results with laser eye surgery. With such a huge success rate, vision correction through laser technology is becoming popular across the globe. However, it is important to gain knowledge about laser vision correction methods before one can make an informed decision.

What is Laser Eye Surgery?

Laser eye surgery is a vision correction method that utilizes high frequency laser beams to cure defects in or damage to the eye. It is an effective method to correct visual defects, such as near-sightedness, far-sightedness, abnormal cornea, astigmatism and fluid accumulation. There are two types of laser surgeries used to correct visual impairment:

• LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis)

• PRK (photorefractive keratectomy)

LASIK is a more common form of laser eye surgery than PRK. The major difference between the two variants lies in the way the cornea is exposed to the laser beam. In PRK surgery, a more hands-on technique is used. Here, the top layer of the cornea is handled in such a way so as to expose the inner tissues to the laser beam. However, in LASIK surgery, only a small flap is created in the top layer of the cornea. Once the operation is successful, the flap is folded back again to ensure protection to the eye. The success of laser surgeries is directly proportional to the expertise of the eye surgeon.

Of the two, LASIK is the preferred mode. This is because in PRK, the lens loses its flexibility with the passage of time. This makes the patient dependent on the use of reading glasses after crossing a certain age, generally 40. On the other hand, the only complication with LASIK is in the way the flap is made on the cornea. However, some of the leading optical centers in the UK have devised ways to completely do away with the necessity of creating such a dent; thus removing another cause of possible complications.

Benefits of Laser Eye Surgery

Laser eye surgery offers successful results in a majority of the cases. It is a no pain, bloodless operation. The popularity of this surgery is evident from the following benefits:

• Laser eye surgery eliminates the need to wear lenses or glasses.

• It also reduces the risk associated with the use of contact lenses, such as infection or abrasion. These factors can lead to risk in the post eye surgery scenario.

• The patient can enjoy normal vision the very next day after the laser surgery.

• There is no need to remain hospitalized for days after the surgery.

• A majority of the patients achieve significant improvements to their vision after surgery.

Laser Eye Surgery: Complications

Although laser eye surgery is a simple method for visual correction, there have been certain complications in specific cases. The complications may occur in the form of:

• Moderate haziness of the cornea

• Under or over correction of short-sightedness

• Damage to the cornea due to an accidental event. This can be corrected through another surgery.

• Return of vision defects after treatment

• Abnormal vision due to defects with the flap created to conduct laser surgery.

These complications are rare. In a majority of the laser eye surgeries, patients enjoy corrected vision for their lifetime. Some complications can also occur due to a difference in the way your tissues respond to surgery. Some people are extremely sensitive to an external agent, such as a laser beam, which can complicate the surgery. Consult an eye surgeon before deciding to opt for laser eye surgery. Make sure the refractive eye surgery is taking place under the supervision of an expert eye surgeon or ophthalmologist.