Laser eye surgery—sometimes called Lasik, in reference to the best-known name brand procedure—has become so popular that reality show stars such as Jessica Simpson have undergone the procedure on television. Maybe you've even seen Facebook or Twitter friends post videos of the procedure that permanently changed their life and vision. Laser eye surgery is quick, safe, and relatively pain-free, and most people get excellent results. It can't correct everything, though, and you may have to make some trade-offs to gain the 20/20 vision you crave.
What Lasik Can Correct
Lasik is designed to correct three distinct conditions:
- Nearsightedness—Technically known as myopia, this condition affects a third of the population. Nearsightedness is usually caused by a cornea that's too curved, so doctors use a laser to slightly straighten your eye. Though laser eye surgery can correct most cases of nearsightedness, if your vision is severely compromised, or you are legally blind, laser eye surgery will probably not work.
- Farsightedness—Sometimes called hyperopia, farsightedness affects about a quarter of the population. Farsighted people have flat corneas, so laser eye surgery endeavors to slightly bend the cornea.
- Astigmatism—A challenging condition to treat with glasses or contacts, astigmatism results from an unevenly shaped cornea. This causes light to focus in one area of the eye but not the other, blurring or distorting vision. Depending on the severity of your astigmatism, laser eye surgery can usually help.
The Challenges of Age-Related Vision Loss
In addition to its shortcomings correcting severe vision issues, laser eye surgery is poorly equipped to treat age-related vision loss. If you're over the age of 40 and have vision issues, those issues are likely related to eye strain, not the shape of your cornea. Laser eye surgery cannot address these issues.
Changes in Your Vision
Like all good things, laser eye surgery will produce some trade-offs. Most people who undergo Lasik have problems with vision in low light, as well as in low-contrast situations. The results is a halo or blurry effect at night, when it's foggy, or when you drive in the rain. If you undergo laser eye surgery for myopia, it's also likely you'll eventually need reading glasses.
Side effects are relatively rare, but when they do occur, these are the most common:
- Pain in your cornea due to an infection or inflammation.
- Issues with your corneal flap after surgery.
- Severe dry eyes, difficulty with tear production, and other tear duct-related issues.
- Worsening vision; laser eye surgery simply does not work for some patients, resulting in vision that's worse than before.