When we see, light is focused by the lens at the front of the eye onto the layer of photoreceptive cells that line the back of the retina, creating an image that is then transmitted to the brain. However, tiny imperfections in the curve of the cornea, called refractive errors, can distort this focus, making the image appear blurred and causing conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. One increasingly popular method for dealing with these minor visual deficits is with laser eye surgery. This quick and painless out-patient procedure uses an excimer laser to vaporize a microscopic amount of excess corneal tissue, reshaping the curve of the cornea into a more efficient shape that more accurately focuses light on the retina. Because every patient’s eyes are unique there are several different ways that laser eye surgery can be performed. Two of the most popular are laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK surgery).
During bladeless LASIK surgery, a specialized femtosecond laser is used to create a thin, circular “flap” in the cornea. This hinged flap is then carefully folded back to allow access to the underlying cornea (called the stroma). After the procedure is completed the corneal flap can be returned to its original position, where it eventually heals in place. LASIK vision correction surgery consistently achieves excellent results and requires only a comparatively short recovery time. Most patients report a significant improvement in their vision within hours of their surgery with minimal postoperative discomfort, and their vision continues to improve gradually for several months before reaching peak quality.
In some cases, a candidate’s cornea may be too thin for the LASIK surgery to be safely performed, either due to their natural anatomy or because they have undergone LASIK surgery in the past. Moreover, patients who suffer from chronic dry eye may find the condition exacerbated by the LASIK procedure. Fnially, once a corneal flap has been created it may potentially be dislodged or damaged by certain types of eye injuries, which can prove problematic for patients with physically demanding occupations, such as professional athletes, police officers, and those in the armed services. Photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, a common alternative to LASIK surgery, reshapes the cornea without the creation of a corneal flap by gently removing a thin layer of corneal epithelium. Although results are comparable, recovery after PRK surgery does take longer than recovery after LASIK. Patients typically experience some minor discomfort for 4-5 days as new epithelial cells regrow and eyesight may require one to two weeks to show improvement. However patients undergoing PRK are less likely to experience dry eye and have no risk of flap complications.
While LASIK is by far the most popular laser eye procedure today, a consultation with board certified ophthalmologist Dr. William Segal is the best way to determine whether PRK or LASIK is better suited for your individual circumstances. If you would like to schedule an appointment for an eye exam, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons today to make an appointment. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more tips for healthy eyes.