Refractive surgery is the term used to describe surgical procedures that correct common vision problems (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia) to reduce your dependence on prescription eyeglasses and/or contact lenses.
Currently, a laser procedure called LASIK (LAY-sik) is the most popular refractive surgery performed in the United States. But there are other types of refractive surgery — including other laser procedures and intraocular lens procedures — that might be an even better choice for you, depending on your needs.
WHAT IS LASIK?
LASIK is a surgical procedure that uses a laser to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and/or astigmatism. In LASIK, a thin flap in the cornea is created using either a microkeratome blade or a femtosecond laser. The surgeon folds back the flap, then removes some corneal tissue underneath using an excimer laser. The flap is then laid back in place, covering the area where the corneal tissue was removed.
With nearsighted people, the goal of LASIK is to flatten the too-steep cornea; with farsighted people, a steeper cornea is desired. LASIK can also correct astigmatism by smoothing an irregular cornea into a more normal shape.
If you are considering LASIK eye surgery, your first step is to choose a good LASIK surgeon who can evaluate whether LASIK is right for you. Your LASIK surgeon will examine your eyes to determine their health, what kind of vision correction you need, and how much laser ablation (corneal tissue removal) is required. The doctor will also ask about any health conditions that may disqualify you altogether for LASIK surgery.
If you are not a candidate for LASIK, you may qualify for another laser eye surgery such as PRK (similar to LASIK but without the flap), LASEK, or epi-LASIK. There are also non-laser vision correction procedures. Your prescription and eye structure will be considered to help determine which procedure is best for you
LASIK is an outpatient procedure, so you don't have to stay at the surgery center overnight. The LASIK surgeon uses a computer to adjust the laser for your particular prescription. You will be asked to look at a target light for a short time while the laser sends pulses of light to painlessly reshape your cornea. The actual LASIK surgery usually takes less than five minutes.