Many patients seek decreased reliance on glasses and contact lenses with laser eye surgery. This can also be called refractive surgery as it changes the refractive power of the eye to achieve visual clarity, and includes several procedures.
The procedure that is right for your eyes and prescription will be decided on during your pre-operative assessment with us at our clinic. This article will explain how refractive surgery works and what options are available for you.
How LASIK and PRK Eye Surgery Works
At the front of the eye is the cornea, a clear protective layer that provides most of the eye’s refractive, or light bending, power to focus light rays onto the cells at the back of the eye, the retina, and achieve clear vision.
When these light rays are not perfectly focused, blurry vision results and spectacles or contact lenses are required to correct this and achieve visual clarity.
Nearsightedness, or myopia, is when the eye is too long and light rays come to a focus in front of the retina, requiring a minus number in the prescription for correction.
Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is when the eye is too short and light rays would come to a focus behind the retina if they could, requiring a plus prescription for clear vision.
Several of the refractive surgery procedures work by taking tissue away from the cornea in specific locations, either making it bend light more or less, to correct the underlying farsightedness or nearsightedness, respectively.
For very high prescriptions, there is also the option of inserting an artificial lens into the eye to provide the necessary corrective power.
Refractive Surgery Options (LASIK, PRK, ICL & RLE)
LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is a very popular option for laser eye surgery today, involving the formation of corneal flap, lasering of the underlying corneal tissue, and putting the flap back in its original position.
LASIK, like all of these procedures, is very quick at only a few minutes per eye, and is notable for its quick recovery with patients having most of their visual improvement within a few days after the surgery.
PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) is very similar to LASIK but without the formation of a flap, involving the removal of the outermost corneal layer, lasering underneath, and the placement of a bandage contact lens to be worn continuously for several days after the procedure.
It is more commonly used in patients with corneas too thin for LASIK, and has a longer recovery with days to weeks being required for full visual improvement.
An ICL (implantable collamer lens) is a useful option if the prescription is too large for LASIK or PRK.
Instead of laser being used on the cornea, an artificial lens is inserted to sit in front of the eye’s natural lens in the middle of the eye, and can be removed at any time if necessary.
Finally, RLE (refractive lens exchange) is another option similar to ICL insertion in that it does not involve lasering the cornea.
RLE is when the eye’s natural lens is completely removed and replaced with an artificial lens that corrects the eye’s prescription.
All of these procedures carry low risk of complications, and we always steer patients to the best possible option for their eye health.
There are also variations to each of these procedures that may be brought up with you if a specific need is recognized.