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How Does Lasik Work?

One of the most commonly asked questions about Lasik is how does it work? Read on to better understand the process and what your eyes experience.

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What Happens During Lasik Eye Surgery?

The Lasik procedure is quick and painless, usually taking less than 15 minutes. First, a calming medication will be given to the patient. Relaxation is very important, as the patient should not move during the procedure. Once the medication kicks in, they will be led to the laser suite, which houses two different types of lasers. When the machines are ready, the patient will lay down on the machine bench, and position their head in the correct location. The eyes are done one at a time, so numbing eye drops will be administered to the operative eye, and a cover will be placed over the non-operative eye. The first laser cuts the flap in the epithelium and only takes a couple of seconds. The eye patch is then swapped, and the second eye gets a flap cut. After each eye has the flap created, the patient is positioned under the second laser, which is the one that ablates the cornea. The surgeon flips up the flap, and the second laser removes the correct tissue – usually taking less than 30 seconds per eye. During this stage, some patients report an ozone-like smell. This is not the smell of tissue burning, but rather exhaust from the laser, and is nothing to worry about. After the first eye is done, the flap is repositioned, and the other eye is corrected. When both eyes have undergone the reshaping, the surgeon may opt to put in a special contact lens to help with healing. A few more eye drops are administered to assist with the healing process, and then the patient is moved to the observation room. There, the surgeon will inspect the eyes to assure the procedure went as expected. Once the eyes get the “all-clear”, the patient is given the post-operative instructions and allowed to go home and relax.

What Does Lasik Eye Surgery Involve?

As stated above, LASIK surgery involves two different lasers. The first laser creates a flap in the upper layer of the cornea. This flap is what allows the second laser to actually ablate the inner tissue of the cornea. Both of these steps together take less than 3 minutes per eye, and are usually done one after another. After the procedure, the patient will be instructed to take anti-inflammatory medication, and to wear a clear eye patch for the first night. Over the next couple of weeks, medications to help the healing process will be prescribed by the surgeon in order to achieve the best possible final result.

How Long Does Lasik Eye Surgery Last?

The patient will arrive at the LASIK center having already taken any medication instructed. From there, the surgeon will perform one final check before green lighting the procedure. The time underneath the laser is very short, usually less than 3 minutes per eye. The total visit will take longer, as there will also be an immediate post-op check to make sure the procedure went as planned. Plan to be there between one and two hours. The patient shouldn’t make any plans afterward, as they will need to rest and recover for the day.

How Does Refractive Surgery Improve Vision?

Refractive surgery improves vision by adjusting the shape of the cornea to better focus light. The laser works by ablating, or removing, tissue from the cornea in order to reshape it. For hyperopics, those who are farsighted, the laser removes tissue from the periphery. For myopes, those who are nearsighted, the laser removes tissue from the center. For those with astigmatism, or irregularity in the cornea, the laser removes tissue as needed. All of these interventions serve to refocus the light onto the cornea

Do You Actually Shoot Lasers Into Your Eyes?

The lasers do not penetrate your eye, only removing tissue from the outer layer. You will see a sort of “light show” as residual energy from the laser hits your retina. This light is not powerful enough to cause any damage and so should not be a concern.

“ The LASIK procedure was formally approved by the FDA in 1999, and every innovation since then has been continuously monitored by the agency. They originally approved bladed LASIK, in which the flap was cut with a microkeratome, but have since expanded their approval to include bladeless lasik.”
Yuna Rapoport smiling
Yuna Rapoport, MD

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LASIK is a quick and comfortable procedure that can permanently improve your vision. It is done through the use of two lasers; the first cuts a flap in the eye, which will then be flipped up by the surgeon. The patient will then be moved under the second laser, which removes tissue from the cornea to correct vision. The flap is then set back in place, and the procedure is over. The time underneath each laser is very short, usually taking less than three minutes per eye. Plan to be there for an hour or two, as there is also a post-op exam.

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Treatment Expectations

Before surgery, expect to have an evaluation conducted by your eye doctor to ensure that you are a suitable candidate for lasik eye surgery and achieve optimal results. Before the evaluation, if you wear contacts, you will need to remain out of your contact lenses and switch to your glasses for some time as contact lenses can alter your cornea’s shape.

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