LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis) is one of today’s greatest success stories. The procedure has a well-established safety record, and it restores vision to normal for most patients. Yet myths persist and take on a life of their own, creating bad press that may make you think twice about having a LASIK procedure.
Our patients at Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center often come in for a LASIK consultation with a lot of questions about things they’ve heard or read about LASIK online. To set the record straight, we’ve prepared this list of the top five myths and facts about LASIK.
Myth 1: LASIK is painful and/or dangerous
The truth is that you don’t feel any pain during a LASIK procedure because you receive anesthetic eyedrops to numb your eyes. You may feel slight pressure very briefly as we create a flap that allows the laser to reach the cornea. But the laser treatment is pain-free, and it’s quick: Your actual laser time is about one minute for each eye.
You may also like to know that the laser can’t burn your eyes. The lasers used for LASIK don’t rely on heat like a surgical laser. Instead, they use a cool beam of light that gently breaks apart molecules of collagen.
LASIK surgery has been performed for more than 20 years. During that time, it has established a long and solid record of safety. Like any surgery, there’s always a risk of side effects, but with LASIK, the side effects are typically minor and temporary. For example, you may have blurry vision or feel like there’s something in your eye.
Here’s the most telling fact of all: 98% of patients who had LASIK said they would choose the procedure again.
Myth 2: I’ll never need glasses, or I’ll still need glasses
Both statements are grounded in myth and reality. Let’s start with “I’ll still need glasses.” Most of our patients can retire their glasses or contacts after LASIK surgery. In fact, 95% of patients have 20/20 vision or better after LASIK and most of the rest improve to 20/40 vision.
So what about “I’ll never need glasses”? While LASIK does an exceptional job of correcting your vision and eliminating the need for glasses, it can’t stop the natural effect of aging. As you get older, chances are you’ll eventually need reading glasses.
If you had a complex refractive error or higher-order aberration prior to LASIK, you may still need glasses for some tasks. Less than 5% of patients, though, need corrective eyewear to eliminate any remaining vision problems.
Myth 3: LASIK results can wear off
Absolutely not. LASIK physically reshapes your eye, permanently correcting the misshapen cornea that caused your nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Your eyes don’t revert back to their pre-LASIK shape, so the results don’t wear off.
Myth 4: My activities are limited during a long recovery
You’ll need to take care of your eyes for a few days, but here’s the fact: You can return to most of your usual activities within 24 hours, although you’ll need to avoid strenuous physical activities and contact sports for several weeks because you don’t want to risk bumping your eye while it’s healing.
What special care do you need to follow? You won’t have any stitches or bandages to worry about. You only need to apply eyedrops for five days. You’ll also need to keep water out of your eyes and limit eye creams or makeup for several days.
Myth 5: Everyone is a good candidate for LASIK
Unfortunately, this is a myth. Most people can have LASIK surgery, but not everyone is a good candidate. You may not be able to have LASIK if you have a thin cornea, dry eyes, or an eye infection.
You also can’t have LASIK until you’re 18 or older because your vision continues to change throughout adolescence. You can consider LASIK when your vision stabilizes in your late teens or early 20s.