If you’ve thought about vision correction surgery — also called refractive eye surgery — and have even begun to do your research, you’ll know by now that there’s a world of confusing options. Even the name can be confusing – sometimes called refractive surgery, sometimes laser surgery, sometimes laser refractive surgery.
Then there are the different types of laser surgery. There’s the well-known, and still vastly popular, LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis), but also wavefront-guided LASIK and Epi-Lasik, PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis), to name but a few.
The boom in options and acronyms is triggered by improved technology and better surgical skills. As a result, the scope of vision problems that can be corrected with refractive eye surgery has expanded greatly in the past few decades.
Problems that can be corrected include short-sightedness (myopia), astigmatism (unevenly curved cornea), long-sightedness (hyperopia) and presbyopia (focusing difficulty that occurs with age).
Overall, the results seem long-lasting, with a study published in the Journal of Refractive Surgery showing that nearly 95% of eyes corrected for moderate to severe short-sightedness have 6/6 (20/20) vision or better, and the results held over a seven-year follow-up.
Among the downsides: some people do need a second procedure or “enhancement” to get the best possible vision; some have complications that interfere with their life and work. Side-effects such as dryness of the eye, for example, can occur, because you are cutting through a nerve. It generally goes away after three months, and can be managed with medication.
If you’re a candidate for refractive eye surgery, the surgery should be tailored not only to your vision problems, but also to such factors as age, occupation and lifestyle. There’s no one-size-fits-all surgery and be wary if you are advised otherwise.