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LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) eye surgery is one of the most well-known and commonly used types of laser eye surgery performed to fix vision problems. It has been developed over the years to be minimally invasive and highly effective. (Learn More)
Like any medical procedure, there are certain risks associated with LASIK surgery. Complications as a result of surgery, such as reduced vision and negative side effects, are possible, but they are currently very rare. (Learn More)
Since the procedure was first introduced in the 1990s, technological advancements have reduced the chances of negative side effects. (Learn More) The introduction of the femtosecond laser, wavefront technology, and corneal topography have greatly advanced the ability to customize the procedure and its outcomes.
With these technological advancements, LASIK outcomes have improved over time. Positive outcomes have improved by over 30 percent, and recovery from the surgery is almost immediate. (Learn More)
Although technological advancements have greatly improved the procedure and its outcomes, not everyone can expect to experience perfect vision following LASIK surgery. Improved vision can be expected by nearly everyone, though corrective eyewear may still be required for some daily activities, such as reading. (Learn More)
LASIK is considered a safe and highly effective procedure. It is not appropriate for everyone with vision problems, but those who qualify can expect to achieve reduced dependency on glasses or contact lenses. (Learn More) Overall, patients can expect very good outcomes with LASIK.
The History of LASIK
The use of refractive surgery to reshape the corneas of people struggling with poor vision dates back to 1948. Keratomileusis, or sculpting of the cornea, has been used in one form or another for decades to reshape the corneas. Over the years, more crude techniques have been replaced by more sophisticated ones that have lower chances of negative side effects.
By 1988, photorefractive keratectomy was used to successfully treat patients with vision problems. With this technique, an excimer laser was used to re-sculpt the cornea after a hinged flap was manually created on the cornea.
The traditional version of LASIK, which includes the use of a microkeratome and the excimer laser, was introduced in 1990. In 1999, it was approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Since 1990, potential uses for LASIK surgery have expanded. Originally, LASIK was only designed for the treatment of myopia and astigmatism. As the procedure has been further researched and developed, its list of approved uses has grown. LASIK is now the most commonly performed laser eye surgery for people with nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
Risks of LASIK
As with any medical procedure, there are certain risks associated with LASIK. In general, LASIK is a safe procedure with very few potentially severe complications. Potential side effects of LASIK include:
- Dry eyes.
- Temporary visual glare.
- Halos or double vision.
- Undercorrection (not enough damaged tissue was removed).
- Overcorrection (too much tissue was removed).
- Corneal flap problems.
Less common complications include vision regression, where your vision slowly reverts back to how it was before surgery, and vision loss. The chances of these issues occurring are incredibly low. Complications are not likely to happen in the vast majority of cases.
Some of the above risks, such as dry eyes and glare, are usually temporary. They are expected to clear up on their own within a few weeks of surgery. Other conditions, such as undercorrections and overcorrections, may require additional surgery to be repaired.
Technological Advancements in LASIK
Advancements in LASIK have allowed the procedure to become relatively quick and painless. The recovery timeline is very short, with people often being able to return to work the next day.
LASIK is now one of the safest and most common vision correction procedures.
Technological advancements that have helped improve the safety and successful outcomes of LASIK include:
- Introduction of the femtosecond laser. Use of the femtosecond laser means that a blade is no longer required for the procedure, and blade-related complications during surgery are no longer a concern. Additionally, a much thinner flap on the cornea can be made with the laser, allowing for a quicker and easier recovery.
- Wavefront laser technology. This type of laser technology allows for corrections of errors on the cornea that glasses and contact lenses can’t fix, resulting in even better vision than when patients wore their glasses.
- Topography-guided laser vision correction. With this form of laser vision correction, tens of thousands of data points on the eye are collected before treatment, analyzed, and sent to an excimer laser in order to perform highly individualized corneal corrections.
How LASIK Outcomes Have Changed Over Time
In the late 1990s, the success rate of LASIK surgery was about 65 percent. Outcomes have improved greatly since then, with current success rates of about 98 percent.
Technological advancements have allowed for the surgery and its outcomes to become much more individualized than when the procedure was first developed. This results in surgery outcomes that are overwhelmingly positive.
Wavefront LASIK, for example, allows eye surgeons to develop a customized treatment plan per patient, not just based on the patient’s eyeglass or contact prescription. This kind of customization allows for higher success rates of improved vision following surgery.
Additionally, patients experience lower risks of negative side effects when surgery is less invasive and highly individualized. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to LASIK. Each surgery is tailored to the patient’s specific needs.
Expected Outcomes With New Technology
Anyone who receives LASIK surgery can expect to experience improved vision. However, not everyone can expect to have perfect vision following LASIK. Although perfect vision after LASIK is the ideal goal, people respond differently to the procedure. In general, the lower degree of vision problems you have going into surgery, the more likely you are to achieve perfect vision after the procedure.
Positive outcomes are still likely for people with high prescriptions going into surgery. People with severe near or farsightedness may not achieve perfect vision through LASIK, but their vision is likely to improve significantly. They may still need to wear corrective lenses for some activities, but their overall vision will improve greatly.
Expected LASIK surgery outcomes include:
- Close to 20/20 uncorrected vision or better.
- Reduced dependency on glasses or contact lenses.
- Ability to perform 95 percent of daily activities without corrective eyewear.
- A mild recovery period marked by dry eyes, blurry vision, or halos.
New LASIK technology has allowed for the vast majority of patients to expect significant vision improvements through a quick and minimally invasive procedure. Following LASIK, approximately 95 percent of patients experience 20/40 vision or better. About 85 percent of patients achieve 20/20 vision or better.
Current LASIK Outcomes
The goal of LASIK is to help people achieve perfect or close to perfect vision without the help of glasses or contact lenses. Eight out of 10 people who receive LASIK surgery no longer need their glasses or contact lenses for most daily activities. Some people may still require glasses for some activities, such as reading or other up-close activities.
People who have moderate nearsightedness typically experience the greatest vision improvement following LASIK. Results vary much more for people receiving LASIK due to farsightedness, astigmatism, or severe nearsightedness.
It is important to note that LASIK surgery is not appropriate for everyone with vision problems. If you are interested in LASIK, speak with your eye care doctor to see if you would be a good candidate for the procedure. If your doctor deems that LASIK isn’t right for you, there are many other types of laser eye surgeries available that could help you achieve similar positive outcomes.
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Man Who Led FDA Team to Approve LASIK Now Says It Was a Mistake. (February 2019). Medscape.
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A Look at LASIK: Past, Present and Future. (June 2009). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Topo-Guided LASIK in Refractive Practice. (February 2019). Review of Ophthalmology.
What Are the Newest Advancements in Laser Vision Correction? (January 2020). Center for Sight.
Your Vision After LASIK. (July 2019). Verywell Health.
What Patients Think of LASIK. (December 2014). Review of Ophthalmology.
Taylor Swift Got Laser Eye Surgery, What to Expect After It Is Done. (October 2019). Forbes.
Pros and Cons of LASIK: Are the Risks Worth the Cost? (December 2017). Michigan Health.
LASIK Complication Rate: The Latest Facts and Stats You Should Know. (October 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council.
Complications That Results in Loss of Vision After LASIK Are Rare. (November 2019). Chicago Tribune.