Poor vision is one of the most common physical issues afflicting people the world over today. For several centuries, and even back to the Roman emperor Nero who used a cut crystal to watch the games in the Circus Maximus, corrective lenses have been the sole remedy for this problem.
Laser eye surgery offers a unique modern alternative for the many thousands of people who would rather not wear contact lenses or spectacles for one reason or another. This type of surgery works by reshaping the surface of the eye known as the cornea. A special laser is used to remove part of the cornea and reshape it so that the image produced by the lens at the front of the eye falls in the right place, neither in front of the retina (short sight) nor behind it (long sight).
Laser eye surgery does not work for everyone and its success depends very much on the nature of the vision impairment, which is why a detailed consultation with a specialist is needed before going ahead with treatment. A surgeon creates a map of the eyes to help decide whether the surgery is appropriate, and if it is decided to go ahead the same map is used to adjust the laser used to perform the operation.
The cornea, or coloured part of the eye surrounding the pupil, is the target of this type of treatment, because it is the shape of the cornea that determines clarity of vision. The laser is used to change the shape of the cornea and therefore the way in which it will focus the image created by the lens.
So, How Does Laser Eye Surgery Work? The first stage of the procedure involves inserting anaesthetic drops into the eye to ensure the patient is in absolute comfort. A lid speculum is placed over the eye to keep it open during the operation. A small incision is then made into the cornea to approximately a quarter of its depth and a small box shape, with an oblong flap that remains attached along one of its sides, is carefully removed. With the flap open, the laser is used to change the cornea's shape as required depending on whether you are long or short sighted.
Minute parts of the cornea are vaporised as the corneal tissues come into contact with the laser pulses. The laser can be finely adjusted by the surgeon to control its pulses, so that only the correct amount of reshaping is made. Once that has been done the flap is placed back in position and adapts to the new corneal contours.
With LASIK eye surgery the results are more or less instantaneous, with no recovery time and no side effects in most cases. LASEK surgery is an alternative to this for patients whose corneas are too thin for LASIK treatment. The recovery time for LASEK surgery is also slightly longer, usually up to four days, and the eyes have to be protected for that period with a bandage for hygiene reasons.