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Best LASIK Alternatives: Learn Your Options

doctor explaining lasik alternatives

Did you know that over 10 million people in the U.S. have had LASIK eye surgery since its approval by the FDA in 1999? This popular laser vision surgery has revolutionized the field of ophthalmology, offering a permanent solution for refractive errors like myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism.

However, LASIK is not for everyone. Certain factors such as age, corneal thickness, and lifestyle can make other vision correction surgery options a better fit. So, what are the alternatives to LASIK?

There are several LASIK alternatives that can also provide clear vision without the need for corrective lenses. These include Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK), Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE), Implantable Collamer Lenses (ICLs), and even Cataract Surgery. Each of these procedures has its own set of benefits, risks, and ideal candidates.

In this article, we’ll delve into these LASIK alternatives, helping you understand your options for achieving better vision.

The Evolution of Corrective Eye Surgery

The journey of corrective eye surgery has been a long and fascinating one, starting from the humble eyeglasses to the advanced surgical procedures we have today. LASIK, a popular laser eye surgery, has been a significant milestone in this journey. However, it’s not the end of the road. There are limitations to LASIK, and this has led to the development of several other vision correction procedures.

Why Consider LASIK Alternatives

There are various reasons why one might consider alternatives to LASIK. Factors such as age, specific vision issues, and lifestyle needs can influence this decision.

For instance, people with thin corneas, hyperopia, or severe myopia might not be ideal candidates for LASIK eye surgery. Individuals who participate in contact sports or have jobs that disallow the creation of a corneal flap should explore a LASIK alternative.

4 Best Alternatives to LASIK

1. PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy)

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) is a type of refractive surgery that uses a laser to reshape the cornea, improving the eye’s ability to focus light and correct vision. PRK was the first successful laser vision correction surgery used to remove tissue directly from the eye’s surface to change the cornea’s curvature.

PRK is still commonly used today, and it’s considered a safer procedure in cases where a person’s cornea may be too thin for LASIK surgery. PRK does not involve creating a thin, hinged flap on the eye’s surface, as occurs with LASIK, eliminating the risk of surgical flap complications.

Addresses vision problems like:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia)
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia)
  • Astigmatism

Ideal candidates are people:

  • With moderate to high myopia or low hyperopia
  • With thin corneas unsuitable for LASIK
  • With a stable vision prescription
  • Free of eye diseases such as glaucoma or keratoconus
  • Who are not pregnant or nursing
  • Over the age of 18

Compared to LASIK:

  • No risk of flap complications as in LASIK
  • Better for individuals with thin corneas
  • Protective contact lens is used for 1 week during healing
  • Longer healing time
  • Same long term vision outcome

Procedure risks include:

  • Temporary discomfort or vision disturbances
  • Dry eyes
  • Infection or inflammation that leads to cornea scarring
  • Changes in cornea that could require another surgery

PRK procedure is an excellent alternative to LASIK that has a strong track record in the right patients.

2. Refractive Lens Exchange Surgery

Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is a non-laser, internal eye procedure that involves removing the eye’s natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens to enhance vision. This procedure is used to correct a wide variety of focus problems that lead to blurry vision. RLE is also known as lens replacement surgery or clear lens exchange.

Multiple artificial lens implants are available. Typically, a multifocal lens is used to give the highest degree of glasses independence.

Addresses vision problems like:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia)
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia)
  • Astigmatism
  • Presbyopia

Ideal candidates are people:

  • Over the age of 40-45 who want to decrease their dependence on glasses or contact lenses
  • Unsuitable for LASIK or PRK
  • That need presbyopia treatment
  • That have early stage cataracts
  • Want a long term solution

Procedure risks include:

  • Posterior capsule opacity
  • Infection or inflammation
  • Glare and halos at night
  • Retinal tear or detachment

Benefits compared to LASIK:

  • Can correct more severe refractive errors
  • No corneal flap complications
  • Eliminate future cataract formation
  • Involves placement of intraocular lens implant
  • Longer term solution

3. Implantable Collamer Lenses

Implantable Collamer Lenses (ICLs) or phakic intraocular lens implants (PIOLs) are lenses surgically placed inside the eye to correct vision. Unlike LASIK, this procedure does not involve reshaping the cornea. ICLs, similar to contact lenses, are surgically implanted lenses that are considered appropriate for higher levels of nearsightedness. When ICLs are used, your eye’s natural lens is left in place. These lenses have a long track record of use, including more than 15 years in Europe.

ICL surgery

The FDA has approved an implantable collamer lens:

Visian intraocular collamer lens

Addresses vision problems like:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia)
  • Astigmatism

Ideal candidates are people:

  • With moderate to high myopia
  • With thin corneas unsuitable for LASIK or PRK
  • With a stable vision prescription
  • Free of eye diseases such as glaucoma or keratoconus
  • Between the age of 21 – 45

Procedure risks include:

  • Cataract formation
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Damage to the crystalline lens
  • Corneal edema

Benefits compared to LASIK:

  • No removal or reshaping of corneal tissue
  • No LASIK flap complications
  • Procedure is reversible
  • Can correct higher levels of refractive errors

4. Cataract Surgery

cataract cloudy lens in the eye

Cataract Surgery is a procedure that involves removing the clouded natural lens of the eye and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens. While primarily performed to treat cataracts, it can also correct refractive errors. New lens implants developed for cataract surgery, like multifocal lenses, can restore a person’s near vision in addition to correcting nearsightedness and farsightedness.

artificial intraocular lens implant

Addresses vision problems like:

  • Cataracts
  • Nearsightedness (myopia)
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia)
  • Astigmatism
  • Presbyopia

Ideal candidates are people:

  • With cataracts affecting their daily activities
  • With refractive errors and cataracts
  • Without significant eye health problems

Procedure risks include:

  • Infection or inflammation
  • Retinal detachment
  • Posterior capsule opacity
  • Glare and halos at night

Benefits compared to LASIK:

  • Can correct vision and treat cataracts simultaneously
  • Treats presbyopia
  • No corneal flap complications
  • Can be performed even in older adults

Choosing the Right Procedure

Choosing the right vision correction procedure is a crucial decision that should be made in consultation with an eye surgeon. The best LASIK alternatives are not one-size-fits-all solutions, but rather depend on a variety of factors:

  • Age: Certain procedures are more suitable for different age groups. For instance, refractive lens exchange (RLE) is often recommended for older adults with presbyopia, while implantable collamer lenses (ICLs) may be a good option for younger individuals.
  • Overall Health: General health conditions, such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases, can affect the healing process and the success of the procedure.
  • Eye Health: Conditions like thin corneas, severe myopia, or the presence of cataracts can determine which procedure is most suitable.
  • Lifestyle: Active individuals or those involved in contact sports might prefer a procedure that doesn’t create a corneal flap, like PRK or ICLs.
  • Personal Preferences: Some people might prefer a reversible procedure like ICLs, while others might prioritize a procedure that can treat presbyopia, like RLE.

Your eye surgeon plays a crucial role in helping you make this decision. They can provide personalized advice based on a comprehensive eye exam and a thorough understanding of your lifestyle and vision goals.

Choosing the Right Surgeon

Selecting the right surgeon for your surgical procedure is a crucial step in your journey towards better vision. Here are some qualifications and factors to consider:

  1. Board Certification: Ensure that the surgeon is board-certified by a recognized medical board such as the American Board of Ophthalmology. This certification indicates that the surgeon has completed the necessary training and passed rigorous exams.
  2. Experience and Specialization: Look for a surgeon who specializes in refractive surgery and has substantial experience in performing the specific procedure you’re considering. Ask about the number of procedures they’ve performed.
  3. Patient Outcomes: Inquire about the surgeon’s success rates, complication rates, and the outcomes of their previous patients. A reputable surgeon should be able to provide this information.
  4. Patient Reviews and Testimonials: Check online reviews and testimonials from previous patients. These can provide insight into the surgeon’s skills, bedside manner, and the overall patient experience.
  5. Personal Comfort: During your consultation, assess whether you feel comfortable with the surgeon. They should be able to explain the procedure, risks, benefits, and alternatives in a way that you understand, and make you feel confident about your decision.

Remember, the right surgeon for you should not only have the necessary qualifications and experience but also align with your personal comfort and trust. Here are some additional tips from the FDA on finding the right doctor.

Final Thoughts

While LASIK eye surgery has revolutionized the field of vision correction, it’s not the only option available. Alternatives to LASIK, such as PRK, RLE, ICLs, and cataract surgery, offer viable solutions for those who may not be ideal candidates for LASIK or who are looking for other ways to correct their vision.

Each procedure has its own set of benefits and potential risks, and the best choice depends on individual factors like age, eye health, lifestyle, and personal preferences. Therefore, it’s essential to explore all available options and consult with a professional before deciding on a vision correction procedure.

Remember, achieving better vision and enhancing your quality of life is the ultimate goal. Whether through LASIK or one of its alternatives, modern vision correction procedures offer the opportunity to see clearly and live fully. Always consult with your eye doctor to make the right vision correction decision for you.