As an ophthalmologist with specialized training in cornea and refractive surgery, I’ve spent countless hours in training, research, and actual surgical practice, particularly with LASIK surgery. The insights I share here are based on my extensive experience and outcomes from hundreds of patients I’ve personally treated with LASIK and PRK. As a medical doctor, my primary commitment is to my oath of doing no harm. It’s important to note that LASIK isn’t for everyone, and not everyone is a suitable candidate. A thorough evaluation for LASIK candidacy by a highly trained and experienced ophthalmologist is crucial.
Let’s debunk some common LASIK myths that often surface in my conversations with patients interested in the procedure:
Myth #1: LASIK is not safe
Fact: LASIK is not only the most common elective procedure worldwide, with about 1 million procedures performed annually in the United States alone, but it’s also one of the safest. Its success and patient satisfaction rates are as high as 95%. The FDA continues to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the procedure and the technology behind it through MedWatch and SightNet programs. Since its FDA approval in 1999, the safety and excellent outcomes of the procedure have contributed to its overall success. Like any surgical procedure, complications can occur, but they are relatively rare. It’s crucial to remember the importance of proper screening and evaluation.
Myth #2: LASIK is not real surgery
Fact: LASIK is indeed a real surgical procedure. It involves reshaping the cornea, the front window of the eye, to correct the eye’s focusing power. Lasers and sometimes blades are used to perform the procedure. The evaluation, procedure, and post-operative instructions need to be taken very seriously. The success of the procedure depends on collaboration between the surgeon and patient.
Myth #3: LASIK has long-term side effects
Fact: The most common side effects from LASIK, including dry eye, glare, and halos, generally dissipate by 3-6 months. Most patients experience significant improvement by 1 month. Patients who have not been properly screened can have long-term side effects. These patients should not have been approved to have LASIK.
Myth #4: LASIK is not effective
Fact: LASIK offers many patients, who are legally blind without their glasses, an opportunity to significantly reduce their dependence on glasses. More than 95% of patients achieve 20/40 or better vision without glasses with LASIK, making it one of the most effective procedures ever developed. LASIK world literature review: quality of life and patient satisfaction study published in the journal Ophthalmology, showed that “the overall patient satisfaction rate after primary LASIK surgery was 95.4%.”
Myth #5: LASIK cannot correct astigmatism
Fact: LASIK can indeed correct astigmatism. In fact, correcting astigmatism is a significant part of improving vision without glasses.
Myth #6: LASIK doesn’t last long
Fact: The shape and the focusing power of the eye naturally change over time. Proper LASIK screening evaluates for stability. If the glasses prescription is changing year over year, then LASIK is not recommended. For patients with stable prescriptions, LASIK is effective long-term.
Myth #7: LASIK technology is still too new
Fact: The technology behind LASIK has been refined over time, but there have been no major breakthroughs. Wavefront Guided and Custom LASIK is newer technology compared to conventional LASIK. Like conventional LASIK, Wavefront Guided and Custom LASIK correct the glasses prescription. But, they also go a step further with correction of the visual imperfections that are natural to each eye. With over 35 million procedures worldwide, the technology has had plenty of “practice”. It is rigorously tested and fine-tuned for effective treatments. Even on the day of each procedure, the technology is tested and calibrated to deliver treatments for each patient.
Myth #8: LASIK causes permanent dry eye
Fact: Dry eye is common with LASIK in the first 1 to 3 months. The dry eye improves significantly over time until it completely resolves or generally becomes very mild. Some patients will continue to experience dry eye up to about 6 months. Again, proper screening is necessary. Pre-existing dry eye needs to be treated prior to LASIK. Some patients are no longer candidates if they have significant pre-existing dry eye.
Myth #9: I will never need glasses with LASIK
Fact: Standard LASIK does not protect against the need for reading glasses after about age 40. Also, since the eye naturally changes shape and focus, a small prescription may be necessary in the future. Read about Monovision LASIK and Refractive Lens Exchange if you are over 40.
Myth #10: Everyone is a candidate for LASIK
Fact: Thorough screening and evaluation is needed to determine candidacy.
Myth #11: LASIK is the same everywhere, go with the cheapest option
Fact: Be very careful where you choose to have LASIK. Centers that rely on a high volume of procedures every year, may not be incentivized to perform the proper screening. Generally, prices of $250-300 for LASIK are only for extremely small prescriptions without astigmatism. Don’t be fooled. These are the only pair of eyes that you will ever have. Wavefront Guided and Custom LASIK is also not offered everywhere. These technologies are an improvement over conventional LASIK. Also, many centers continue to use a blade to create the LASIK flap. This has been shown to be less accurate, with a higher risk of complications compared to laser LASIK flaps. Choose your center wisely and ask lots of questions.
Myth #12: All LASIK surgeons are the same
Fact: Just like with any profession, there are vast differences in experience, expertise, and skill. Ask questions, do your research, and find a qualified surgeon that you trust to guide you safely through the experience.
In conclusion, LASIK surgery is a well-established, safe, and effective procedure that has transformed the lives of millions worldwide. As with any medical procedure, it’s essential to be well-informed and have a clear understanding of the process, benefits, and potential risks.
Myths and misconceptions can often cloud our judgment, but with accurate information from trusted sources, you can make the best decision for your vision health. Remember, every patient is unique, and a thorough evaluation is crucial to determine if LASIK is the right choice for you. As an experienced ophthalmologist, I’m here to guide you through this journey towards clearer vision.