Health Series: Part 3 – All you need to know before Lasik Eye Surgery!

In our last two articles of this series we have tried to explain you the in depth details about Lasik Surgery and also who qualifies for it. In this artilcle we’ll explain you about the all important information one should know about the Lasik eye surgery before you go for it.

Preparing for LASIK Surgery 

Preparing for any type of surgery is an unenviable and tedious process.  You must make sure you have everything ready and your body in tip-top shape.  While preparing for LASIK eye surgery may not be quite as difficult, there are some things you need to prepare for before LASIK.

 You definitely need to stop wearing your contact lenses in the weeks leading up to your consultation before LASIK.  Since the surgery is dependent on the shape and measurement of your cornea you must let it regain its shape.  Lenses sometimes reshape the cornea themselves, causing problems with LASIK.  Here are some FDA recommendations based on your contact lenses:

  • Soft contact lenses should be removed and not worn for at least two weeks prior to your LASIK evaluation.
  • Rigid gas permeable lenses should be removed and not worn for at least three weeks prior to LASIK evaluation.
  • Hard lenses should be removed and not worn for at least four weeks prior to LASIK evaluation.

 When you meet the doctor to discuss LASIK eye surgery you should let him know a few things about yourself.  Let the doctor know about any past or present medical and eye conditions as well as all medications you are taking or are allergic to.  It is important that you disclose all of this to your doctor before deciding if LASIK is right for you.

 After you’ve disclosed this personal information to the doctor, you should then discuss if you are a good candidate for LASIK surgery.  Let him explain to you the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the surgery as well as what you can expect from beginning to end.

 You should stop using any lotions, perfumes, or creams the day before the surgery as well as any makeup that may cause debris to get in the eye.  The doctor may even request that you scrub and wash out your eyes for a good time before LASIK surgery to prevent the chance of any type of infection.

 Finally, you should definitely arrange with a loved one for transportation to and from the LASIK surgery.  Before LASIK surgery some doctors will arrange for you to take some medicine to help you relax that could impair your vision and reaction time.  After LASIK surgery you may need a few days to recover your vision, hence the need to arrange for a drive home.

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The Risks of LASIK Surgery 

Whenever a patient undergoes any type of surgical procedure there is a possibility for complications.  It is natural that when a person’s body is opened up and tools are in use that bacteria of some can enter the patient or the body could have a reaction related to the medication.  LASIK surgery is no different, there are risks to LASIK surgery, but they are few and far between.

 LASIK risk continues to drop as doctors and engineers perfect the equipment used in the process.  The risks involved in LASIK also drop as doctors continue to screen for the right candidates to have the surgery.  Research now shows that with the right pre-testing and surgical care the risk of any complications in LASIK surgery are less than 1%.

 The most common risk with LASIK eye surgery is a complication with the flap created by the surgeon to cover the cornea.  In traditional LASIK eye surgery the flap is created when tissue is cut by a surgical tool known as a microkeratome.  Since this tool, a metal blade is used by a human being there remains a risk related to human error.

 When this type of traditional LASIK is performed the risk is when the flap is then used as the natural bandage at the end of the surgery it is not the right size.  Therefore, the complication is an irregular bandage that irritates the eye and causes what is known as an irregular astigmatism.  This LASIK risk is greatly reduced by a newer “bladeless” LASIK procedure.

 In bladeless LASIK the risk of complication is reduced because the blade or microkeratome is no longer used.  It is replaced by IntraLase, or another type of laser, that eliminates the human error.

 When assessing these LASIK risks it is recommended that when you are considering LASIK surgery that you ask your doctor how he/she goes about correcting these problems.  Some complications that arise from LASIK can be made even worse by over or under correction.  Ask your doctor as part of your original process how they handle this situation.

The Cost of LASIK Eye Surgery

The cost of LASIK eye surgery is generally considered to be high because of the idea of using lasers and other high tech equipment.  However, the cost of LASIK continues to come down due to improvements being made to the overall process.  Don’t simply go to the lowest cost when choosing a surgeon; consider the following that may increase cost.

  • Leasing or purchasing of the laser as well as maintenance of the blades or lasers can increase LASIK cost.
  • Per eye fee to the developer or manufacturer of the laser to pay for the cost of the machine.
  • Gowns, masks, gloves, medications, or surgical solutions to keep the operating room sterile and safe.
  • Advertising and insurance for the office.
  • The cost of LASIK can be reduced if the surgeon is part of the staff, eliminating his fee.

 When you are considering different LASIK surgery opportunities you should question your surgeon on what is included in the cost of the LASIK surgery.

  • What is and isn’t included in the LASIK cost?
  • What will I be charged for if complications occur or enhancements are needed?
  • What is the cost for LASIK medications such as anti-inflammatory or painkillers?
  • What is the cost for temporary contact lenses if they are needed after LASIK?
  • What is the cost of the follow-up visits related to LASIK?

 Finally, you should get in contact with your insurance company to determine if they will cover the cost of the LASIK surgery.  Some insurance companies don’t cover LASIK cost because they consider the surgery to be cosmetic.  If financing is not a problem you should strongly consider using the LASIK surgeon who best suits your needs and concerns.

 The FDA considers the average cost of LASIK surgery to be Approx. 1400$ in 2012, a significant decrease from the original numbers listed in 2002 of nearly $1,600.  Many consider this LASIK cost to be marginal in relation to the comfort created by newly improved vision.

During LASIK Eye Surgery 

Most of the fear related to any type of surgery lies in the unknown element of the procedure.  LASIK laser eye surgery is no different than any other type of procedure.  LASIK laser eye surgery is actually a very simple process that can be explained easily.

You will sit down in a reclining chair in a room specially designed for LASIK laser eye surgery.  There will be a large machine with a microscope attached to it and a computer screen as part of a laser system.  The whole process should not take more than 30 minutes to complete.

The first step your doctor will take is to clean your eye and place a numbing drop of liquid in it.  With the LASIK laser eye surgery now underway a ring will be placed around the eye to create suction to the cornea.  This will cause the first discomfort of the surgery and blurred vision, but it will only be temporary.

While the suction ring is still around your eye a cutting instrument, called microkeratome, is used to cut a flap in your cornea.  From this point on during the LASIK laser eye surgery you will experience some fluctuating blurred vision.

During the evaluation for LASIK laser eye surgery your doctor should have informed you that you will need to be able to stare at a laser for 60 seconds or more during the surgery.  You will do this after the tissue has been folded back and dried out by the doctor during the procedure.  The laser will direct your eye to the spot that the surgical laser will use to perform the vision correction.

At this point LASIK laser eye surgery may take on an unexpected smell, that of something burning.  This is probably because your eye is under the intense scrutiny of the laser that is correcting your vision problems.  Though the laser may make some very human sounds (ticking) and smells (burning hair) it is still a very controlled process.

The computer in the room that is hooked up to the laser controls the amount of energy delivered to your eye.  Some tissue will be vaporized and finally the flap of the corneal tissue is put back in place, effectively ending LASIK laser eye surgery.

After LASIK laser eye surgery is completed your doctor will supply you with a shield or patch for your eye to prevent irritation.  You will quickly realize how many times your eye gets bumped or you involuntarily rub it when you cannot do so.  Wear the patch and save yourself some heartache.

What to Look for in a LASIK Surgeon 

After considering if you are the right candidate for LASIK you should then begin shopping for a LASIK surgeon.  Even though the risks of LASIK are quite a bit less than normal surgeries, you should still take researching a LASIK surgeon seriously.  Take the normal precautions of comparing, setting criteria, doing your homework, and understanding what will happen in the surgery.

Compare what each LASIK surgeon relies on as their procedure of choice.  Do they rely on the traditional LASIK that uses a blade to make the incision or do they use “bladeless” InterLase lasers to make all of the cuts.  Ask what they believe is most reliable and what they do the most.

Set forth a base of criteria that you will hold each LASIK surgeon to.  Don’t base it solely on cost or on the doctor’s experience, but see if they perform what you feel most comfortable with.  This decision will affect YOU for the rest of YOUR life, not the surgeon’s.

Do your homework to avoid scams related to the “20/20 vision or guaranteed money back”.  Make sure you check these doctors against the consumer affairs office or better business bureau to ensure that they do good practice.  Understand what your rights are when it comes to having surgery and LASIK in general.

Understand what can happen during the surgery and ask your potential LASIK surgeon how they handle a situation that could potentially end a procedure.  There is a chance a mistake could lead to permanent damage to your eye without even a chance to have corrective surgery.

Ask the same questions of your LASIK surgeon in relation to how he deals with situations after surgery.  Question your LASIK surgeon about how they handle migration of the flap, inflammation or infection, intensive eye drop treatments, or additional procedures after the initial surgery.

LASIK surgeons are also held to an FDA standard regarding the type of laser used during the surgery.  Make sure you find out what laser your potential LASIK surgeon uses and double-check it against the FDA’s approved list.

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