Beyond LASIK: Three Vision Correction Surgeries That May Be Right For You

The word "LASIK" is often misused to refer to any laser vision correction surgery, when really, LASIK is just one specific type of corrective eye surgery. If you are thinking of having your vision corrected, there is a chance your eye doctor may recommend LASIK, but he or she also may feel that another surgery option is better suited for your eyes. To give you a better idea of what to expect, here's a look at the basics of LASIK, along with PRK and LASEK -- the other two major corrective surgeries.

LASIK

The LASIK procedure begins with your eye doctor using either a scalpel or a laser to create a thin flap in your cornea. Then, the flap is folded back, and the tissue underneath it is reshaped. The flap is then laid back down onto the surface of the eye.

After surgery, a patient who has had LASIK generally experiences mild itching of the eyes for a day or so. His or her vision improves quickly, often reaching full clarity within a few days after surgery. LASIK is often recommended to patients because of this quick recovery period, but patients whose corneas are not curved in a certain manner are not candidates for the procedure because the corneal flap cannot be created properly.

LASEK

LASEK is similar to LASIK, but instead of creating a flap that is later laid back down, the surgeon permanently removes a thin slice from the surface of the cornea. This is done using a special type of blade known as a trephine. Once the slice is removed, a laser is used to reshape the cornea.

The healing time after LASEK is longer than with LASIK, but it works well for patients whose corneas are not thick enough to have a flap formed. It is also less likely to cause long-term eye dryness than LASIK because of the absence of the flap.

PRK

PRK is more similar to LASEK than LASIK in that no flap is created in the cornea. Instead of slicing the outer layer of the cornea off, however, a surgeon performing PRK will use a special instrument to abrade the outer layer of the cornea to reshape it. PRK is preferable for patients with thin corneas.

The healing process from PRK is associated with more discomfort than that of LASIK or LASEK. There is also an increased risk of infection post-surgery, so patients must be vigilant about using antibiotic eye drops. However, the vision results of PRK are often clearer than those of other eye surgeries.

To find out which of these laser vision correction methods is best for you, talk to an eye doctor. The answer will depend on the anatomy of your eyes and what visual results you hope to achieve.

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