Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the long-term effects of LASIK?

Long-term studies (8-10 years after surgery) have identified few significant adverse affects from LASIK. The most significant adverse event after LASIK is corneal ectasia, which is a weakening of the cornea that causes a distortion of the corneal surface and poor vision. Ectasia is a rare event, occurring in less than 0.2% (fewer than 2 cases per 1,000) of LASIK procedures, according to current estimates. Treatments are available to improve vision problems caused by ectasia, and improved patient screening protocols are likely to lower the incidence of corneal ectasia in the future.

The most common adverse event after LASIK is a mild regression of the effect. Estimates vary, but perhaps 10% of LASIK patients may have enough regression over time to require a LASIK enhancement surgery or corrective eyewear. (Pro golfer Tiger Woods is one example: He had his first LASIK procedure in 1999. Due to a mild regression of his nearsightedness, Tiger had an enhancement LASIK performed in 2007.)

Should I have LASIK done one eye at a time?

Due to its proven safety, nearly all LASIK procedures today are performed on both eyes the same day. There's no advantage to having LASIK performed on each eye separately, on two different surgery days. And in some cases, if you chose separate LASIK procedures on separate days, it may be very uncomfortable to wear a corrective eyeglass lens in front of one eye and a non-prescription lens in front of the other (the first eye to have LASIK) while you wait for the second surgery.

Are expensive places better?

The most important factors in choosing where to have your LASIK surgery performed are: 1) the reputation and experience of the surgeon, 2) the technology they use, 3) their success rates, and 4) the responsiveness of their staff.

Vision centers that offer "bargain" LASIK prices often have hidden fees for associated services, whereas many surgery centers with higher fees have more advanced equipment, a more experienced surgeon, and/or a "global" fee structure that covers all necessary care, including enhancements if they are needed. Advertised prices may also apply only to those with minor corrections and little to no astigmatism.

Is LASIK really painless?

The LASIK procedure involves little or no discomfort, other than a feeling of pressure from the suction ring that holds the microkeratome or femtosecond laser to your eye during the creation of the corneal flap.

After the procedure, you're likely to experience some mild to moderate discomfort for a few hours. By the following day, your eyes should feel fine, but perhaps with some sensation of dryness. Frequent use of artificial tears should make your eyes feel more comfortable.

But everyone's eyes can react differently. Some LASIK patients experience no discomfort or dryness at all. Others complain of significant dryness and higher-than-expected discomfort after surgery.

If your post-operative experience seems significantly different than what you were told to expect by your surgeon or their staff, call them and ask for advice. In the unlikely event you experience significant pain along with an obvious change in your vision, contact your refractive surgeon immediately.

Why must I discontinue contact lens wear before my preoperative exam?

Contact lenses can change the shape of your cornea similar to how a watchband can make an imprint on your wrist. If you have your eyes examined too soon after removing your contact lenses, several of the eye exams could give inaccurate results and negatively influence your surgical outcome. Discontinue wearing soft contact lenses according to your surgeon's recommendation prior to the preoperative measurements and surgery. Rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lens wearers may require a more protracted amount of time out of lens wear. Your eye doctor should advise you if he or she suspects your corneas have not returned to their natural shape after removing your contact lenses.

Can I have LASIK if I had a previous corneal transplant or radial keratotomy?

With a skilled surgeon, usually yes. Research has shown that LASIK can be successfully performed after a corneal transplant or previous radial keratotomy (RK) refractive surgery. However, the decision depends on many factors. See an experienced LASIK surgeon for a pre-operative consultation and exam to see if you are a good candidate.

What is an Optometrist?

Optometrists are primary eye care doctors that have completed four years of undergraduate studies and four years of optometry school. Some optometrists undergo an additional year in specialty residency or fellowship training. An optometrist spends a minimum of four years studying only the eye. They examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as diagnose related systemic conditions. In all 50 states, optometrists prescribe pharmaceuticals for treating eye disease. In refractive surgery, optometrists provide pre- and postoperative care. An optometrist's training in the art and science of clinical optics provides a strong background for measuring the refractive error of the eye, both before and after refractive surgery.

What is an Ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are eye physicians (M.D. or D.O.) that have completed four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical or osteopathy school, a year of internship, and three years in an ophthalmology residency. Some ophthalmologists undergo fellowship training after their residency, lasting a year or more, in a particular specialty. Ophthalmologists spend a minimum of three years studying only the eye. The ophthalmologist can perform total eye care, including surgery. An ophthalmologist's training provides a strong medical background for diagnosing and treating eye diseases and general diseases of the body. Some ophthalmologists, but not all, are refractive surgeons. Most refractive surgeons work closely with optometrists to provide patients with the best possible results.

Should I wait for refractive surgery to improve?

Refractive surgery is highly technology-driven. Like in the computer industry, there are constant advancements. The important question is whether the technological advances translate into proportionate increases in patient satisfaction. Because the level of patient satisfaction with modern refractive surgery is already so high, there probably will not be dramatic advances in satisfaction for most patients. In many cases, time spent waiting for technological improvements also means less time to benefit from the results of your refractive surgery. However, certain patients should wait for more advanced technology. That includes patients with very large pupils and high prescriptions, irregular astigmatism, and thin corneas. Your eye doctor can advise you whether you fall into this category.