Refractive surgery options, such as LASIK, are appealing to many people who have been wearing glasses or contact lenses for most of their lives. It is important to remember that several options for refractive surgery exist, and different factors play a role in which option best suits you and your eyes. For some people, the desired result can be achieved without undergoing surgery at all. Continue reading for a guide on traditional refractive surgeries, as well as an overview on some other corrective options.
LASIK and PRK
LASIK is the best known and most common form of refractive surgery, and has been a popular corrective option since it was introduced in the 1990s. Millions of people have undergone the surgery, and it has proven to be an effective and generally safe procedure. During LASIK, a high-tech femtosecond laser forms a thin flap on the cornea, or the front surface of the eye. The deeper corneal tissue is then reshaped to correct for the individual’s prescription, and the flap is gently laid back down. In most cases, patients have clear vision in a matter of days. Like any surgery, LASIK carries some risks, such as flap displacement or infection. There may also be some side effects like dry eye or increased glare. However, despite these minor risks, most people who undergo LASIK are happy with their resulting vision.
PRK is a refractive option similar to LASIK, and was actually used consistently prior to LASIK’s introduction. PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy, also reshapes the corneal tissue using a laser. However, in PRK, no flap is formed; instead, the outermost layer of the cornea is completely removed and allowed to grow back following surgery. Because there is no flap created during surgery, PRK does not carry the same “flap-displacement” risks of LASIK. However, it does have a longer recovery time, and may come with more initial discomfort. Both PRK and LASIK have provided many people with clear vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses.
Options Beyond Refractive Surgery
Laser surgeries for refractive correction are not the only option for those who want to avoid daily use of glasses or contacts. For example, biocompatible implants known as Intacs can be permanently placed inside the cornea, and can be used to correct for refractive error. Intacs are also a viable option for those suffering from keratoconus, a progressive corneal degeneration that drastically affects your prescription. Other options can provide refractive correction without surgery, such as the Gentle Vision Shaping System. The Gentle Vision Shaping System, or GVSS, is a program that uses specially designed contact lenses that work as vision retainers overnight. These contact lenses are worn nightly, work to gently reshape the front of the eye and correct refractive error, and then removed in the morning. Upon removal, the wearer is left with clear vision all day, and does not need to rely on contact lenses or glasses to see clearly each morning.