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12 things you didn’t know about laser eye surgery
Laser eye surgery has been around for over two decades now – in fact, you probably know someone who has undergone a laser eye surgery procedure.
Maybe you’re one of the millions of people across the globe who has undergone a laser vision correction procedure and are now living your life free of glasses or contact lenses. Or you may be reading this because you’re considering laser eye surgery.
There’s no doubt that laser vision correction is a life changing procedure, but there are a lot of myths (and questions) around the procedure.
Here are twelve things that you may not know about laser eye surgery.
Vision correction surgery has been around since the 1930s. Before laser technology, there was a procedure called ‘radial keratotomy’. The surgeon would use a scalpel (and a steady hand) to make incisions on the cornea (the surface of the eye) that would radiate out, much like the pattern created when slicing a pizza. This may sound frightening, but it was a mostly successful procedure that allowed the surgeon to reshape the cornea (necessary for vision correction) by flattening and reshaping it in the centre. In fact, the technology has a very interesting history.
Laser eye surgery technology wasn’t initially used for eye surgery. In 1980, an IBM scientist was making microscopic circuits in microchips with an excimer laser. For some reason, it occurred to him that it could also accurately cut organic tissues without damaging the surrounding tissue. Fortunately, he was correct.
Laser vision correction was first performed over thirty years ago. In 1985 the first procedure was performed on a human patient in Dresden, Germany. However, this procedure (PRK, also known as ASLA or LASEK) was not widely practiced for several more years.
Technology never stays still. There have been a number of generations of laser systems introduced over the years. Laser technology has also undergone 30+ platform upgrades.
Today there is more than one type of laser vision correction procedure. Three to be exact –ASLA (also called PRK or LASEK), LASIK and, in the past year, a new procedure called SMILE®. Clinics perform laser eye surgery procedures using a variety of different names for marketing reasons, but they all fall under one of these categories.
The majority of people can legally drive the next day. Those who have had LASIK usually discover during their follow-up consultation that their vision is the same (or better) than the legal minimum for driving. People recovering from ASLA or SMILE may take a bit longer, but ultimately the result will still be the same.
Several career paths recommend people who wear glasses or contacts should have vision correction surgery. People who want to join the Defence Force or Police Force are often required to have LASIK because both glasses and contact lenses present logistical issues in the line of duty.
Yes, laser vision correction CAN treat astigmatism. It’s not just for people with long-sightedness and short-sightedness – laser eye surgery can treat astigmatism either on its own or along with long- or short-sightedness correction.
Vanity is not the most popular reason for having laser vision correction. The reasons are usually practical ones: professionals such as sports people, chefs or IT workers often havelaser eye surgery to help them perform better and make their lives easier. New parents also discover that trying to find their glasses at 3am leads them on a path to choosing to have laser vision correction.
In the long run, laser eye surgery isn’t as costly as most people think. Do the sums – ongoing replacements of prescription glasses, replacing contact lenses and other costs will most likely exceed the cost of laser eye surgery over the years. Most clinics have financial payment plans that make it easier to pay for laser eye surgery over an extended period of time.
Blinking during laser vision correction won’t affect the procedure. People can even sneeze during treatment and it won’t matter at all. Today, eye-tracking technology makes the laser follow even the smallest eye movement because, let’s face it, no one can keep their eye truly still. As a further reassurance, a surgeon can override the system in a split second at any time.
Laser eye surgery isn’t painful. The eye is numbed before surgery with anaesthetic drops. Some people say they feel a pressure or a moment of discomfort but others feel nothing at all during laser eye surgery.
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