Different Types Of Corrective Eye Surgery
One of our most treasured senses is most certainly the gift of sight. However, perfect vision is not guaranteed for life and sooner or later we need some assistance in the form of glasses or contact lenses to help us see more clearly. Eye problems can occur at any time but are more common in old age. Until contact lenses became popular in the 1950s, eyeglasses were the only practical way to correct refractive vision errors.
For some people, wearing glasses or contact lenses can be cumbersome. It can also have a negative effect on an active lifestyle which is why many people choose a more permanent solution for taking charge of their vision problems. Today there are several modern approaches to dealing with refractive vision problems that reshape the curvature of the clear front surface of the eye, known as the cornea, in order to alter the way light enters the eye.
Types of Corrective Eye Surgery
Also known as laser eye surgery or refractive eye surgery, the procedure basically reshapes the cornea of the eye to allow the light that passes through it to focus more directly onto the retina. In some cases, it may be necessary to replace the lens of the eye with an artificial lens to correct eyesight. There are many types of corrective eye surgery available. In recent years eye specialists have made incredible progress in vision correction surgery that has made the procedure relatively low-risk, quick and easy to execute, and with shorter recovery times.
PRK – Photorefractive Keratectomy
PRK, also known as Surface Ablation, was the first successful laser procedure used to ablate (remove) eye tissue from the surface of the eye in order to correct the curvature of the cornea. PRK received FDA approval in 1995 and is still commonly used, although LASIK surgery is by far the most popular laser eye correction procedure today.
Because recent studies have indicated similar outcomes for PRK and LASIK surgery, PRK has made somewhat of a comeback. It appears that nerve regeneration takes place faster in the eye’s surface following a PRK procedure which could be beneficial for reducing dry eye and other complications that may occur during the healing process.
There is also no risk of surgical flap complications with PRK as it is a surface procedure that does not involve creating a thin, hinged flap as with LASIK surgery. PRK also appears to be safer for cases where the cornea of the eye is too thin for LASIK surgery.
LASIK – Laser-Assisted in situ Keratomileusis
LASIK is most commonly performed to treat nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness ( hyperopia) or astigmatism. Similar to other types of corrective eye surgery, the procedure reshapes the cornea of the eye to allow the light that enters it to be properly focused on the retina. The procedure takes only 15 minutes to treat both eyes and is essentially pain-free. Improved vision is experienced almost immediately after the procedure and continues to improve, stabilizing over a few days.
The surgeon will create a thin flap in the cornea using a microkeratome tool or a femtosecond laser. The superficial hinged flap is folded back to expose the underlying cornea or stroma and an excimer laser is used to remove microscopic amounts of corneal tissue to alter the shape of the cornea.
For nearsightedness, the aim is to flatten the cornea while farsightedness requires a steeper cornea. By smoothing an irregular shaped cornea into a more normal shape, astigmatism can also be corrected.
After ablation, the flap is laid back in place to cover and seal the cornea. The procedure requires only topical anesthetic drops to prevent discomfort although you may feel some pressure.
Most patients achieve 20/20 vision after LASIK surgery while some may achieve only 20/40 or less. Due to a normal age-related loss of near vision called presbyopia, you may need reading glasses after the age of 40.
LASEK – Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis
LASEK surgery is used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
On a slight variation of PRK, the eye surgeon creates a flap by applying an alcoholic solution to loosen the epithelial cells. A laser is used to reshape the cornea before a soft contact lens is applied to secure the flap around the correction.
ALK – Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty
Although LASIK has all but replaced the use of ALK, it can be used for patients with severe nearsightedness and some levels of farsightedness. In this procedure, there are no lasers used. Instead, the eye specialist will create a flap in the cornea to access the underlying tissue and make an incision in the sub-layers of the cornea to reshape it.
RLE –Refractive Lens Exchange
This procedure is primarily used to treat cataracts. A small incision is made to remove the lens from the edge of the cornea and replace it with an artificial lens. Also known as clear lens extraction (CLE) or refractive lens replacement (RLR), this procedure can also be used to correct severe nearsightedness or farsightedness. It is also used to correct dry eye conditions and thin corneas.
EpiLasik is a similar procedure to PRK where a thin layer of the cornea is separated and reshaped. The layer may either be replaced or removed and the procedure is completed by applying a soft contact lens to promote healing.
Corrective eye surgery can offer numerous benefits that may dramatically improve your quality of life. Most patients achieve perfect vision while others may require an enhancement procedure or will need to wear glasses when performing certain tasks. While corrective eye surgery has a high success rate, it is important to discuss any concerns you may have with your eye surgeon before consenting to surgery.