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Experiencing LASIK Surgery

July, 2010

Series 3

Charles S. Sandor, Jr., M.D.

If you've been told you could benefit from LASIK vision correction, you are probably feeling excited about all the ways LASIK can help you and also feeling nervous about the reality of an unfamiliar experience. But if you know what to expect, and follow a few simple guidelines, your surgery day can actually be easy and quite comfortable.

Preparing For LASIK

Plan to eat a light snack before LASIK, excluding milk or caffeine products, and dress comfortably, preferably in a short sleeve shirt or blouse that opens down the front. You also must make certain to bring along a responsible adult, a good friend or a family member to drive you to and from your appointment. You both should plan on spending at least an hour at the surgical center.

LASIK is performed as an outpatient procedure and you are fully awake the entire time. Upon arriving at the surgical center and prior to surgery, eye drops are placed in your eye to numb it. This anesthetic minimizes discomfort during the procedure. In some cases, a mild sedative pill also is given to patients in order to reduce anxiety. You will be asked to lie face up on a reclining chair or table. Your eyelid will be carefully held open using a special instrument while the other eye is covered with a patch.

Undergoing LASIK

Your doctor will ask you to look directly into a light in order to fixate your eye under the laser. Then a small suction device will be used to steady your eye while a small motor-powered blade gently separates surface layers of the cornea. With the underlying corneal tissue exposed, the laser application begins. This usually takes 30-60 seconds, depending on the amount of nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism that is being treated. The laser's computer calculates the exact number of pulses delivered by the laser. During the LASIK procedure, you will hear tapping sounds and may detect a slight odor but this is all perfectly normal.

After the laser treatment, the corneal flap is returned to its original position where it stays in place without the need for stitches. The doctor's last step is to place antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops in the treated eye. For patients having both eyes corrected, the second eye is uncovered and treated using the same process.

Expect After-Effects

Immediately following the surgery, some patients notice their vision is significantly improved compared to before surgery. Best vision, however, may take several days or weeks to achieve. Because of this, and also because of potential effects of any sedatives administered, patients are not allowed to drive themselves home. The person you have brought with you will be glad to take on that task.

It is always important to call your eye doctor if you have any questions or concerns. But an immediate phone call should be made if you notice increased pain 24 hours or more after treatment, discharge, redness, increased irritation of the eye, or increased blurring of vision.

There are other common post-operative side effects of LASIK which generally resolve themselves within 72 hours following surgery. In our last column of this series we will take a look at what these side effects may be, discuss routine post-operative care and then review what are generally agreed to be the expected happy results of LASIK.

About the Author

Charles S. Sandor specializes in cataract and LASIK surgery at Wheaton Eye Clinic. Under his leadership, the Center for Surgery in Naperville, IL operates two VISX Star2 Excimer lasers and has trained 35 ophthalmologists in the art of LASIK. Dr. Sandor performs over 1,000 surgeries annually, making his one of the largest eye surgery practices in the Chicago area. Learn more ...