Nearsightedness Can Be Treated with LASIK


A new study conducted by the National Eye Institute has highlighted a dramatic increase in the rate of nearsightedness, or myopia, which has risen from 25 percent in the 1970s to just over 41 percent in 2009. Nearsightedness can be treated in several ways, including eyeglasses, contact lenses, or a surgical technique called LASIK.

LASIK, which is an acronym for laser in-situ keratomileusis, is the most common laser surgery used to correct nearsightedness. The procedure is sometimes referred to as “flap and zap,” because the surgery involves the use of a laser to make a tiny flap in the cornea.

An ophthalmologist must determine whether an individual is a good candidate for LASIK. People who should not undergo LASIK include those who have not had stable vision for at least one year, anyone younger than 18, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, individuals who have a disease or abnormality of the cornea, or anyone who has an uncontrolled autoimmune or connective tissue disease. Before a final decision is made, an ophthalmologist will take pictures of the eye(s) using a technique called corneal topography.

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LASIK is an outpatient procedure that can be done in a surgeon’s office or a same-day surgery facility. It is done using local anesthesia, and while the entire procedure takes up to two hours (includes preparation, surgery, and after surgery care), the actual surgical procedure takes about 10 minutes per eye. Although the procedure is painless, you may feel some pressure in your eye.

Over the short term, LASIK has been shown to be very effective in reducing mild to moderate nearsightedness. Studies show that after LASIK, among people who had myopia of less than 6 diopters (a unit of measurement of the refractive power of lenses), 67 to 72 percent of patients had 20/20 vision or better, and 95 to 96 percent had 20/40 vision or better. Most people notice a significant improvement in their vision within several days to several weeks after the surgery. Results of the USAEyes CORE survey from 2008 show that 99 percent of patients who had undergone LASIK said their quality of life was as expected or better following surgery.

LASIK requires very little recovery time. After surgery you may wear an eyepatch or contact lens on the eye and be given a prescription for pain medication. Side effects of LASIK include scratchiness in the eye on the day of surgery, blurry vision for several days, and watery eyes. Dry eye is also common but usually temporary. Some people experience night vision problems (e.g., seeing halos around light sources), increased sensitivity to bright light, or double vision. In rare cases, the cornea becomes infected (keratitis) or there is elevated pressure inside the eye, which can lead to glaucoma.

LASIK is a treatment option for people who live with nearsightedness. Because it is an elective, cosmetic procedure, it is not covered by most insurance companies. Anyone who is considering LASIK as treatment for nearsightedness should interview several ophthalmologists who have performed many such procedures and talk to other patients about their experiences before choosing a surgeon.

Shiuey Y. Digital Journal of Ophthalmology