If you’re thinking about LASIK, or any other vision correction procedure, you’ve probably come across this advice: “Talk to your doctor.”
In fact, that advice comes up with just about any medical or surgical procedure.
Why? Because medical treatment is serious business, even when it’s something like LASIK that has the potential to transform your life for the better. Before you commit to it, you need to make sure you understand it. And the best way to do that is to sit down, one on one, with the medical expert who’s going to provide the treatment.
People who are considering LASIK, or who are about to commit to it, often become enthusiastic and develop high expectations. They’re ready to walk out of surgery, throw away their glasses or contact lenses, and enjoy pinpoint-sharp vision on day one. But that may not be what you experience. Your surgeon can help you understand what the procedure will involve, whether it’s a good idea for you to have it, and what it will feel like to go through it.
There are many reasons to talk with your surgeon:
- To find out if you’re a good candidate for LASIK, and if it’s right for you. Unfortunately, it isn't right for everyone. A variety of conditions — for example, thin corneas — mean that you might not benefit from LASIK. It’s possible that, after a thorough screening, your surgeon might guide you toward other vision correction options. In addition, LASIK is surgery, and like any surgery has risks as well as benefits. Your surgeon will explain those risks so that you can make a fully informed choice.
- To find out what LASIK can and can’t do. LASIK can improve your vision dramatically. And it can free you up from the burden of eyeglasses or contact lenses, so you can pursue a more active lifestyle. But it doesn't always result in perfect vision. And even after LASIK, your eyes will continue to age and change. Its not unusual for people who've had LASIK to eventually need eyeglasses or contacts, either for specialized tasks like reading, or as their eyes age over time.
- To understand what will happen before, during and after the procedure. Having surgery can be stressful, and LASIK is no exception. Your surgeon can help you understand what you’ll experience on the day you have the procedure — in the office and after you go home — and in the days and weeks that follow.
- To understand the healing process. You probably won’t experience the full benefits of LASIK immediately. As with any surgery, there’s a healing process. In the case of LASIK, it can involve side effects, such as blurry vision, distortions such as glare and halos, and sensations such as dry eye. In nearly all cases, these go away over time — usually in the space of a few weeks, out to perhaps three months, but sometimes as much as a year. Knowing this in advance might make the process easier to bear. And you’ll know what to bring to your surgeon’s attention after you have the procedure.
- To understand that you might need additional treatment, and you might still need glasses. Most people who have LASIK will get the full benefit of vision correction without any additional treatments. But in a few cases, the desired results aren’t achieved at once. An additional procedure — called a retreatment — is needed in order to adjust your vision. This is usually performed free of charge. Retreatment might also be needed in a few cases to help relieve side effects such as glare and halos to higher-order aberrations.
Your conversations with your surgeon should continue in the days, weeks and months after your surgery. “After laser vision correction it is important to keep all of your post-op appointments and follow the recommended treatments,” says Dr. Kerry Solomon, past president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. “During those visits, you should talk with your ophthalmologist about your concerns during the healing process. Once your healing is complete and your eyes and vision are stabilized, you and your ophthalmologist can continue mapping out a plan for achieving your healthy vision goals."
What all of this comes down to is that talking with your surgeon is the way to set the right expectations — to understand all the benefits of LASIK but also what you’ll experience on your LASIK journey. Having the right, realistic expectations is the best way to make sure that at the end of the day, you’re happy and satisfied with the results of your LASIK, and with everything that happened on the way.
Your ophthalmologist is the best resource for learning about LASIK, its risks and benefits and what to expect. But if you’re just starting to think about LASIK, you can visit the Refractive Surgery Council website at https://americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/blog to learn more.