What is Laser Eye Surgery?
Laser eye surgery, often referred to as refractive eye surgery, typically involves using lasers to reshape corneal layers of your eye. However, some procedures might elect to remove a layer of your lens and replace it with an artificial intraocular contact lens.
Depending on what your eyes need and their overall condition, your doctor could recommend a variety of different procedures.
LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) eye surgery is by and large the most common laser eye surgery performed on patients. To help keep you comfortable, your ophthalmologist will apply numbing eye drops before the procedure begins. They will then make a small incision into the lens of your eye using a laser or a tiny scalpel.
This incision creates a very small flap that, when folded back, allows your surgeon to access the cornea. Your ophthalmologist then reshapes the cornea using an excimer laser, which corrects your refractive error. After this procedure, the flap is reseated back over your cornea and left to heal. Total healing time is usually a few days.
PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery is similar to LASIK, though there are a few differences. Like in LASIK, a tiny blade or laser is used to make an incision in the lens of your eye. Instead of making a flap, however, the lens is completely removed.
An excimer laser still reshapes the cornea, but there is no flap to replace. Instead, the cornea’s outer layer slowly regrows and repairs itself over the next few days. This procedure might be used instead of LASIK if your eyes have thinner or softer corneas, making them unfit to be folded back.
RLE (refractive lens exchange) surgery is quite different from LASIK and PRK in that it doesn’t reshape the cornea at all. Instead, a small incision is made in your eye to allow the ophthalmologist to remove your crystalline lens.
After removing your crystalline lens, an artificial intraocular contact lens (ICL) replaces it to help correct your refractive error.
Cataract surgery is the same procedure as RLE surgery. However, instead of removing a clear lens with a refractive error, it removes a lens that has developed one or more cataracts. As you may know, cataracts are the gradual clouding over your eye’s crystalline lens, leading to possible blindness.
To remove cataracts, your ophthalmologist will use one of 2 methods:
- Your ophthalmologist can use an ultrasound probe that breaks apart the cloudy lens, and then use a very tiny suction tube to extract it from your eye.
- Your ophthalmologist could make a slightly larger incision in your eye so they can extract the lens whole.
After removing cataracts, the lens will be replaced with an intraocular contact lens to provide you with clear, unclouded vision.