LASIK (Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis)
LASIK is the most popular form of laser eye surgery because it can correct a wide range of vision disorders, and has the shortest and most comfortable period of recovery. The procedure takes less than 30 minutes, and you can return home almost immediately after surgery (there is no need for a hospital stay).
The first UK LASIK procedure was performed in 1995, and even since then there have been dramatic improvements in laser speeds, incision techniques, and computer-guided technology. The LASIK process involves the application of anaesthetic drops into your eye, fitting a lid speculum to gently hold the eyelids open, and attaching a tiny ring to the eyeball to restrict movement. You will not be able to feel most of this because of the numbing anaesthetic drops.
With a precision blade, known as a microkeratome, the surgeon makes a very small incision (between 3-9mm) in the top layers of the cornea (known as the epithelium). This area is then folded and temporarily removed enabling access to the middle cornea layers (the stroma).
The surgeon then activates the computer-guided ultraviolet laser which sends fleeting pulses of light into your eye. This is how it reshapes the cornea with ultimate precision; flattening it for cases of myopia, or steepening it for hyperopia. In the case of astigmatism, the laser smoothes the cornea into a more regular shape. It is likely that you will have more than one of these conditions – and with laser eye surgery they can all be treated together.
Once the laser has done its work (which usually takes around 30 seconds) the cornea flap is replaced and covered with a protective contact lens to reduce irritation. The recovery period lasts for 1-2 days while the epithelium heals; and you will need to apply antibiotic eye drops to resist infection. Over the next four weeks the eyes will heal fully, and your vision will stabilise.