Are you considering LASIK, but worried about it? It’s understandable, but you may not be worried about the right things.
We all know that worry can be a pointless exercise. When we worry about the wrong things – that’s a waste of energy. But when we worry about the right things, it can be productive, leading us to educate ourselves, with the result that we wind up better informed and better prepared.
What’s true in general is true for LASIK as well. It’s only natural for people considering surgery to be concerned or even anxious. But many of their worries are unfounded. On the other hand, worrying about the right things might make you a better LASIK patient – with realistic expectations and a clear sense of what the procedure and the recovery will be like.
Here are some of the wrong things and right things to worry about when you’re contemplating LASIK:
Wrong things to worry about:
- Will I be injured if I move during the procedure? In a word, no. Your eyes move constantly, even though you’re not aware of it. During the procedure, modern lasers track your eye movements over one thousand times a second, and make sure the laser is always applied to the right part of the eye. And if you move in a big way – if you sneeze, for example – that’s not a problem either. The same lasers keep track of major head movements and shut down instantly if they detect one. Advanced laser technology helps ensure you don’t get hurt and that the procedure goes fine.
- Could I lose my eyesight as a result of LASIK? In decades of performing LASIK and over 15 million procedures, there’s only one documented case where a patient lost eyesight – and there were complicating medical factors. Basically, the odds that you’ll lose eyesight during LASIK are one in 15 million. To put that in perspective, the odds of being struck by lightning in any given year are one in one million.
- Is there a chance my vision will be blurry forever? Many people experience some vision distortion in the days or weeks after LASIK – most typically, glare or halos. This generally disappears as the eye heals. Another common aftereffect is dry eye, and this can lead to blurred vision. Like the other side effects, it disappears as part of the healing process. You can help manage blurry vision by using eye drops as directed and by coming in for regular follow-up visits.
- Am I getting the lowest possible price? Frankly, the cheapest LASIK isn’t likely to be the best. Some LASIK surgeons are eager to say that they have the lowest prices. But if that’s the case, what are the odds they also have the latest technology? LASIK is surgery – it’s a medical procedure, and as with any other medical procedure, you want to make sure you’re getting the latest and best. Ask about your surgeon’s qualifications. Make sure he or she has up-to-date board certifications. Visit the practice, talk with the surgeon and make sure you’re comfortable. Don’t be hustled, don’t be hurried, and don’t shop for bargains because, in LASIK as in all medicine, there aren’t any.
- I’ve read lots about LASIK on the Internet – is all of it true? Well, no. There’s plenty of LASIK information on the Internet. But as with anything else on the Internet, there’s a lot of bad mixed in with the good. If you’re looking for accurate LASIK information, you can explore this site, or visit other reputable sites like the American Refractive Surgery Council and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons. You can also visit health information sites like WebMD, or those affiliated with major medical centers like the Mayo Clinic. Best of all is to schedule an appointment with a LASIK surgeon. A good surgeon can answer your questions one-on-one, and let you know if you’re a good candidate for LASIK.
Right things to worry about:
- Have I taken the right steps to find a surgeon? Finding a good surgeon isn’t as simple as surfing the web, looking in the phone book or asking friends and family. You’ll want to know that your surgeon has the right experience – look for someone who’s done lots of LASIK procedures (a minimum of 1,000; 10-25,000 would be even better) – and has the right qualifications, including a degree from a recognized medical school, up-to-date board certifications, and possibly an affiliation with a teaching hospital. Your primary care physician, optometrist or ophthalmologist can help you find a good surgeon in your area. Of course it makes sense to talk to friends and family who’ve had LASIK – but don’t let that be your only research. Ultimately, you’ll want to visit the surgeon’s practice, talk with the surgeon and staff, and make sure you feel comfortable. Is everyone taking the time to answer your questions? Do you feel at ease? That’s great. Did you receive a detailed informed consent form, and have it explained to you? You should have. Do you feel you’re being pressured to make a decision right away? That’s not good. Trust your instincts – and do your homework.
- Do I know how to talk to my surgeon about what I want from LASIK, and about the different kinds of laser vision correction that are available? It’s up to your surgeon and his or her staff to answer your questions and describe your options. But you’ll have a better conversation if you’ve done a little homework beforehand. There are several different kinds of laser vision correction – most people opt for LASIK which involves making a flap in the cornea with a laser so that the vision correction takes place below the surface, but people who play certain kinds of contact sports may opt for a different approach that uses the laser to reshape the surface of the eye itself. Even more important is to have a clear sense of what you want to get out of LASIK. That will help you and your surgeon decide together if it’s the right vision correction technique for you, or if eyeglasses or contact lenses might be better. Find out all you can about LASIK and what it might mean to you.
- Do I understand what LASIK can and can’t do for me? LASIK produces remarkable results – excellent vision that’s always available, without the hassle of eyeglasses or contact lenses. But there are things it can’t do. It can’t give you better than perfect vision. And having LASIK doesn’t mean that you’ll never need glasses. After LASIK, your eyes continue to age, and you might need reading glasses at some point in the future. Knowing what LASIK can and can’t do will make you a better informed and more satisfied patient.
- Am I sure I’m a good candidate for LASIK? Millions of people have benefited from LASIK. But not everyone can. In fact, almost 20 percent of people turn out to be poor candidates for LASIK. This is usually the result of a medical or physical condition – they may have corneas that are too thin or irregular in shape, or take medications that might interfere with healing. Or they may simply have unrealistic expectations for what LASIK can do. Thanks to the latest technology, many people who once didn’t qualify for LASIK can now have the procedure – only your surgeon can tell you whether you’re a good candidate or not. But it’s best to be aware going in that there may be a sound medical reason for you not to have LASIK.
- Do I understand what the recovery process will involve, and what I need to do to keep up with the treatment regimen? Like other surgeries, LASIK involves a recovery process, one that will go more smoothly if the patient is an active participant. For most patients, the treatment routine involves taking eye drops regularly to prevent infection and inflammation as well as control dry eye, taking other medications as directed, and having regular follow-up appointments with the surgeon to monitor healing. You’ll have a faster, easier recovery if you know in advance what the post-LASIK regimen will involve, and what you’ll need to do on your own in between visits with the surgeon. The more you know ahead of time, the better your post-LASIK experience will be.
Once again, the bottom line is this: don’t worry about the wrong things. Worry about the right things, be prepared, and get ready to have the best LASIK experience you can.