What exactly is LASIK surgery and how does it work?

By: Pankaj G. Shah

LASIK is an acronym for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It is a form of eye surgery which uses a laser to permanently change the shape of the cornea, which is the clear covering on the front of the eye. LASIK is done to improve vision and reduce a person’s need for glasses or contact lenses.

LASIK uses an ultraviolet laser known as an excimer laser to remove a thin layer of corneal tissue. This is what gives the cornea a new shape. That new shape is what allows the light rays to be focused clearly on the retina. In short, LASIK causes the cornea to be thinner.

LASIK surgery is an outpatient procedure that takes just 10 to 15 minutes to perform for each eye. Special eye drops are used to numb the surface of the eye, meaning the procedure is done while you are awake, although you will get medicine to help you relax. LASIK may be done on one or both eyes during the same session.

During the actual procedure, a flap of corneal tissue is created. This flap is then peeled back so that the excimer laser can reshape the corneal tissue underneath. A hinge on the flap prevents it from being completely separated from the cornea.

Your doctor will calculate the amount of corneal tissue to be removed ahead of time. The calculation is based on your existing corrective lens prescription, a wave front test, which measures how light travels through your eye, and the shape of your cornea’s surface. Once the reshaping is done, the surgeon replaces and secures the flap. No stitches are needed. The cornea will hold the flap in place and heal naturally.

The recovery time from LASIK surgery varies, but most people will see significant improvements in their vision within the first two days. Depending on the skill of your LASIK surgeon and the type of refractive procedure performed, acquiring good vision may take between two and seven days. However, full recovery from LASIK surgery may take at least six months.

About Dr. Pankaj G. Shah: Dr. Shah is one of the only Cornea Specialists in the Rio Grande Valley. He is Fellowship-trained in Cornea, External Disease and Refractive Surgery. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and is a General Ophthalmologist with a Cornea and Refractive Surgery Subspecialty. LASIK is a procedure that reshapes the cornea of the eye.