Did you know that your eye is like a camera? The amazing eye takes pictures of everything we see. Like a camera’s lens, we have a clear “lens-like” cornea. The cornea is the window that you view your world through. Light comes into the eye and is controlled by our pupil that acts like a camera shutter, opening and closing depending on the amount of light. From the pupil it travels to the cornea which then focuses this light on the retina. When focused light hits our retina we get a picture but this picture is actually upside down. The retina actually holds millions of cells that are sensitive to light which it used to transmit our picture. Our retina carries this light to the brain by the optic nerve. The brain knows to flip the picture over so it’s right side up! Viola! We have our image.
When our “lens” is damaged and not properly focusing we put a lens in front of it- eye glasses. Eye glasses will adjust the focus for you onto your retina correctly. If you are nearsighted then you will have trouble seeing things far away. If you are far sighted you cannot see objects close up as they appear blurry. Glasses provide a new lens for our eyes to help us see our world better. However, some people prefer to wear contact lenses where the small lens fit right over the eye. The contact lens is able to stick to your eye and your eyelids hold them in place. Another option to correct vision is LASIK surgery.
LASIK is performed by a doctor and is only performed on people over 18 years of age. Your eyes must be stable before you can have this procedure which means your eye glass prescription has not changed for two years. LASIK is a permanent procedure that should correct your vision for the rest of your life.
I went straight to a doctor, who happens to be my dad, who also happens to have had LASIK to ask the questions I was curious about. My dad, Dr. Taylor, is an anesthesiologist here in Austin, Texas. He had worn glasses since he was a little boy. He found wearing his glasses to be a nuisance. He had prescription sunglasses for times spent outdoors but when we would go swimming or to a water park, they would inevitably get broken or lost. At home, locating his glasses would sometimes be a family event as he could not see without them and was unable to find them. About three years ago, my dad went to see if he would be a candidate for LASIK and he was able to have the procedure. I went to my dad to ask more specific questions.
AK: What is LASIK?
DT: LASIK stands for laser-assisted insitu keratomileusis. It’s a long name for a surgery that can correct your vision so that some people who need to wear glasses may be able to see clearly without their glasses. There are several procedures like this one, but they all do the same thing. Think about what vision is. How is it that we can see what is out in the real world? Light from the sun or a light bulb reaches that flower your admiring and some of these light rays bounce off the flower and they reach your eyes. These light rays pass through your cornea, lens, and fluid-filled cavity of your eyes until they reach the retina in the back of the eye. The retina is where we have cells that can receive light (photoreceptors) and send this information to the brain via the optic nerves so the image can be processed and understood as a flower. What goes wrong in people who need to wear glasses is that the light is not coming into focus at the retina. In people who are near-sighted the light from far away objects is focused in front of the retina and this causes things to seem blurry. As you recall, I myself had LASIK last year and now I can see without the glasses I wore for decades.
AK: How does it work?
DT: There is a very expensive machine that very carefully measures the curvature and shape of your eye. A computer calculates how your cornea (the front, clear part of your eyes) needs to be reshaped in order for the light to get focused right on the retina, and then a special laser cuts away part of the cornea. This sounds a little scary, but in the days before laser they used very sharp knives.
AK: What are some of the advantages of having LASIK done?
DT: Well I can see clearly without glasses! This may sound like no big thing if you’re lucky enough to not need glasses, but after wearing glasses every waking hour for more than 30 years, this is such a treat. There had been times when I lost or broke my glasses. It’s also nice to not have to keep cleaning my glasses.
AK: What are some of the disadvantages or side effects from the procedure?
DT: Some people experience a “dryness” sensation in their eyes. I think I have some of that.
AK: When you had LASIK surgery, what did it feel like? Were you awake?
DT: I was wide awake. The whole procedure takes a few minutes per eye. They offer medication to relax you but I’m not the anxious type so I refused. Numbing drops get applied to the eye. You stare into a bright light and the laser, guided by the computer, begins burning off the cornea. You hear the beeping and smell the burning and in a few seconds it’s over. Next eye.
AK: Did your eyes burn after surgery?
DT: I had burning for a few days. They actual procedure I had was a variation of LASIK called PRK, and it tends to be a little more uncomfortable. Yes, it was a little like having acid in my eyes, but I would do it again.
AK: How long did it take for you to recover?
DT: After one week I was pretty much back to normal. This can be faster with some procedures, but the exact procedure you qualify for depends on your condition.
AK: What is your vision like now?
AK: What kinds of activities are easier for you now that you have had LASIK?
DT: Now I can swim and wear sunglasses.