The eye is a fragile organ and vulnerable to imperfections that might impair both the quality and the acuity of your vision. Eye surgery exists to correct and adjust such issues.
There are various surgical procedures to treat vision problems, and each comes with its own risks and benefits. It might be that your cornea needs reshaping through corrective surgery. Or, maybe, you’re experiencing vision loss as a result of either cataract or glaucoma.
On the other hand, eye surgery doesn’t even have to be a vision-saving procedure. Lid repair is commonly used to treat droopy eyelids or ptosis as it is known among ophthalmologists while orbital implants are becoming ever more specialized in allowing for an artificial eye to move in a natural, fluid way.
Whatever the case, eye surgery has come a long way from the methods employed in the past. Due to advancements in technology, eye doctors of today can pretty much tackle any eye condition out there.
Eye Surgery. Types, Cost and Risks Involved
The Many Faces of Eye Surgery
One important difference to underline: the terms laser eye surgery and refractive surgery are sometimes used as if they were interchangeable. They are not. Refractive surgery is restricted to problems of focalization: myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism.
By far the most popular of the refractive surgery kind is LASIK, or laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis. This type of corrective procedure uses a precision laser to reshape the cornea.
Approved in Canada in the early 1990s and in the United States shortly thereafter, LASIK has been around commercially for approximately 25 years.
PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) is another type of laser surgery to correct refractive errors.
Cataract surgery is a procedure to remove the lens of your eye and, in most cases, replace it with an artificial lens. Commonly affecting both eyes, this clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye occurs in over half the adults over the age of 60.
Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States, which makes cataract surgery one of the most common procedures in the country.
There are different approaches to cataract surgery:
Done as part of the traditional eye surgery, this process releases ultrasound waves in the eye that will dissolve the cloudy lens. The surgeon will then insert the IOL – the artificial intraocular lenses, into the eye.
This procedure takes less than 20 minutes and, because it doesn’t require sutures, promises a very quick recovery time.
- Extracapsular Cataract Surgery
If the lens proves too dense for phacoemulsification, then the next solution in line is extracapsular surgery. The procedure is not much different but for the need for sutures. This also translates to a longer recovery time.
- Laser-assisted Cataract Surgery
The results are the same as in the traditional surgery, but the method employed is, obviously, different. An advanced femtosecond laser replaces or assists the hand-held surgical tool for the breaking of the lens.
A special software will create a unique 3D map of the eye which includes the location, depth, and length of the cataract in all planes. The incision and removal of the cataract are left to this highly precise femtosecond laser.
Nothing guarantees that, over time, the lens replacement will not slowly cloud again. When that happens, this will be corrected with additional laser treatment.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty, or SLT
SLT surgery is used to treat glaucoma, a condition that causes irreversible damage to the eye’s optic nerve if left untreated.
In this case, surgery is used in place of ineffective medication to lower the intraocular pressure and stop the damage from getting worse with time. The laser treatment can either reduce the outflow (laser trabeculoplasty) or decrease the flow of aqueous fluid from the eye.
Ophthalmic Plastic or Oculoplastic Surgery is the reconstructive surgery of the periocular area, which includes the eyelids, the eye socket, eyebrows, and tear duct system. Common procedures include:
- Upper Blepharoplasty— This procedure removes any excess skin in the upper eyelids which can interfere with the peripheral vision.
- Lower Blepharoplasty — This procedure gets rid of the excess fat or “bags” in the lower lids and is considered an entirely cosmetic procedure.
- Lid Repair Surgery— The eyelid reconstruction surgery repairs droopy upper lids, improving eyelid closure.
- Dacryocystorhinostomy— This procedure will form an artificial tear sac-nasal conduit to relieve a tear duct obstruction.
Orbital surgery or surgery of the orbit is much less common than oculoplastic surgery. These types of procedures are used for specific cases:
- Removing tumors of the orbit.
- Congenital defects resulting in absent eye sockets.
- Fractures of the orbit as a result of trauma.
- Severe thyroid eye disease.
The surgeon will implant an Orbital Tissue Expander to preserve the natural structure of the eye orbit and prevent it from reshaping the facial structure. It was not unusual in past cases for the patient’s body to reject an artificial implant.
Technological advancements have helped in lowering that percentage of patients by using more biocompatible, non-toxic, and non-allergenic materials.
Eye Color Change Surgery
No contacts required. Changing the color of your eyes by laser surgery may still be pending FDA approval in the USA, but people who are not satisfied with this genetic inheritance can easily fly to Mexico, Central America or Tunisia to submit their irises to laser surgery.
The costs, apparently, are not prohibitive enough. $8000, plus the flight do not discourage the ambitious.
Most procedures focus on changing the color from brown to turquoise blue or ice gray. Stroma medical, a cosmetic surgery practice in Laguna Beach, specializes in this kind of operation. It uses a low-energy laser to slowly burn away the melanin in brown irises and claims to do it in less than 30 seconds.
The first thing to keep in mind is that just as there is no cure for all diseases, you won’t find the one and only eye surgery to correct all refractive errors. However, refractive surgery might be a cure for you if you:
- Want to reduce or eliminate your dependence on glasses or contact lenses.
- Suffer from myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism.
- Accept the inherent risks of the surgery. Complications may include infection or night glare.
- Accept that a “touch up” procedure might be necessary a few months after the initial LASIK surgery.
- Realize that, mainly due to aging, you may still require reading glasses once you enter your 40s.
If you’ve ticked off all of the above, let’s see what LASIK eye surgery can do for you.
What can LASIK eye surgery fix?
LASIK is an excellent type of eye surgery to treat myopia – nearsightedness, hyperopia – farsightedness, and astigmatism – blurred vision. These lower-order aberrations are all refractive errors that have in thing in common- the way the eye focuses light.
Refractive surgery is meant to correct these problems and reduce dependency on prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses.
Still, Lasik eye surgery is not proved to be effective in treating presbyopia, caused by the natural thickening and hardening of the eye’s lens.
Before LASIK Surgery
Expect your eye doctor to evaluate some of the following:
- The shape and thickness of your cornea.
- Refractive errors, such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism.
- The size of the pupil.
- Moistness of the eyes.
- Mapping the area with a corneal topographer.
- General health and medications history.
For two weeks prior to the surgery, your doctor might advise you to stop wearing your contact lenses as these can alter the natural shape of the cornea and interfere with the initial tests.
Speaking of tests, you might come face-to-face with the newest technology associated with LASIK, wavefront analysis.
This procedure is the best measuring tool of the geography of your eye and, by sending light waves through the eye it provides surgeons with a more precise map than other conventional technologies.
How Does LASIK eye surgery work?
Like other types of refractive procedures, the LASIK surgery reshapes the cornea. Bringing it to its proper dimensions will enable light entering the eye to be properly focused onto.
For people who are nearsighted, the goal is to flatten the cornea. The refractive technique will reduce the curvature of a cornea that is too steep. Following surgery, the images focused on the retina are pushed closer or directly on it.
For people who suffer from farsightedness, the reverse is desired – a steeper cornea to bring the images that are focused beyond the retina closer towards it, thus increasing the eye’s focusing power.
An excimer laser, a highly specialized laser that uses an ultraviolet light beam to clear the retina of microscopic amounts of tissue is used to correct astigmatism. The basic goal is to reshape an irregular cornea into a smoother, more symmetrical version of itself.
Thus, light won’t scatter all over the retina leaving the images blurry and indistinguishable. Rather, your eyes will focus clearly and unobstructedly.
That’s fairly incredible, given that healing these lifelong imperfections is pain-free and takes no more than 30 minutes to accomplish.
Plus, the results- which should be improved vision without the aid of contact lenses or eyeglasses- are usually seen on the spot. Or, if you’re patient, in as little as 24 hours.
After LASIK Surgery
Laser eye surgery requires only anesthetic drops. No bandages, stitches or patches are required. In the aftermath of the surgery, the cornea must be given time to heal naturally.
Immediately after the procedure, you may experience temporary burning, blurry vision, and haziness. You definitely cannot drive yourself home, not until your eye doctor confirms you now meet the legal standard for driving. In most states, this requires uncorrected visual acuity of 20/40 or better.
However, things should get clearer by the next day. You should expect your eyesight to stabilize in a few days time.
Many doctors advise that you refrain from straining your eyesight, looking into a computer screen for too long, rubbing your eyes, or driving for at least a week.
How Much is LASIK Eye Surgery?
Much depends on the cost of a LASIK eye surgery. The prices range from as low as $299 per eye to up to $4,000 or more per eye, depending on the surgeon, the technology in use, how much refractive correction you need, geographical location, insurance benefits, etc.
In 2015, the average price for LASIK and other types of laser vision correction surgery was $2,077 per eye.
While LASIK is by far the most popular laser eye surgery today, don’t venture into booking a place under the laser until you’ve discussed the implications and potential risks with your ophthalmologist.