“Can I have eye surgery to correct my vision?” This is a question we hear very frequently from our patients who don’t like wearing glasses.
There are a few options for surgical correction of vision that can be great for the right candidate. There are a number of qualifiers that determine a good candidate for what we call refractive surgery (surgery to correct for your glasses prescription).
The most common types of refractive surgeries are Lasik and PRK; both of these procedures alter the shape of the cornea.
The cornea is the clear tissue that lies in front of the iris, the colored part of your eye.
Another type of refractive surgery is called ICL, Implantable Contact Lens, surgery during which the surgeon places inside the eye a lens containing your eyeglass prescription.
There are many considerations regarding Lasik and PRK. Both work very well for those who are mildly or moderately nearsighted (you can see up close but not far away).
Both correct you for one distance only. That means if you wear a bifocal, the Lasik or PRK will correct your distance vision and not your reading.
However, there is “monovision” Lasik or PRK in which the surgeon will correct one eye for far away and one eye for up close. We advise our patients only to do monovision surgery if they have tried it in contact lenses successfully.
If you are farsighted (you can see far away better than up close) Lasik and PRK surgeries are usually not as successful.
The retention rate of good vision five years after the surgery for someone who was farsighted is much lower than for someone who was nearsighted before the surgery.
Both of these surgeries also often exacerbate dry eye disease. The ideal candidates are in their 20s or 30s with a mild to moderate amount of nearsightedness.
ICL surgery does not have the nearsighted preference that Lasik and PRK do; it will work equally for either type of prescription. This surgery is a bit more complicated and is done less frequently than either Lasik or PRK.
Your prescription also needs to be stable for three to five years prior to having LASIK, PRK, or ICL surgery.
Lastly, cataract surgery also works as a refractive surgery of sorts. The surgeon replaces the cataract with a new, artificial lens that can contain your eyeglass prescription.
Refractive surgery can be great for someone who meets the right criteria, but it is not a perfect solution for all vision problems.
Caroline Bundrick, O.D. is an optometrist practicing at Darling Eye Center, with offices in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island.