Many people who suffer from visual impairments get very excited when they hear commercials hailing laser eye surgery as totally risk-free. For patients whose vision is so poor that they can only perceive their environment with a visual aid, this does indeed sound very tempting. However, there is an important fact anyone considering eye surgery should remember – such an operation is always performed on healthy tissue. There are definite risks and patients can sustain permanent damage.
It sounds so easy: The laser procedure only lasts 30 seconds, is supposedly completely painless and the patient should be able to see clearly again on the very same. For 20 years now, doctors have been engraving the optical refractive power of the visual aid into the cornea using the explosive pulse of laser beams. If all goes well, the patient does not need glasses any longer after the surgery. That is in a perfect world – however, laser surgery is not completely risk-free.
There are fundamental concerns patients planning to have laser eye surgery should consider:
When you listen to the grandiose promises made by eye laser clinics, you would never even think that a laser eye procedure can result in numerous complications. In fact, a disruptive sensitivity to glare and a declining mesopic vision can be consequences of the procedure. Light objects can appear extremely glaring, and rays can emanate from light spots like fireworks.
Another possibility is the halo effect, in which coronas appear around light sources primarily at night. Or “ghosting,” in which a ghost image appears next to a sharply perceived image like a shadow that is slightly shifted. In many cases, the damage caused to the eye is irreparable.
Around 40 percent of the people who have undergone laser surgery also suffer from temporarily or permanently dry eyes. Another thing to keep in mind: The more severe the myopia, the more of the cornea the laser has to evaporate. The long-term consequences of this procedure, which results in a much thinner cornea, cannot be foreseen at present.
No question: Laser methods have considerably improved over the past 20 years. Even so, the hope of being able to live without glasses is not always fulfilled. Refractive eye surgery cannot achieve accurate correction with zero diopters, which is indeed possible with glasses.
Another improvement that can only be achieved by eyeglasses or contact lenses is the ability to flexibly adapt to changing conditions. Patients should keep in mind that glasses for presbyopia are still needed starting at the age of 40 to 45. People who suffer from this impairment and have undergone laser surgery will still need reading glasses.
Moreover, ametropia is not a stable factor. It can change and does in three percent of all cases over a period of several years. There is an increased risk, particularly among patients who were severely ametropic, of the impairment worsening again three years after the laser procedure. Furthermore, hormonal disorders and connective tissue diseases can make a person myopic again.
Multiple laser surgery methods are now available. LASIK surgery is the one most patients know about and it is the most widespread. The procedure itself is performed in three steps:
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