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Refractive Surgery


Advances in refractive surgery treatments have provided patients with a number of options that allow them to reduce or eliminate their dependency on glasses and contact lenses. The most popular refractive surgery procedure, LASIK, has successfully been performed on millions of patients worldwide. However, many individuals are not good candidates for LASIK surgery, and the evolution of refractive surgery technology has led to additional methods used to treat refractive errors. Today, patients have a range of vision correction options available to them, from the insertion of implantable contact lenses to several variations of the LASIK technique. Learn more about the refractive surgery treatments available today, and consult refractive surgeons in your area to find out which options are best for you.

What is Refractive Surgery?

Refractive surgery includes any procedure designed to treat the refractive errors myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. There are a number of refractive surgery treatments currently on the market; however, the techniques employed can vary greatly. Procedures such as LASIK surgery, PRK, and LASEK involve corneal ablation through use of an excimer laser. During these procedures, the cornea is reshaped to improve visual acuity. The insertion of implantable contact lenses replaces the natural lens of the eye, providing patients with clearer vision. Check out our myopia treatment, hyperopia treatment, and astigmatism treatment pages to find out which procedures are specifically designed to correct each type of refractive error. To learn more about refractive surgery treatments in general, read the sections below.


During the LASIK procedure, refractive surgeons reshape the cornea by removing precise amounts of corneal tissue to correct the patient's degree of refractive error. The most popular refractive surgery procedure employed today, LASIK surgery only takes about 15 minutes to perform, and costs have decreased significantly since an increased number of refractive surgeons have become experienced with the treatment. Learn more about LASIK vision correction to find out if it is the right procedure for you.

Custom LASIK

Since the advent of traditional LASIK surgery, refractive surgeons have been searching for ways to further improve the treatment. Today, custom LASIK provides patients with an option that boasts even more precise results. Because the custom LASIK procedure incorporates use of a wavefront map, which provides the LASIK surgeon with a 3-D map of the eye that can be transferred directly to the laser, there is no guess work involved.


The IntraLASIK procedure is similar to traditional LASIK in that it involves corneal reshaping. The difference, however, is the method used to create the flap during the first part of the procedure. During traditional LASIK surgery, refractive surgeons use the microkeratome, a blade, to create the corneal flap. In the IntraLASIK procedure, the surgeon uses the Intralase® laser to separate the flap.

Implantable Contact Lenses

Advances in implantable contact lens technology continues to provide patients with superior forms of vision correction. The implantable contact lens procedure involves the insertion of a lens in the eye. The new lens provides patients with improved vision and most patients no longer need to rely on glasses and contact lenses to see clearly. 

Intraocular Lenses

Intraocular lenses are fairly similar to implantable contact lenses; however, IOLs are typically used to treat patients with age-related farsightedness (presbyopia) and cataracts. The intraocular lens procedure differs from the implantable contact lens procedure in that the lens of the eye is removed before being replaced with the intraocular lens. 


Conductive Keratoplasty, or CK, is a treatment used to improve vision in patients suffering from hyperopia and presbyopia. Like LASIK, the CK procedure is designed to alter the way light enters the eye. During the CK procedure, radio waves are utilized to steepen the cornea, thereby producing clearer vision. Although many patients opt to undergo the LASIK procedure instead of CK, conductive keratoplasty is still an excellent treatment option for appropriate candidates. 


The LASEK procedure is another variation of LASIK. The main difference between LASIK and LASEK takes place when the flap is created. During LASEK, a thin epithelial flap is detached using an alcohol solution rather than the microkeratome used in the traditional LASIK procedure. The flap is then replaced. This allows the refractive surgeons to save more corneal tissue, making it a great refractive surgery treatment option for patients with thin corneas. 


In the past, PRK was the most common refractive surgery performed on patients. The procedure is similar to both LASIK and LASEK. Again, the major difference in the PRK procedure involves the creation, or in this case removal, of the corneal flap. During PRK, the epithelial layer is removed altogether, and later regenerates. This results in a longer recovery time for patients who undergo PRK. However, the PRK procedure is still an excellent treatment option for certain patients, especially those with thin corneas. 


Epi- LASIK is yet another variation of the LASIK procedure. During Epi- LASIK, an epikeratome is used to detach a thin layer of tissue in the epithelium. Once this layer of tissue is moved aside, the refractive surgeon can reshape the cornea as done in the traditional LASIK procedure. Once corneal reshaping is complete, the refractive surgeon replaces the epithelial tissue and a special contact lens is placed to promote healing. Like PRK and LASEK, Epi- LASIK is a great refractive surgery treatment for patients with thin corneas. 


Monovision can be achieved with glasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery, and is typically used to treat patients suffering from presbyopia. It involves the use of one eye for distance vision and one eye for near vision. Some patients find it difficult to adjust to this change; however, some patients experience improved visual acuity after having their eyeglasses and contact lenses prescription changed. Patients can also achieve monovision by having one eye corrected for up close vision and one eye corrected for distance vision through LASIK. 


Intacs® incorporate the use of prescription rings that are inserted onto the periphery of the cornea. The Intacs® work by applying mild pressure to the eye, thereby flattening the cornea. The treatment is painless and most patients experience improved vision immediately. Because the Intacs® can be removed or replaced, the Intacs® prescription can be adjusted as changes in vision occur. Intacs® can be used to treat nearsightedness and keratoconus. 

Other Refractive Treatments

In addition to the refractive surgery treatments featured above, there are a range of other procedures that paved the way for the vision correction evolution. Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty (ALK), Radial Keratotomy (RK), Astigmatic Keratotomy (AK), and Laser Thermal Keratoplasty (LTK) are rarely performed today due to the development of more accurate vision correction technology. However, refractive surgeons still recommend these procedures to certain patients who qualify.

Talk to a Refractive Specialist in Your Area

To find out if LASIK, implantable contact lenses, or another refractive surgery treatment is right for you, consult refractive surgeons in your area. DocShop provides a directory of qualified, experienced refractive surgeons who offer a range of refractive surgery treatments.

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