Seven Things to Consider Before Getting LASIK Eye Surgery
The pool scene.
Nearly everyone with contacts or glasses has dreamed about someday, just once, being able to swim without contacts or glasses - and enjoy it! LASIK has made that dream a reality for thousands of people, and it's become very popular as a result. As the technology has matured, safety has increased, and prices have become more affordable, LASIK has become more accessible to a greater number of people than ever before. But that doesn't mean LASIK is an instant, slam-dunk decision for everybody. Here are seven things you should consider before going under the laser.
1) How old are you?
The question of how old you should be before undergoing LASIK has never been definitively answered. The Food and Drug Administration recommends not having it done until you are at least 18, while many ophthalmologists advise waiting until you are as old as 25! However, the exact numeric age is not actually the deciding factor. Rather, the important thing is that your vision has been stable (i.e., your prescription has not changed) for at least two years. This ensures that your corneas are fully developed and capable of withstanding a surgical procedure.
2) Have you tried contacts yet?
Eye surgery has come a long way, but as with any surgery, it still has its risks. If you have worn glasses your entire life, why not give contacts a shot before taking the plunge? Today's soft lenses are so comfortable and convenient that most wearers don't even feel them. Comfort-wise, it's as though they aren't wearing contacts at all. Of course, contact lenses bring new responsibilities into the fray, such as taking them out at night, storing them in saline solution, and replacing them on a timely basis. Still, if you're prepared to get laser surgery on your eyes, it couldn't hurt to give contacts a try first!
3) Are your glasses or contacts really a pain?
One of the biggest reasons for getting LASIK is the annoyance of caring for and wearing contacts or glasses. While it can no doubt be a pain, some people make it harder than it needs to be. Many contact lens wearers, for example, make life harder on themselves by continuing to wear contacts that have calcium deposits on them or sleeping in their lenses, both of which can scratch the eyeball. Who knows – by taking better care of your eyes, you might find that glasses or contacts aren't as big of a pain as you thought!
4) Are you getting the procedure done by a reputable practitioner?
If you've decided to go ahead and get the surgery, great! However, you need to be extremely careful and conscientious in selecting the practitioner. You only get the two eyes you have, and placing them in the care of an inexperienced or incompetent surgeon is beyond foolish. Luckily, finding a skilled, experienced LASIK surgeon isn't very hard work. Simply browse the Internet for positive references and testimonials or ask friends or relatives who have already had it done. Don't take this suggestion lightly, as the right practitioner can make all the difference!
5) What is the expected recovery time of the procedure?
The recovery period after getting LASIK is another important factor to consider. You might not be able to go back to work the same day, or even the same week. Some also claim that you cannot drive in the first few days following the procedure. This is not to discourage you from getting the surgery, of course. The point is just that recovery can take a short while and you should plan for it in deciding whether or when to get LASIK done. As long as you have a few days to devote to recovery, it could be the best decision of your life!
6) Do you have astigmatism?
People with astigmatism are not always eligible to have LASIK done. According to eMedicine, astigmatism is "more difficult to correct in spectacles, contact lenses, or surgery than are spherical forms of refractive error." Fortunately, thanks to recent advances, some people with astigmatism can get LASIK done with very positive results. Your ophthalmologist can evaluate the seriousness of your astigmatism and lay out your options for eye surgery, so schedule an appointment!
7) Have you fully considered the risks?
Make no mistake: correctly performed, LASIK surgery can make a great and lasting difference in your quality of life. However, there are risks to consider, such as dry eye syndrome, temporary loss of vision, or the possibility of still needing contacts or glasses after the surgery to achieve 20/20 vision. The likelihood of these risks has certainly gone down in the last five years, but it still pays to be mindful of them in making your decision. Ask your ophthalmologist how likely these risks are in his experience, and whenever possible, ask friends or relatives who've already gotten it done. Eye surgery is definitely a case where it pays to do your homework!
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