What is LASIK?

LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It is a minor but technical surgical procedure used to correct certain types of blurry vision (called refractive errors), including farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism. To perform LASIK, doctors use a laser to remove very thin layers of the cornea to change its shape and produce clearer vision.

Light passes through the cornea (the clear layer that covers the iris) and the pupil before it is projected onto the retina in the back of the eye. Refractive errors are caused by light focusing in front of (hyperopia, or farsightedness) or behind (myopia, or nearsightedness) the retina. In astigmatism, the cornea has a slight “football” shape instead of a spherical shape. In addition, certain other types of blurry vision are caused by a misshapen cornea. LASIK changes the shape of the cornea, allowing it to more effectively focus light rays onto the retina.

LASIK is a common surgery with potential risks and complications, such as reduced vision, blurry vision, and halos. Less invasive treatment options, such as contact lenses and glasses, are available to you. Consider getting a second opinion about your treatment options before having LASIK.

Types of LASIK

The types of LASIK include:

  • Conventional LASIK is the most typical type of LASIK. A mechanical blade called a microkeratome is used to make the initial cut in the cornea, creating a flap. Then a laser precisely reshapes the corneal tissue under the flap.

  • All-laser (or bladeless) LASIK is performed with a laser keratome, which is a special type of laser to create the corneal flap, instead of a microkeratome.

  • Wavefront LASIK employs a newer type of laser to correct farsightedness and nearsightedness as well as more subtle corneal distortion.

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: May 7, 2013

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View Sources

Medical References

  1. Common Eye Disorders. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
  2. Is LASIK for Me? A Patient’s Guide to Refractive Surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  3. LASIK — Laser Eye Surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  4. LASIK surgery. Eye Surgery Education Council.
  5. LASIK. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  6. LASIK Risks and Complications. All About Vision.

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