6 Common Eye Procedures

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

There are many ways to address vision problems. Surgery can correct problems like cataracts and glaucoma. Other procedures can improve poor vision so you can see well without glasses or contacts.

Here's a list of common eye procedures, why you may need them, and what to expect when you have them.


LASIK is short for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It's a procedure for people who want better vision without having to wear contact lenses or glasses. LASIK is the most common type of refractive surgery. That's surgery that fixes problems with the way your eyes focus. The procedure uses a laser to remove tissue under the surface of your cornea. This reshapes the cornea. LASIK can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.

LASIK is an outpatient procedure, meaning it doesn't require a hospital stay. It takes about 30 minutes to do both eyes. You'll see improvement in your vision within a day after surgery, and maybe right away. You may experience a day or two of eye discomfort.

2. PRK

The full name for this procedure is photorefractive keratectomy. It's another type of refractive surgery. PRK also corrects nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism so you won't need contact lenses or glasses. Your doctor will use a laser to remove cells on the surface of the cornea.

In contrast to LASIK, PRK does not involve creating a “flap” in the cornea before reshaping the surface. Some ophthalmologists prefer PRK to LASIK, and the corneas of certain patients are better suited for PRK than LASIK.

You'll probably have this procedure in your doctor's office. It takes about 10 minutes to do the procedure on both eyes. Because your doctor works directly on the surface of the cornea, your eyes may hurt some after the surgery. You might not be able to drive for a few weeks. Most people's vision improves by 80% in four weeks and by 95% after 12 weeks.

3. Cataract Surgery

Cataracts develop over the lens of your eye, making it cloudy. This makes your vision blurry and dull. Cataracts are common as people age. Surgery can correct the problem, usually in less than an hour. Your eye surgeon replaces your cloudy lens with an artificial one.

This operation is also an outpatient procedure. Your vision will be blurry at first but improve in a couple of days. Your eyes may feel uncomfortable and itchy while they heal.

4. Glaucoma Surgery

Glaucoma results from damage to the optic nerve in your eye. A buildup of pressure in the eye is the usual cause. Glaucoma can cause blindness. Two types of surgery can treat glaucoma. Both aim to reduce pressure in your eye.

Laser surgery for glaucoma is an outpatient procedure so you can go home once it's done. You might feel some discomfort or notice blurry vision afterwards. But, you can go back to your regular activities the next day.

The other option is conventional glaucoma surgery. You might need this if the laser procedure is not effective. This is also an outpatient procedure. But, your eyes may water or look red afterwards. And, it will be about a week before you can return to your regular activities.

5. Diabetic Retinopathy Surgery

Diabetic retinopathy can develop if you have diabetes and your blood sugar is not under control. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, including the ones in your eyes. This causes the blood vessels to leak fluid and blood into the retina. Your vision can change. You may see "floaters," which are spots that seem to float through your vision.

One procedure for this is done in your doctor's office. The eye surgeon may use a laser to reduce swelling in your eye and encourage new blood vessel growth. The surgery also helps prevent future blood vessel leaks. However, you may still have blurry vision and need more laser surgery in the future.

Vitrectomy is another type of surgery for diabetic retinopathy. It aims to get rid of leaked blood and scar tissue in your eye. It also helps prevent blood vessels from leaking again. Your doctor will probably do this procedure in a hospital. You may need to stay in the hospital for a short while after the surgery.

6. Macular Degeneration Surgery

The macula is the area of your eye that helps you see greater detail. As you age, the macula tends to break down. That's called age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). The more severe type is wet ARMD. Leaky blood vessels cause you to see dark spots in the center of your vision. Sometimes, laser surgery can help with wet ARMD. Your eye doctor uses a laser to burn away unwanted blood vessels. This prevents bleeding. It also stops the growth of more blood vessels.

This is an outpatient procedure. Vision is usually blurrier right afterwards. You should have improved vision in a few weeks. However, people often need more laser treatments within a few years.

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  1. LASIK Eye Surgery. Cleveland Clinic. ttp://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments_and_procedures/hic_Laser_Vision_Correction_Methods/hic_LASIK_Laser_in_situ_Keratomileusis
  2. Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) Eye Surgery. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments_and_procedures/hic_Laser_Vision_Correction_Methods/hic_Photorefractive_Keratectomy_PRK_Eye_Surgery
  3. Cataract Surgery. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cataract-surgery/basics/why-its-done/prc-20012917
  4. Glaucoma. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/basics/definition/con-20024042
  5. Laser Surgery. Glaucoma Foundation. http://www.glaucoma.org/treatment/laser-surgery.php
  6. Conventional Surgery. Glaucoma Foundation. http://www.glaucoma.org/treatment/conventional-surgery.php
  7. Diabetic Retinopathy Treatment. American Academy of Ophthalmology. http://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/diabetic-retinopathy-treatment
  8. What Is Macular Degeneration? American Academy of Ophthalmology. http://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-macular-degeneration
  9. Macular Degeneration Treatment. American Academy of Ophthalmology. http://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-treatment
  10. Web Macular Degeneration. American Macular Degeneration Foundation. https://www.macular.org/wet-amd
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 21
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