A refractive surgeon is an ophthalmologist specializing in vision correction, or refractive, procedures to improve vision and decrease or eliminate the need for a patient to rely on glasses or contacts to see well.
Ophthalmologists who specialize in refractive surgery are board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology and have completed additional training in vision correction procedures, technologies and techniques. Some have advanced certifications and degrees, may teach at the local medical university and participate in clinical research.
Refractive surgeons perform procedures – such as LASIK, lens implants and cataract surgery – to adjust the focusing ability of their patients’ eyes. They can reshape the cornea or implant a lens inside the eye to correct a variety of common vision problems, such as myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism or cataracts. For instance:
- If you are nearsighted (myopic) you have a steeper cornea, making it difficult to see things far away, refractive surgeries such as LASIK, SMILE, or PRK can reduce the curvature of the cornea.
- If you are farsighted (hyperopic) you have a cornea that is too flat, making it hard to see things up close. In this case, refractive procedures work to increase or steepen the curvature of the cornea.
- With astigmatism, the cornea is irregularly curved, causing vision to be out of focus. Astigmatism can be corrected with refractive surgery techniques that selectively reshape portions of the irregular cornea, making it smooth and symmetrical.
- A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens, which blocks light to the retina resulting in poor vision. Surgery to correct cataracts involves removing the damaged lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens.
LASIK, SMILE, and PRK are surgical procedures that use lasers to permanently change the shape of the cornea. LASIK is one of the most popular procedures refractive surgeons perform to correct these vision problems, according to the Refractive Surgery Council. Newer lens technologies can also correct other refractive errors.
If you have vision problems and are thinking about having LASIK, schedule a consultation with a qualified ophthalmologist specializing in refractive surgery. In our next post, we’ll tell you how to prepare for your consultation and what to expect when you meet with the surgeon.