October is Healthy Literacy Month and in part one of our special two-part series, we polled several refractive surgeons about the LASIK questions they want patients to ask.
Patients today have a wealth of information at their disposal – thanks to the internet. As a result, the doctor-patient relationship has evolved. Those considering vision correction procedures such as LASIK can now prepare LASIK questions before an appointment. Surgeons want their patients to take an active role in discussing treatment options and outcomes during those initial consultations.
But, sometimes, even with all of the information available, the right questions…important questions…get overlooked. This can be particularly problematic in the case of elective procedures such as LASIK, where patients need to decide for themselves an appropriate course of action, with the advice and recommendation of their surgeon. Patients need to have all of their LASIK questions answered in order to make an informed decision, but there may be more information that needs to be discussed.
If you are considering LASIK, add these top LASIK questions to your personal list to ensure you get all of the information you need to make the right decision for your vision.
Q: How safe is LASIK?
A: Recent findings from several high-profile research studies of LASIK safety and performance, including the FDA-sponsored “Patient Reported Outcomes with LASIK (PROWL) study, showed impressively and consistently high marks for safety, outcomes and patient satisfaction. The risk of sight-threatening infection from contact lenses is much higher (1 in 500 versus 1 in 10,000) than in LASIK. And, in spite of being a popular urban myth, in the history of LASIK there has never been a case of blindness as a result of the procedure in anyone who is a healthy, good candidate. Finally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulation for LASIK safety is no greater than 5 percent of patients experience a loss of 2 or more lines (on the eye chart) of best corrected vision; today’s LASIK far surpasses that standard, consistently reporting less than 1 percent of patients losing 2 or more lines of best corrected vision.
Q: I understand LASIK is extremely safe and I can expect a good outcome, but the fact is I’m still scared. How do I get past my fear and move forward?
A: During your research you will learn there is an incredible amount of science and research backing LASIK, and information is a powerful weapon against fear. But, it may also help to learn that eye doctors are at least five times as likely as the general public to choose vision correction surgery for themselves, a fact in which you can find a great deal of comfort.
Q: What if I move or do something to mess up the surgery?
A: The LASIK procedure is highly sensitive and precise to ensure the patient’s safety. There really isn’t anything you can do to mess it up. One of the safety features many patients find comforting – in addition to the numbing eye drops and the anti-anxiety medication they take prior to surgery – is the tracking system built into the laser that follows their eye. So if your eyes move during the procedure, the laser moves with your eye, and if you more significantly (such as a cough or sneeze), the laser will temporarily turn off.
Q: What happens if I accidentally rub my eyes after surgery?
We give you goggles to protect your eyes while you sleep to help prevent you from touching your eyes. Your eyes will be sensitive and you don’t want to disturb the corneal flap, which will still be healing. If you do rub your eyes by accident, call your surgeon to get them checked out.
Q: What if I have one of the rare complications? Will I be blind? Can the problem be fixed?
A: There is a very real difference between the symptoms experienced during the recovery after LASIK and a complication. The side effects from LASIK surgery, such as dry eye, light sensitivity, night vision issues, aren’t experienced by everyone – or even the majority of patients. While there is the potential to experience symptoms such as these, they are generally temporary and managed with medication or additional treatment. According to clinical data, the risk of vision loss due to infection over the course of your life is much higher with contact lenses than LASIK. In fact, LASIK has never been the primary, exclusive cause of blindness.
To help you further prepare for a productive conversation with your surgeon, we’ve put together a LASIK patient checklist to serve as a guide for your consult.