Learn about laser-vision correction surgery

Many people rely on glasses or contact lenses to see clearly. If you do, you might have heard that laser vision correction surgery can fix your vision.

The UPMC Vision Institute’s Laser Vision Center surgeons are vision correction experts. After surgery, people can often see clearly without glasses or contacts.

Learn more about this type of vision correction and whether it’s right for you.

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How Does Laser Vision Correction Surgery Work?

To see clearly, your cornea focuses images on the back of the eye, called the retina. Blurry vision is often due to too much sharpness, flatness, or unevenness in the cornea’s curve. The misshapen cornea focuses images in front of or behind the retina, making them fuzzy.

During corrective eye surgery, the eye surgeon reshapes the cornea with lasers. This focuses the images back onto the retina.

There are two types of laser vision correction surgery. They are:

  • Laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK). LASIK requires creating a corneal flap, an opening in the eye’s outer layer. The surgeon moves this flap out of the way while reshaping the cornea. When returned to its original position, the flap acts as a natural bandage while the eye heals.
  • Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). PRK reshapes the corneal surface and removes part of the cornea without a flap. It may take longer to heal.

Both surgeries correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Your ophthalmologist will determine the best approach for you and your vision needs.

The surgery is an outpatient procedure that takes 10 to 15 minutes per eye. There are no blades and no needles. You receive topical anesthesia through eye drops.

Most people recover from these procedures quickly. Many notice improved vision as soon as the next day. The surgery is intended to lessen your need for glasses or contacts, and some may even reach 20/20 vision.

Laser Vision Correction at UPMC

Deepinder K. Dhaliwal, MD, LAc, is the director of UPMC’s Refractive Surgery and Cornea Service and the Center for Integrative Eye Care. The center’s team of experts has been performing these laser vision correction surgeries for over 20 years.

They were among the first in the region to offer it. They were part of the initial clinical trials for FDA approval.

“UPMC has the longest continuously running program in Pittsburgh,” Dr. Dhaliwal notes. “What sets us apart is our focus on providing patients with a continuity of care. From their first visit to their testing and evaluations, the surgery itself, and finally to their post-surgery visits — we’re there for them.

“We also encourage them to meet and talk with their surgeon well in advance. This helps them feel completely comfortable with their pre- and postoperative care,” Dr. Dhaliwal says. “All of these things will help achieve good outcomes.”

Is Laser Corrective Surgery Right for You?

Dr. Dhaliwal says that good candidates for laser vision correction are healthy people with healthy eyes. “People with eye issues, such as glaucoma or cataracts, would not be candidates for this surgery.”

Eye doctors take in multiple other factors when deciding if laser vision correction is a good option. Your surgeon will address these factors during your free evaluation.

They will perform a detailed eye exam and testing. Your doctor will also ask questions about your overall health. Some health issues can affect your recovery and increase the risks of surgery.

“We deliver a truly tailored laser vision correction surgery to each person we treat,” Dr. Dhaliwal says. “This includes a map of their eye, which accounts for eye issues such as astigmatism and nearsightedness.”

“We tailor each treatment to the person’s cornea so they receive the best possible outcome,” Dr. Dhaliwal adds. “This is not a one-size-fits-all procedure.”

Corrective eye surgery is an option for healthy people who are over 18 and have healthy eyes. Candidates must have stable vision with no recent prescription changes. People with mild nearsightedness tend to get the best results.

The results from laser corrective surgery are permanent. But age-related changes to your eyes can still cause changes in your vision in the future.

Generally, laser vision correction surgery poses few risks. Some people may have light sensitivity, dry eyes, or watery eyes right after the surgery. These symptoms usually clear up quickly.

If you’re thinking about corrective eye surgery, plan a visit with an eye doctor or surgeon.

The Added Benefits of Laser Vision Correction

The biggest benefit of laser vision surgery is no longer needing glasses or contacts. Another advantage is a reduced risk of infection related to contact lens wear.

“The number one risk factor for infection in the cornea is sleeping in your contact lenses,” Dr. Dhaliwal noted. “The second is using tap water to clean them — it is not sterile. People have gone blind when they’ve used tap water to clean their contacts.”

In addition, people who wear contact lenses may become allergic to or overwear them. This can pose a problem if they lead active lives that prevent the regular use of glasses.

The UPMC care system backs experts at the UPMC Vision Institute. Many of the laser vision correction surgeons at UPMC are trusted LASIK surgeons. This standard means they have met certain criteria and are experts in their field.

To become a trusted surgeon, our doctors must meet 12 criteria. These include:

  • Board certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology.
  • Participation in FDA clinical investigative studies.
  • Publication of at least 10 scientific research papers in major eye health journals.

In addition, they can train others in at least one of these skills:

  • The use of lasers for vision correction.
  • The use of other devices for laser vision correction.
  • Other vision correction surgery.

To learn more about laser vision correction, visit the UPMC Vision Institute’s Laser Vision Center or call 412-647-2917.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Vision Institute

The UPMC Vision Institute is a national leader in the treatment of eye diseases and disorders. We seek to improve and restore your vision to help your quality of life, diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions in both children and adults. Our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We also offer routine eye screenings and have full-scale optical shops. Find an eye expert close to you.