Overview of Refractive and Laser
Vision repair surgery, also called refractive and laser eye
surgery, is any surgical procedure used to correct vision
problems. In recent years, tremendous advancements have been
made in this field. After refractive and laser eye surgery, many
patients report seeing better than they had at any other time in
All refractive and laser eye surgeries work by reshaping the
cornea, or clear front part of the eye, so that light traveling
through it is properly focused onto the retina located in the
back of the eye. There are a number of different types of
refractive or laser eye surgeries used to reshape the cornea,
- LASIK: Short for laser in-situ keratomileusis,
this laser eye surgery is used to correct vision in people
who are nearsighted , farsighted , and/or have astigmatism . During
LASIK laser eye surgery, vision is corrected by reshaping underlying corneal
tissue so that it can properly focus light into the eye and onto the retina.
LASIK laser eye surgery differs from others in that a flap is made in the
outer layer of the cornea so that the underlying tissue can be accessed.
- PRK: Short for photorefractive keratectomy, this
laser eye surgery is used to correct mild to moderate
and/or astigmatism. During PRK laser eye surgery, an eye surgeon uses a laser
to reshape the cornea. This laser, which delivers a cool pulsing beam of
ultraviolet light, is used on the surface of the cornea, not underneath the
cornea, like in LASIK laser eye surgery. Therefore, no cutting is required.
- LASEK: Short for laser
epithelial keratomileusis, this is a newer form of laser eye surgery that
combines many of the benefits of LASIK and PRK. However, unlike LASIK and PRK
laser eye surgeries, there is no cutting or scraping of the eye. Instead an
epitheal flap is created using a 20% alcohol solution. LASEK laser eye surgery
is used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
- ALK: Short for automated
lamellar keratoplasty, this eye surgery is used to correct vision in people
with severe nearsightedness and slight degrees of farsightedness. As in LASIK
laser eye surgery, a flap is created in the cornea so that the doctor can
reach the underlying tissue. However, during this procedure, a laser is not
used to correct vision. Instead, another incision is made on the sub layer of
the cornea to reshape the cornea.
- LTK: Short for laser
thermokeratoplasty, this is a new laser eye surgery is used to treat
farsightedness and astigmatism. During LTK laser eye surgery, a laser beam
uses heat to shrink and reshape the cornea. Vision is corrected in a matter of
seconds, without any cutting or removal of tissue.
- AK: Short for astigmatic
keratotomy, this is not laser eye surgery, but a surgical procedure used to
correct astigmatism. The cornea of people who have astigmatism is shaped like
a football. AK eye surgery corrects astigmatism by making one or two incisions
at the steepest part of the cornea. These incisions cause the cornea to relax
and take a more rounded shape. This eye surgery may be used alone, or in
combination with other laser eye surgeries such as PRK, LASIK, or RK.
- RK: Short for radial keratotomy, this eye surgery
was once one of the most frequently used procedures to
correct nearsightedness. However, since the development of
more effective laser eye surgeries, such as LASIK and PRK,
RK is rarely used today.