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LASIK vs. Advanced Surface Treatment Ablation: What’s the Deal?

December 2, 2015

Over the last decade, laser vision correction has become a very popular alternative to corrective glasses and contact lenses—as it should! Laser procedures are quick, convenient, painless, and provide lasting improvements. However, there weren’t always as many options available to people with poor vision. Until about 60 years ago, Americans with vision problems had just two options: glasses and contact lenses. Common laser procedures used to be much rarer and couldn’t guarantee results that precise or painless. Because of this, many people used to be hesitant about trusting laser procedures with their priceless eyesight.

However, with bigger and better developments in the laser vision correction field, these simple vision treatment procedures are now so safe and effective that there are many different treatment options specially designed for people with specific visual needs.

When it comes to the most commonly used laser vision correction procedures, there are basically two different treatment options: LASIK eye surgery and advanced surface treatment ablation. While both of these options can greatly improve a person’s vision and improve their overall quality of life, it is important to understand both treatment options if you are looking to have your vision corrected with laser treatments.

LASIK Eye Surgery

One of the most popular options available for people who no longer wish to wear corrective lenses is LASIK Eye Surgery. Through the latest advances in lasers and treatment options, this procedure is now able to provide patients with the highest level of vision correction possible.

LASIK works by using a computer-controlled laser to reshape the eyes cornea and correct common refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. However, what makes LASIK different from advanced surface treatment ablation is the creation of a flap in the corneal tissue. Once this small flap is made, it is lifted and folded back which allows the cornea to be reshaped by removing or ablating tissue beneath the flap.

When LASIK surgery was first introduced, it was not able to address the entire aspherical shape of the cornea, resulting in a risk of post-procedure complications such as reduced night vision, glare and halos. However, with new lasers such as the Allegretto Wave Laser, the risk of these complications is greatly reduced. This laser also utilizes an active eye-tracking system that allows the laser to track a patients eye movement during the surgery, ensuring accurate beam placement and a more relaxed experience for the patient.

Advanced Surface Treatment Ablation

While LASIK eye surgery is helpful for a large majority of our patients who are hoping to have laser vision correction procedures, it is not always the obvious choice for everyone. About 20 percent of them have special considerations: thin or irregular corneas, chronic dry eyes, high prescriptions, certain occupations (such as Navy Pilots, Navy Seals, and Professional Boxers), or particularly physical hobbies (such as full contact martial arts). For these patients, choosing to have a more superficial vision correction through surface ablation procedures is the best decision.

While advanced surface ablation procedures such as LASEK, Epi-LASIK and PRK can deliver the same positive results and vision improvements as LASIK, they are able to place the laser vision correction right on the surface of the cornea without the need for a flap. Keeping this vision correction much more superficial is advantageous for patients who need to preserve their corneal thickness or for those who might be prone to injuries that might disturb the flap in the future.

For a more thorough anatomical understanding in the differences between LASIK eye surgery and Advanced Surface Treatment Ablation, I have put together an animated video that will help to show the anatomical differences between the two procedures:

Whether you are considering LASIK eye surgery or Advanced Surface Treatment Ablation to improve your vision, it is always important to schedule a consultation with an eye care professional who is able to offer all possible treatment options available. Only then can the right treatment option be paired with your specific vision needs.

With the help of these laser vision treatment procedures, you too can be well on your way to bring glasses or contact-free for the rest of the season!

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