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Illustration of laser reshaping the cornea.

What it is:

LASIK is a type of laser eye surgery to improve vision. It changes the shape of the cornea, the clear covering on the front of the eye.

What You Can Expect:

LASIK is a two-step process performed while the patient is awake. The surgeon lifts the front of the cornea, then reshapes the middle section.

Who Is a Good Candidate:

People who have healthy eyes, but need glasses or contacts to see well, may benefit from LASIK.

In-Depth Information:

What It’s For How It Works Risks All

What It’s For

LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis) is an outpatient surgical procedure used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. With LASIK, your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) uses a microsurgical instrument and a laser to reshape the cornea in the front of the eye. This improves the way the eye focuses light rays onto the retina at the back of the eye.

It is important that anyone considering LASIK have realistic expectations. LASIK allows people to perform most of their everyday tasks without corrective lenses. However, people looking for perfect vision without glasses or contacts run the risk of being disappointed.

Over 90% of people who have LASIK achieve somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40 vision without glasses or contact lenses. If 20/20 vision is essential for your job or leisure activities, consider whether 20/40 vision would be good enough for you. You should be comfortable with the possibility that you may need a second surgery or that you might need to wear glasses for certain activities, such as reading or driving at night.

LASIK cannot correct presbyopia, the age-related loss of close-up focusing power.

How It Works

LASIK is performed with the patient reclining under the laser in an outpatient surgical suite. First, the eye is numbed with a few drops of topical anesthetic. An eyelid holder, called a speculum, is placed between the eyelids to keep them open and prevent you from blinking.

A suction ring placed on the eye lifts and flattens the cornea, and helps keep your eye from moving. You may feel pressure from the eyelid holder and suction ring, similar to a finger pressed firmly on your eyelid. From the time the suction ring is put on the eye until it is removed, vision appears dim or goes black.

An automated microsurgical instrument called a microkeratome will move across the cornea. The microkeratome creates a hinged flap of paper-thin corneal tissue. This flap is lifted and folded back. The laser, preprogrammed with measurements customized to your eye, is then centered above the eye.

You look at a special pinpoint light called a fixation light or target light while the laser sculpts the exposed corneal tissue. After the laser has reshaped the cornea, the surgeon places the flap back into position and smoothes the edges. Within two to three minutes, the flap sticks in position.

Plan on going home and taking a nap or just relaxing after the procedure.

To help protect your cornea as it heals, your Eye M.D. may place a transparent shield over your eye. You may just have to wear a shield at night.

You will be given eyedrops to help the eye to heal and to alleviate dryness.

It may take 3-6 months for your vision to stabilize.


LASIK, like any surgery, has risks and complications that should be carefully considered. Most complications can be treated without any loss of vision. There is a chance, though extremely small, that your vision will not be as good after the surgery as before, even with glasses or contacts.

Some people experience temporary side effects after LASIK that usually disappear over time. These side effects may include discomfort or pain, hazy or blurry vision, scratchiness, dryness, glare, halos or starbursts around lights, light sensitivity, or small pink or red patches on the white of the eye. In rare situations, these effects may be permanent.

Infection is a small possibility with any surgical procedure, including LASIK. Antibiotics can usually clear up such infections. Rarely, complications during surgery may cause irregularities in the corneal flap, requiring further treatment.

If you are considering LASIK, please print out this PDF and bring it to your LASIK consultation.

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