Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

New Year, New View: How to shop clearly for 20/20.

Illustration by Ryan Spahr.

2020 might just be the year you get rid of your glasses and contacts to see 20/20. But is laser vision correction with LASIK the right answer for you?

LASIK uses a flap of tissue in the cornea to allow cool laser beams to reshape the cornea, allowing light entering the eye to be properly focused for clear vision. More than 10 million people in the United States alone have had this life-changing surgery and over 90 percent would recommend it to a friend or family member.

Why? Probably because 94 percent of them see 20/20 or better without glasses or contacts after LASIK and are experiencing visual freedom they previously only dreamed about. LASIK has a high satisfaction rate among patients because the rate of complications is estimated to be less than 1 percent, making it one of the safest elective surgical procedures available today.

Although they’re minimal, the risks associated with LASIK should still be considered and discussed before moving forward with the procedure. Being able to see clearly can improve your life in many ways, but the most important factors to consider are safety and effectiveness. Here are some helpful tips for you to shop smart for 2020.

It starts with you. First, consider your individual goals and visual needs. What do your glasses or contact lenses provide for you? Do they help you to see at a distance? Are you wearing readers to see things up close? Bifocals?

LASIK is not a “cure all” for all vision correction needs. Most commonly, LASIK is used to treat distance correction and astigmatism. If you rarely wear glasses or contacts for distance, LASIK may not be necessary.

If you are starting to experience difficulty reading or other tasks “up-close,” a form of LASIK called monovision can help some people. Not everyone can adjust to monovision, and you should be tested, often in contact lenses prior to your consultation. Some visual symptoms such as large glass prescription changes, glare or halos may mean that an alternative procedure, such as cataract surgery, would be best for you.

Most importantly, you need to know that your goals after surgery are achievable, and you should discuss this with the doctor who will perform your LASIK prior to your surgery.

Preparing your eyes for LASIK is key to success. If you wear contact lenses, even occasionally, your contacts are changing the shape of your cornea. Your contacts must be discontinued long enough to allow your cornea to return to its natural shape for accurate measurements. The FDA recommends two weeks for soft and three weeks for rigid (gas permeable) lenses.

If you have dry eyes or inflammation of the eyelids called blepharitis, you should have this addressed by your doctor prior to surgery. Certain medications, like Accutane or Imitrex, should be stopped well in advance of your LASIK procedure.

Consider the experience and reputation of the LASIK practice. Read reviews, talk to friends and neighbors, ask your optometrist, and try to find a local doctor that has been practicing for a long time in the local area. LASIK is an investment in your future and you want to be sure that a surgeon will be there for you, even years after the surgery. Occasionally, some patients need to consider additional correction in the future if their vision changes. So, be sure to look ahead and know what options are available to you down the road.

Transparency and trust are a must. When you go for a consultation and meet the surgeon, assess how the facility and the staff make you feel. Since safety is a priority, and LASIK can often invoke fear and anxiety, the practice you choose should make you feel secure in your decision and throughout the process. They should be friendly and knowledgeable, but, most importantly, transparent on the entire process—pricing, treatment options, risks, etc. It’s okay to visit a few offices to find a place where you feel comfortable. If you feel that a facility is not upfront about everything, you may want to consider other options.

Be sure your screening and testing process is thorough. Answer health questions clearly and honestly. These questions are a good indicator of how well your body will heal after surgery. Most of the time you invest in a LASIK procedure is dedicated to the testing process (the procedure itself only takes 15 to 20 minutes). Be patient and allow the staff to get accurate measurements. A good testing process should take two to three hours and possibly a few trips to the office.

Advanced technology and personalization are imperative. At this point, most facilities are using advanced lasers, but treatment options can vary. Do some research on the lasers that are being used to help ensure accuracy. Be sure the surgeon is able to personalize your LASIK treatment to your eyes specifically. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding the treatment process or testing equipment during your consultation.

LASIK is one of the most technologically advanced and successful procedures available. It has proven safety in the right hands, and, with a few careful steps, you too can experience this life-changing event. So if you are ready, 2020 could be the year for you to have 20/20 vision.

Brett B. Ernst, MD, is president of Schein Ernst Mishra Eye, 10 Capital Dr., Suite 300, Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-233-EYES or visit

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