LASIK is an acronym for laser in situ keratomileusis, a surgical procedure designed to correct imperfections of the cornea that distort vision. It has become a popular solution for adults who are tired of wearing eyeglasses or contacts.

Here’s how LASIK works: The shape of the cornea influences refraction. Refraction is the way light bends and focuses to create an image on the retina. Imperfections, called refractive errors, cause myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism (irregularly shaped cornea or lens that causes blurring). By reshaping the cornea, it’s possible to correct refractive errors and improve vision.

During the LASIK procedure, the eye is numbed with anesthetic drops and an instrument is placed to hold the eyelid open. A flap is then made on the cornea and a laser is used to reshape or remove corneal tissue so that the light moving through it is correctly focused on the retina. After LASIK, many individuals are eyeglasses or contact-free.

The LASIK procedure takes approximately 30 minutes and is often performed on both eyes during the same visit. You will be awake during the procedure and most patients enjoy improved vision almost immediately.

After surgery, an eye shield is used to protect the eye from injury until it is fully healed. Some patients temporarily experience some mild itching, burning or grittiness in the eye. Vision may also be blurry during the first few days, and some patients complain of discomfort for up to 48 hours after the procedure, but the symptoms gradually improve. Antibiotic or steroid eye drops may be prescribed for a short time following LASIK to assist in healing.

LASIK isn’t perfect and not everyone realizes the same results, but statistics from the American Academy of Ophthalmology indicate seven out of 10 LASIK patients achieve 20/20 vision, and the majority of those who undergo LASIK are glad they did. A report from the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery revealed patient satisfaction rates for LASIK are over 95 percent.

If you are considering LASIK, talk with your ophthalmologist about the procedure and whether or not it is right for you. Understanding the risks and benefits of LASIK will help you to make an informed decision.