What is wavefront LASIK?

Millions of people have reduced their dependence on eyeglasses and contact lenses over the past several years with the refractive surgery procedure known as LASIK. This procedure can correct refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.

Now an enhanced version of LASIK, known as wavefront LASIK, is available. This improved system allows eye surgeons to customize the procedure for each eye, providing the possibility of even better vision.

Adapted from technology used in astronomy, wavefront LASIK consists of an array of microsensors and a laser. A wave of light from a laser beam is sent through the eye to the retina. This light is reflected back out of the eye, and the sensor measures the irregularities at the front of the wave of light as it emerges from the eye. This produces a precise three-dimensional map of the visual system, including the cornea’s imperfections, or aberrations. Thousands of people have the same eyeglass prescription, but because the map is so precise, no two people have the same wavefront measurements.

These wavefront data are translated into a mathematical formula the surgeon uses to program corrections into the ultraviolet cold laser, which vaporizes tissue to reshape the cornea. This new technology also corrects the higher-order aberrations that cause glare, haloes and blurry images. Higher-order aberrations are distortions in the visual system that can only be detected with wavefront analysis.

Concerns about quality of vision and nighttime glare with previous forms of LASIK prevented many people from having their vision corrected. In Food and Drug Administration trials, the majority of patients who had custom LASIK found their night vision to be better after the procedure than it was with their glasses or contact lenses. One FDA study showed More than 70 percent of custom LASIK patients saw better than 20/20.

Wavefront LASIK may not be for everyone because the procedure LASIK removes more corneal tissue than conventional LASIK. Patients with thin corneas, high degrees of aberration, severely dry eyes or conditions that affect the lens or vitreous fluid inside the eye may not be good candidates. However, many of these patients may still be good candidates for conventional LASIK. Check with your ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., to see if wavefront LASIK is right for you.

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