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Laser Surgery and Sports

If you are considering laser surgery, and participate in sports, here are some important things you should know before you make your decision.

What is Laser or Refractive Surgery?
LASIK stands for laser in-situ keratomileuis designed to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.  A laser is used to reshape the cornea, slitting a tiny flap on the top of the cornea so that the underlying tissues can be sculpted with the laser.  RK stands for Radial Keratotomy, and is still used.  RK involves making incision in the cornea in a spoke-like pattern with a scalpel.  LASIK, however, is more popular, more accurate, and does not weaken the cornea like RK does.

Common Myths
The first most common myth is that you will never have to wear glasses or contacts again.  More than 90% of patient will reach 20/40 and some can expect 20/20, but not everyone will have 20/20 vision.  Also, the surgery will not correct near vision in older patients, and reading glasses will still need to be worn.  The major goal of surgery is to reduce your dependence on glasses and contacts, not completely get rid of them. Those hoping to get rid of them entirely will be disappointed.  Although vision will be much better than without anything, you may still find yourself needing to wear glasses for critical tasks including sports and driving.

What Athletes Should Consider
There are a number of reasons that athletes should consider surgery.  Many athletes claim it is easier to run and jump without any glasses on.  Some sports, such as martial arts, do not allow the athlete to wear any sort of eyewear in competition.  And other athletes may have allergic reactions to contacts, or find that dust and wind often irritate their contact lenses.  Surgery would help these type of athletes out.
However, those who feel are comfortable with their glasses or contacts, but like the idea of surgery, may want to think twice.  There are inherent risks with surgery, and professional athletes especially, run the risk of going backwards with their vision, rather than forward.  Also, there is a possibility that you may not be able to wear contacts after surgery.  If you are not corrected to 20/20, your game may suffer, and you will need to consider glasses to improve your game.  This would be a step backwards when contacts were working well for you before. Other risks with surgery include side affects such as light sensitivity, blurry vision, temporary discomfort, under or over correction, and irregular astigmatism.  Cataracts, persistent pain, serious infection or vision loss are serious but rare.

After Surgery
Since both RK and LASIK surgery involve cuts in the eye, it is important that the athlete wear protective eyewear after surgery.  With LASIK patients, protective eyewear should be worn for a few months after surgery until the small cut heals.  For RK patients, the eye will remain in a weaker state.  Therefore, protective eyewear should always be worn during sports.  Swimmers after LASIK should stay out of the water for about 2 weeks.