According to the Health Policy Institute, about 8% of Americans suffer from visual impairments. These impairments can include needing glasses/contact lenses or even blindness. There are many ways to prevent visual impairments whether that is surgery or glasses. If you are already wearing glasses, there are procedures that can help improve your vision, so you do not need to wear glasses or contact lenses.

Here are five common eye procedures and why you might need them:

1. LASIK

LASIK is the most common procedure to help improve refraction errors. It is short for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses.” The purpose of the procedure is to help improve people’s vision without having to wear contact lenses or glasses. During the surgery, a laser removes tissue from under the surface of your cornea with the purpose of fixing the way your eyes focus. The procedure reshapes the cornea and it can be done to improve nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.

A convenient part of LASIK surgery is it is an outpatient procedure which means it does not require a hospital stay and only takes about 30 minutes to do both eyes. You should be able to see improvement within a day post-procedure or even immediately after. A side effect post-surgery can be discomfort in your eyes for a day or two, but the discomfort should go away completely.

2. PRK

PRK, short for photorefractive keratectomy, is another surgery with the purpose of fixing a refractive error. Like LASIK, PRK also corrects nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism with the goal of no longer needing to wear contact lenses or glasses. Similar to LASIK, your doctor will use a laser to remove cells on the surface of the cornea.

However, there are some differences between PRK and LASIK. During the LASIK procedure, a flap is created before reshaping the surface of the cornea. This does not happen during PRK. Some eye doctors prefer PRK over LASIK because certain patients' corneas are better suited for PRK.

The procedure will most likely take place in your eye doctor’s office and only takes about 10 minutes on each eye. After the procedure, your eyes may hurt a little because the eye doctor is working directly on the surface of the cornea, and you may not be able to drive for a few weeks. Four weeks after the procedure most patients' visions have improved by 80% and after 12 weeks it has improved by 95%.

3. Cataract Surgery

Cataracts develop over the lens of your eye making the pupil look cloudy, and this is quite common as people age. The result of cataracts makes your vision blurry and dull. Luckily, surgery can correct this problem in less than an hour! Your doctor will replace your cloudy lens with an artificial one.

Like the majority of eye procedures, this is another outpatient procedure. Post-surgery your vision will be blurry but improve after a couple of days. While they are healing your eyes can feel uncomfortable and itchy, but soon they will feel as good as new!

4. Glaucoma Surgery

Glaucoma defined by the Mayo Clinic is the “result of damage to the optic nerve” within your eye which can cause blindness. The buildup of pressure in the eye is the most common cause of glaucoma. There are two types of surgeries to treat glaucoma with the purpose to reduce pressure in your eye.

One of the procedures is laser surgery which is an outpatient procedure that allows you to go home when it is finished. You will need to rest that first day as you may feel some discomfort and your vision may be blurry post-laser surgery. Fortunately, you will be able to resume your regular activities the next day.

The second surgery is conventional glaucoma surgery. If the laser procedure is not effective, this is another option to consider. While this is an outpatient procedure, it may take about a week before you can resume your normal activities. Post-surgery your eyes make water or look red.

5. Diabetic Retinopathy Surgery

If you have diabetes and do not have your blood sugar under control you can develop diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar levels can cause damage to your blood vessels including blood vessels within the eyes. This can leak blood and fluids into the retina which can cause your vision to change. You may see spots that seem like they are floating through your vision called floaters.

There are a couple of procedures to help fix this. One is a laser procedure that reduces swelling in your eye and encourages new blood vessel growth. The surgery will help prevent future blood vessel leaks to help keep your vision clear. However, over time your blurry vision may come back and you may need more laser surgery in the future. The other type of surgery is a vitrectomy. The goal of a vitrectomy is to get rid of the blood and scar tissue in the eye. This should also prevent the blood vessels from leaking again. Unlike the laser procedure, this surgery will take place in a hospital, and you may need to stay there while you recover.

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