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Refractive Surgery (Vision Correction Surgery)

If your vision is less than perfect, you may wear glasses or contact lenses to help you see more clearly. But for many people, vision correction (refractive) surgery is an option, too.

Refractive eye surgery can improve your eyesight and decrease your dependence on glasses or contacts.

What Is Refractive Surgery?

Refractive surgery adjusts where light focuses in the back of your eye so it more precisely hits your retina. This technique sharpens your vision so you can depend less on glasses or contact lenses.

There are many types of refractive surgery.

Some involve reshaping the cornea — the clear dome in the front of the eye. Other methods involve implanting a lens (much like a contact lens) in the eye.

Refractive surgery can help improve your vision permanently.

But you may still need to wear corrective lenses at certain times. You might need them when driving at night or reading small print (if over the age of 40).

What Eye Conditions Can Refractive Surgery Help Correct?

It can help correct:

  • AstigmatismA condition in which the surface of the cornea has different curvatures (similar to a football). It causes blurry vision or ghosting.
  • Farsightedness. A condition when the length of the eye is too short for the optical power. Light focuses behind the retina instead of on it. This makes it hard to see things at a distance and up close.
  • Nearsightedness. A condition when the length of the eye is too long for the optical power. It causes far-away objects to look blurry. It happens when light focuses in front of the retina instead of on it.
  • Presbyopia. A normal part of the aging process, it happens when the lens hardens and becomes less flexible. It causes near objects to appear blurry. Presbyopia is common after age 45 and results in the need for reading glasses.

What Are the Types of Refractive Surgery?

Your eye doctor can discuss what type of eye surgery is best to correct your vision. They may suggest a form of laser or non-laser surgery.

Is Refractive Eye Surgery Right for Me?

Only your eye doctor can tell you if refractive surgery is right for you.

To start, you'll need a baseline eye exam. Be sure to tell your eye doctor about any past and present health issues and any medicines you take.

After this exam, your doctor can suggest the best type of surgery — if any — for your sight issue. They can also explain the pros and cons of each technique.

How do I know if I'm a candidate for refractive surgery?

Vision correction surgery can help many people, but it's not for every person.

You might be a good candidate for refractive surgery if you want to decrease your dependence on glasses or contacts.

Other factors include if you:

  • Are at least 18 years old.
  • Aren't pregnant or nursing.
  • Are healthy.
  • Have had stable vision for the past year.
  • Don't have a cataract that affects your vision.
  • Don't have major eye problems (corneal ulcers, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, or glaucoma).
  • Don't have uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Know what to expect in terms of results. You may still need to wear a thin pair of glasses, such as when you read or drive at night.
  • Know that any surgery carries risks and can have side effects.

What to Expect Before, During, and After Refractive Surgery

Refractive surgery is an outpatient technique, so you won't spend the night in the hospital.

Here are some of the things you can expect when you have vision correction surgery.

Contact the UPMC Vision Institute

Questions about refractive eye surgery?

Call us at 412-647-2200 or 1-800 446-3797.