Are you tired of always having to wear glasses? Wouldn't it be nice to wake up with perfect vision, or be able to play sports without protective glasses?

If so, LASIK surgery may be the right option for you. Approximately 1.3 million Americans had LASIK surgery in 2005, according to Market Scope.

LASIK, which stands for laser-assisted situ keratomileuis, treats myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. LASIK works by changing the actual shape of the cornea, which is the clear covering of the front of the eye -- thus reshaping the area.

But you shouldn't go into this operation blindfolded, so to speak. It's important to know the risks and what to expect.

Here's a brief check list to determine if it's appropriate, and some more information to get you started.

For a bit of background, Colombian ophthalmologist Jose Barraquer developed the first microkeratome -- a surgical instrument to cut the cornea and change its shape -- in 1960, and Indian doctor Rangaswamy Srinivasan helped discover the ultraviolet excimer laser in 1981.

This kind of laser uses a combination of inert and reactive gas, and has the ability to sketch living tissue in a very precise way, with no thermal damage to the surrounding area. The LASIK surgery itself was developed by Lucio Buratto and Ioannis Pallikaris in 1990. They blended the two prior techniques, keratomileusis and photorefractive keratectomy, resulting in greater precision than the two previous surgeries.

Be Prepared

The FDA has approved laser-eye-surgery equipment, but they don't monitor each physician or procedure.

It is very important to consult with your optometrist and alert him if you have any of the following conditions: herpes, glaucoma, hypertension, eye diseases, such as uveitis/iritis (inflammations of the eye) or previous eye surgeries.

Also, performing this procedure on a cornea that is not thick enough can be extremely damaging.

And if you have tried LASIK before, make sure you consult with your doctor before trying it again.

It is recommend that you stop wearing your contact lenses for several weeks before your baseline examination, as they change the shape of your eyes. (The exact length of time depends on the type of contacts.)

You should also stop using lotions, makeup and perfumes the day before the procedure.

What's the operation like? Well, maybe not as bad as you'd assume.

The doctor will give you an oral sedative such as valium, and then he will numb the eyes. An instrument called the retainer will be used to keep your eyes open. High pressure is then used to create suction directly on the cornea -- and this is where you might be a bit uncomfortable.

Using the laser to adjust to your prescription, the doctor will then cut a flap in the cornea of your eye.

The second step is using the laser which involves focusing on light while the doctor watches your eyes through a microscope. During this time, the laser is sending pulsating light to your cornea. The exact time of the procedure depends on your eyes; the stronger the prescription, the longer it will take.

The Aftermath

At the end of the procedure, a shield will be placed over your eyes, which will prevent you from rubbing them -- even though you may want to rub your eyes, resist the urge, as it could cause damage while the cornea heals.

The shield also prevents you from putting direct pressure on your eye while you sleep, and keeps your eye from accidentally being hit or poked. Expect to wear the shield for up to four weeks at night, and don't plan on playing contact or strenuous sports for one month after the procedure.

There may also be some tearing and sensitivity, or dryness, in your eyes, and don't be alarmed if the whites of your eye look red or bloodshot. LASIK can cause symptoms which interfere with your night vision for the first few days. These symptoms should improve considerably, however, within the first few days after surgery.

Dan Myers, in his late 30s, has been wearing glasses since he was eight years old; he is getting the surgery next week. Myers is a combination of nervous and excited: "I will be able to get up in the morning and not have to look for my glasses," says Myers.

He says his daughters are a little worried that "daddy will look different without the glasses." But Myers, will be thrilled to gain better peripheral vision and not have to wear protective glasses while playing basketball and baseball.

Most insurance companies do not cover the surgery, as it is often considered cosmetic. Prices ranges from approximately $1,600-$2,000 per an eye.

So next time your glasses break or you get sick of waking up blind in the morning, think about getting LASIK.

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