Eye surgery can seem intimidating, perhaps more than other kinds of surgery. A lot is at stake with your eyesight and you want to know your eye surgeon has skills in his or her field of expertise.
This is true whether the surgery is medically necessary – advanced cataract surgery, for instance – or simply desired for a better quality of life, as with a LASIK procedure.
There are helpful ways to alleviate that anxiety. An understanding of the extensive education and training that a quality eye specialist undergoes benefits you as the patient.
Knowing what to expect on the day of the surgery helps, too: What equipment will you see, and how will it be used? And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your doctor is there to help.
How Much Education is Required to Be an Eye Surgeon?
Many people aren’t sure of the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists or even whether the difference matters. When it comes to surgery – it matters.
Optometrists receive their doctor of optometry (OD) degrees after attending college and four years of optometry school. Optometrists generally provide ongoing health care for your eyes, including eye exams and prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses. Obviously, these are all important skills for general eye care.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors. In addition to four years of college, an ophthalmologist must complete four years of medical school, a one-year internship and then three or more additional years of medical and surgical training in a residency.
Ophthalmologists are certified by national boards and are licensed by state medical boards. In addition, the American Board of Ophthalmology requires ophthalmologists to recertify every 10 years.
In addition, eye surgeons often specialize in specific areas, which requires more training. Some examples are cataracts, glaucoma, pediatric ophthalmology, dry eye treatment, refractive eye surgery or plastic and reconstruction surgery around the eye (also called oculoplastics).
What to Expect With the Most Common Eye Surgeries
Understanding the procedures in eye surgery is daunting. It needn’t be, however, especially for some of the most common issues such as advanced cataract surgery, LASIK, dry-eye treatment and oculoplastics. Here’s an overview of what to expect with each of those:
If you have cataracts, it means that the lens on your eye has become cloudy. The surgeon removes the cataract and typically replaces it with an artificial lens best suited to your eye.
Before doing so, your pupils are dilated with eye drops and the area around the eye is numbed with a local anesthetic. You may be given a sedative to help you relax, as well. The surgeon typically makes one incision, through which the old lens is removed and the new lens inserted. Cataract surgery is outpatient surgery; you will go home the same day.
LASIK procedures are also performed on an outpatient basis. As in cataract surgery, your eye will be numbed with drops ahead of time. An instrument called a lid speculum is used to hold your eyelid open while your eye surgeon uses an advanced, precision laser machine to cut a tiny flap in the cornea.
Your surgeon will fold the flap back and ask you to stare at a fixed spot for a moment as the laser does its work to reshape the surface of your eye. The flap is then positioned back into place, where it heals.
When you leave, you will have a shield or patch over your eye, and will be asked to sleep with it on for a few days to keep from rubbing it in your sleep.
Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes do not naturally produce enough tears. That lack of moisture causes irritation or inflammation. A person may feel like they have a grain of sand in their eye, or it may sting or burn.
Besides the physical symptoms, dry eye syndrome can interfere with a person’s ability to read, work on a computer, participate in sports or wear contact lenses comfortably. Treatment can take several paths, from artificial tears and medication to a surgery called punctal cautery, which works to close the small circular drainage holes between the corner of the eye and the nose. That keeps tears – and the moisture the eye needs – in the eye for longer.
The word oculoplastics is actually an umbrella term for many different surgical procedures that have to do with the orbit around the eye. Ophthalmologists who specialize in oculoplastics operate on the entire area around the eyes, including the forehead, eyebrows, eyelids, tear ducts and cheeks.
The reasons for these procedures are often medical and can include tumors and / or trauma from an accident. These surgeries, like surgeries on other parts of the body performed in a hospital, are completed by surgeons using typical surgical instruments.
How Do I Know if My Eye Surgeon Use the Latest Technology?
First of all, don’t hesitate to ask your surgeon.
If you’re just generally curious, still ask your surgeon first. But then do an internet search on your planned procedure to learn more about it. Stick with reputable websites, such as those from universities, hospitals, medical journals and national boards and associations.
Third, is your eye surgeon a member of a vision center that has a reputation for quality care? Has your surgeon performed the surgery you’re interested in many times before?
And lastly ask, what kind of technology does the eye surgeon use, and do I have a choice as to the type of technology? Often an eye center will choose the best option out there and not provide a choice; why would they if they’ve determined one is better than all the others?
Your surgeon should be happy to explain any options to you, discussing the differences in terms of how they affect you and your surgery. Give us a call, 1-866-742-6581, for answers to any of your questions or contact us online.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our article on eye surgery options.