LASIK history and the evolution of vision correction extends further than most people realize. For most of the 19th century, bifocals and even contact lenses were used to correct common vision defects like near and farsightedness, but the seeds of LASIK vision correction were actually planted then as well. Here’s how LASIK was developed and the history of how it became the safe and easy way to correct your vision.
The idea of radial keratotomy, or RK, was actually first put forward in 1898, though it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the process was refined enough to put into widespread practice. The procedure, a precursor to LASIK, was one of the first kinds of eye correction, used to counteract nearsightedness. It essentially flattened out the center of the cornea, the area where the eye focuses light onto the retina.
The Excimer Laser and Photorefractive Keratectomy
In 1987, the advent of laser vision correction came about with the first use of the excimer laser to correct nearsightedness. Although first developed for use in the computer industry, the excimer laser allowed for the ablation of specific molecular bonds in the cornea without damaging any of the surrounding molecules.
Photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, was the first kind of corrective procedure to use the laser rather than a blade to remove corneal tissue. PRK used an excimer laser to treat nearsightedtedness by removing a very small amount of the cornea. Gradual refinements in the technology of the procedure allowed doctors to also treat individuals with farsightedness and astigmatism.
The Birth of LASIK
Laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, was initially developed in the early 1990s by a Greek eye doctor named Ioannis Pallikaris and an Italian eye doctor named Lucio Buratto. LASIK creates a tiny flap in the cornea that can be folded back. This allows the excimer laser to then reshape the underlying layer of the cornea. The procedure, approved by the FDA in 1999, has become the most popular corneal refractive procedure for good reason. By using an excimer laser to shape the cornea rather than a microkeratome, the results of the procedure are much more predictable and easily controlled. In addition, the creation of the corneal flap to access the underlying tissue greatly reduces the amount of time required to recover from the procedure, as well as any associated discomfort. Hence, most LASIK patients see an improvement in their vision in just a few hours.
In the grand scheme, the LASIK history is not a long one. But in less than two decades, it has become the procedure turned to by millions of people who have (literally) seen the miraculous results first-hand.
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