Eye Surgery: LASIK
Introduction into Eye Surgery
The fields of optometry, ophthalmology and eye surgery in Costa Rica have become very advanced in the last few decades. The best eye care centers in Central America and the Caribbean are located right here, thanks to the interest of the medical community and the exponential growth of medical tourism over the years.
The public health system offers a fair amount of ophthalmic treatments to the local population, with the exception of corrective eye surgery. That has not stopped the people of Costa Rica from seeking surgical solutions to their vision problems. The low cost of laser eye surgery in comparison to Canada, Europe and the United States is one of the main attractions, as well as the incredible success ratio and effectiveness of the procedures.
Optometry services are incredibly cheap in Costa Rica. An eye exam costs about the same as the price of a lunch meal, and most contact lenses and eyeglasses are also very affordable (with the exception of designer eye wear). Corrective laser eye surgical procedures are also very affordable; they can be 30 to 60 percent cheaper than in North America and Europe. Laser eye surgeons in Costa Rica perform thousands of procedures on medical tourists each year; in fact, a few American ophthalmologists have started partnerships with eye centers in Costa Rica due to the constant flow of patients.
A New Perspective
Combining a vacation with a laser eye surgery makes perfect sense. With the assistance of a facilitator, patients can comfortably arrive at the airport and be taken directly to the eye clinic to get evaluated and begin preparations before the procedure. The entire process, from checking in at the clinic for surgery to discharge, usually takes less than two hours. A protective environment for recovery should be provided for about two days, and after that the patient is ready to experience the wonderful sights of Costa Rica through a new set of eyes. Imagine being able to explore the cloud forest canopy at Monteverde, or hiking up to the Arenal volcano, without having to worry about breaking expensive eye glasses or losing contact lenses. A well-planned vacation in Costa Rica can turn truly magical thanks to the wonders of laser eye surgery.
Understanding Laser Eye Procedures
LASIK stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It is the most common corrective laser eye procedure practiced around the world. LASIK serves a similar purpose as eyeglasses and contact lenses do: correction of common vision problems such as myopia (near sightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. Both conditions are physiological and can be corrected. LASIK is a refractive procedure that in most cases can eliminate the need for wearing corrective eye wear or contact lenses.
LASIK is a procedure that is recommended for most people who are near sighted, farsighted or suffer astigmatism, with few exceptions. People who frequently suffer from iritis or severe dry eye conditions will have to be closely evaluated by an ophthalmologist prior to deciding on LASIK. Retinal holes or other complications related to cataracts are also contraindications to LASIK procedures.
How LASIK is Performed
Preparation of a LASIK procedure involves the application of special eye drops that act as a topical anesthetic agent to alleviate discomfort and lessen pain. The surgeon operates one eye at a time, and the patient is fully aware during the procedure. The eye that is opposite to the surgical field is always protected by a special shield. LASIK is a highly participatory procedure; the surgeon constantly asks the patient to either blink or focus his or her vision on a blinking light set above the patient. The main instruments used are the microkeratome and the excimer laser. The surgical incisions do not require stitches, as the healing power of the cornea takes care of any wounds.
Perfect vision is usually experienced by patients as soon as they are escorted out of the LASIK room. It is a truly magical moment. Recovery begins right away. Patients must keep their eyes covered for a few hours, and they may be prescribed special eye drops, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. For patients who schedule their LASIK vacations in the middle of Costa Rica’s long summer (from December through the end of April), it is highly recommended that they keep a pair of sunglasses handy. After a couple of days in recovery and a follow up visit to the eye doctor, patients are ready to see -clearly and without any blur- why Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
When a cataract forms on the lens of the eye, which is located in between the iris and the pupil, a number of vision problems ensue. In the beginning the cataract is small and imperceptible. As it gains in size, the cataract will cause glare and discoloration instead of normal vision. Cataracts can create serious problems for people who drive or who must spend considerable amounts of time in front of a computer screen.
Cataract surgery involves removal of the lens and insertion of an artificial one. Although the procedure has greatly advanced over the years, the cost in North America and Europe is prohibitive for many patients. The cost of cataract surgery in Costa Rica is considerably less, and it is done on an outpatient basis. The procedure involves an incision and microscopic sutures that rarely need removal as they are biodegradable. Patients may experience some discomfort and blurred vision for a few days following the surgery. As vision improves, patients may also need to change the prescription of their eye glasses or contact lenses.
Corneal Transplant (Keratoplasty)
Costa Rica has gained a reputation as a research center for organ transplant procedures, including keratoplasty. The ophthalmology community has been involved in the development of a corneal bank since the middle of the 20th century. Corneal transplants are sensible options for patients who have sustained considerable corneal damage due to advanced disease or trauma. While a keratoplasty can be performed on an outpatient basis, it is a fairly complex procedure that requires gradual recovery and careful planning. Corneal transplants performed in Costa Rica are very affordable in comparison to other parts of the world, and they have a great degree of success. Interested patients should talk at length with their ophthalmologists and their families about this procedure, as it may necessitate an extended stay in Costa Rica to allow for recovery.