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The History of LASIK: An Eye Opening Look at LASIK Technology

Posted on March 1, 2020
Close-up Female Eye and Nose.

Since LASIK eye surgery hit the scene, it has helped millions of people see. During this time, it has become a household name.

For many people, it is a dream to one day have corrective eye surgery so they can finally ditch the glasses and contact lenses. It is recognized as one of the greatest advancements in our lifetime.

LASIK eye surgery has been around for years. However, doctors have been trying to find a way to correct vision for millenia. Read ahead to learn more about how the LASIK technology came to be what it is today.

The Window of The Soul

Scientists, poets, and lovers have always been obsessed with the eyes. They are so small yet so vital. They are so important to our daily lives yet few people truly understand how they work.

If we cherish someone more than anything, we say that they are ‘the apple of our eye’. The apple actually refers to the pupil, a crucial part of the proper function of the eye. We are comparing our loved one to something many of us couldn’t live without.

Pupils get their name from the Latin pupilla, for a small or young person. This is a reference to the fact that when you look into someone’s pupils, you see a tiny reflection of yourself.

Unlocking The Secrets of The Eye

Early humans were quick to learn that the eye is extremely important to survival but they could only have imagined how they actually worked.

Optics is a type of science that studies how light behaves and how we see it. Euclid wrote the earliest work on this topic around 300 BCE.

The Persian Master

Some early scientists and philosophers, such as Plato believed that eye emitted light that allowed us to see objects but there was much debate.

Enter Persian physician/astronomer/poet/author Avicenna just after the year 1000 CE. His body of work was extremely influential and was studied by medical students in Europe and other parts of the world for hundreds of years.

His work on the eye, The Book of Optics, was particularly interesting and enlightening. He compared the eye to a mirror that absorbed and reflected light to create an image.

The Field of Ophthalmology

The Ebers Papyrus is one of the oldest surviving medical texts. It was created in Egypt around the year 1550 BCE. It contains an entire section devoted to diseases of the eye but their understanding was rudimentary and flawed at best.

As the years went by, scientists slowly started to learn how the eyes work.

Ancient Indian physician, Sushruta, described over 70 ocular diseases around the year 600 BCE. Believe it or not, he was performing cataract-removal surgery on his patients around this time period, making him one of the first to do so.

We Just Want to See

Only about 35% of adults have 20/20 vision. That means that literally billions of people in the world could benefit from having better eyesight. 

We are unsure exactly when or where the first corrective spectacles were made. Some historians point to China, India, or Italy.

We know for sure that they were being produced in Europe by the year 1300. However, the effectiveness of these early glasses had to be questionable. Conditions like astigmatism and myopia were not described until hundreds of years later.

A Cure for Vision Problems

Let’s fast-forward several hundred years to the 1970s. Eye doctors began using a technique called radial keratotomy (RK). 

This procedure consists of making tiny incisions in the cornea in order to correct refractive errors. It was useful for people with astigmatism and nearsightedness but it required making several incisions into the cornea and could weaken the structural integrity of the eye.

Early Problems

Despite the benefits, there were significant complications and the healing required days to weeks. Soon,  physicians learned how to create incisions in the cornea that did not require sutures.

However, the outcomes were still less than acceptable.

Learning to Use Lasers 

During the 1980s, the excimer laser was developed to manufacture computer chips with extreme precision. This would prove to be an important moment in LASIK surgery history.

It didn’t take long for Rangaswamy Srinivasan, an IBM researcher, to realize they could use these lasers to operate safer and more efficiently.

The Origins of LASIK Technology

So, who invented laser eye surgery? Dr. Stephen Trokel was the first to use the excimer laser to operate on a cornea.

Dr. Trokel introduced a procedure known as photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). A few years later, in 1995, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this procedure to treat nearsightedness.

What is LASIK?

The name LASIK is derived from laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses. You don’t really need to remember that but it refers to the use of lasers to modify the cornea in order to improve vision. 

Dr. Gholam Peyman invented this procedure and received a patent in 1989. 

Irregularities in the shape of the cornea lead to vision problems, such as myopia and astigmatism. Using a laser, a surgeon can correct these irregularities and bring your vision into focus.

Convincing the Skeptics

Not everybody was immediately won over by this new technology. However, improvements to the LASIK devices and the methods used lead to excellent results.

Even severe cases were being successfully treated. Today, the vast majority of patients have 20/20 vision or even better when all is said and done.

The Future Looks Good

Since then, nearly 30 million people have had LASIK eye surgery. It has truly changed the lives of so many.

The best part of LASIK technology is that it is virtually painless and recovery is a snap. If you book the procedure in the morning you will be ready in time for lunch (with some funky sunglasses and some special instructions).

LASIK surgery can change your life. Visit the blog for more information on all you need to know about laser eye surgery.

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