LASIK surgery isn’t one-size-fits-all. Professional athletes often want surgery that will enhance their distance vision. People who have to do a lot of reading, sewing or other close work will want a procedure that combines distance and near vision.
“We want to understand patients’ vocations and activities, and how they use their vision the most,” said George O. Waring IV, MD, FACS, founder and medical director of the Waring Vision Institute in Mt. Pleasant, SC. “We can tailor LASIK treatments to those needs.”
LASIK is an outpatient procedure. A laser is used to reshape the cornea to improve the way the eye focuses light rays onto the retina at the back of the eye. To treat nearsightedness, LASIK flattens the cornea. To treat farsightedness, LASIK creates a steeper cornea. For astigmatism, the procedure shapes an irregular cornea into a more normal shape.
A growing number of professional athletes are having LASIK surgery or alternative refractive surgery procedures to enhance their performance, Dr. Waring said. “Baseball players want to be able to see the threads on the baseball when it’s coming at them,” he said. NBA star Lebron James, professional golfer Tiger Woods and gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn are among the professional athletes reported to have had LASIK surgery. “The procedure is the same for all sports,” Dr. Waring said.
The choices and options that athletes have about LASIK procedures aren’t any different than what everyone else has. Anyone having refractive surgery needs to discuss their daily activities with their ophthalmologist to plan their treatment. Athletes aren’t getting special LASIK or having different surgeries than everyone else.
LASIK surgery is preferable to contacts for many athletes and people who exercise outdoors because they sweat and are often in dusty environments. The sweat and dust can irritate the eyes of contact wearers.
People who spend most of their day at the computer, or who read a lot for work or enjoyment, may want a LASIK procedure that results in so-called blended vision. Blended vision is when one eye is focused for distance and the other eye focused for close work with books, computers, phones and tablets. Blended vision is also often a good choice for people who spend a lot of their free time playing sports, but whose day job requires reading. The safety and cost are the same for both standard LASIK and blended vision procedures.
Choosing the right refractive goal is a normal part of pre-operative planning with your doctor. Many patients will be happy with the results of a standard procedure. However, if you have a different refractive goal, your ophthalmologist will help you decide on the best procedure.