Blog Hero

Can An Optometrist Do LASIK Surgery?

Book Appointment
An eye surgeon prepares a female patient for LASIK eye surgery

The world of vision correction can feel as intricate as the human eye itself, with overlapping roles and a spectrum of procedures that promise to clear your view. LASIK, a name now synonymous with laser eye surgery, is one of the most popular options for people who want to stop relying on contacts and glasses.

Your optometrist can help you determine if LASIK is right for you, but they can’t perform the actual surgery. That’s the responsibility of an ophthalmologist. You’ve maybe heard that word before, but what’s the difference between these vital eye professionals?

What Is Laser Eye Surgery, Anyway?

LASIK and laser eye surgery can sometimes get tossed around interchangeably, but their relationship is closer to the one between a square and a rectangle.

LASIK, or “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis,” is a type of laser eye surgery that reshapes the cornea, the front part of the eye, to change the way light enters the eye. The goal is to correct common vision problems called refractive errors.

A refractive error is to your vision what a smudge is to clean glasses—it’s the cause of the blur. Only in this case, it’s not a smudge, it’s due to the shape of your eyes. The 4 types of refractive errors are:

  • Myopia (Nearsightedness): You see close objects clearly, but distant ones are a blur.
  • Hyperopia (Farsightedness): Distant objects may be seen more clearly than those close to you.
  • Astigmatism: An unevenly shaped cornea, which causes blurriness at multiple distances.
  • Presbyopia: After you turn 40, the lens inside your eye can become less flexible and it makes it harder to focus on nearby objects.

Since presbyopia affects the lens inside the eye, it’s the only refractive error laser eye surgery can’t correct. Sorry! Other refractive errors are eligible for LASIK, but it depends on their severity and other factors.

A woman preparing for LASIK eye surgery

How Does LASIK Correct Vision

During a LASIK procedure, the ophthalmologist uses laser pulses to create a thin flap in the cornea. This provides access to the underlying corneal tissue. That Computer-guided laser then reshapes the corneal curvature to correct your optical prescription.

Your surgeon then replaces the flap and the cornea is allowed to heal. Many people prefer LASIK since it heals quicker than other types of refractive surgery.

Types of Laser Eye Surgery

While LASIK is popular, it’s not the only kind of laser eye surgery. It’s not even the first kind of laser eye surgery! They each come with pros and cons, and a significant part of a laser eye surgery consultation is determining which one is right for you.

Other types of laser eye surgery performed in Canada include:

  • PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy): The precursor to LASIK, PRK involves removing a thin layer of tissue from the cornea’s surface, without a flap. This could be beneficial for people with thinner corneas, but takes longer to heal.
  • LASEK (Laser Assisted Sub-Epithelial Keratectomy): Blend between LASIK and PRK, LASEK removes the outer layer of the cornea much like PRK, but then replaces it after reshaping the tissue below. A newer procedure.
  • Epi-LASIK: Iterating on LASEK, Epi-LASIK removes the cornea’s outer later with a mechanical device and a blunt rather than a sharp blade for the initial cut.

The Difference Between Optometrists & Ophthalmologists

Optometrists and ophthalmologists undergo vastly different training regimens. Optometrists often have the letters OD (Doctor of Optometry) after their names. They’ve completed a Bachelor of Science degree followed by a 4-year Doctor of Optometry degree at a school of optometry. 

Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, are medical doctors (MDs). They’ve completed a bachelor’s degree, 4 years of medical school, and a residency in eye surgery.

Optometrists are primary eye care providers, incredibly skilled in diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of vision and eye health disorders. However, they are generally not trained to perform surgical procedures, LASIK included.

An ophthalmologist is an eye surgeon and is trained to do eye surgeries, including LASIK and cataract surgery. Some may also specialize in certain aspects of eye care like glaucoma, retina, or cornea.

Is LASIK the Right for You?

We consider many factors when determining if LASIK is right for you. It’s an involved procedure, and we want to help you get what you need out of it.

Some criteria for LASIK are:

  • You’re over 18, or ideally 21
  • Your prescription has remained constant over the year leading up to surgery
  • Your refractive error is treatable with laser eye surgery
  • You have reasonably thick corneas
  • Your eyes are healthy and in good shape
  • You have realistic expectations about LASIK’s capabilities.

People who are pregnant or nursing should hold off on LASIK, as hormonal shifts can affect the corneal shape.

Find Out if Laser Eye Surgery is Right for You

We hope your path to LASIK looks clearer. Optometrists and ophthalmologists work together to help people enjoy the benefits laser eye surgery can offer. At Headwaters Optometry, we work with the ophthalmologists at TLC Laser Eye Centres to co-manage patients through surgery and post-operative care.

If you’re curious about laser vision correction, book your consultation today. After all, life is too vibrant to leave it hazy.

Written by Dr. Patrick J. Brodie

Dr. Patrick J. Brodie began practicing optometry in Orangeville and New Hamburg in 1985, after graduating from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in the same year. He built a base of patients over the next 3 years, and in 1988 he joined his practice with that of Dr. Robert Orr. The partnership allowed the doctors to serve more patients from a larger area and provided the required financial support to bring the newest technologies to their practice.
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax