Want To Get LASIK? You Need To Pass A Few Tests First

a man and women jogging outsideOne of the most common reasons people don’t get LASIK is the fear of getting surgery on their eyes. If you can relate, we’d like to put your fears to rest. According to Key-Whitman Eye Center’s President and Chief Surgeon Jeffrey Whitman, “LASIK is better now than it’s ever been. Why? Today’s advanced screening methods allow us to better identify who would and wouldn’t be a good candidate for LASIK. In fact, recent FDA research reveals that 96 percent of patients were satisfied with their LASIK results, three months post-procedure.”

Still not convinced? Think you’re better off wearing contacts? Think again. “We know statistically today that’s not true. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that there are nearly one million doctor visits and 58,000 ER visits annually for eye infections, with contact lenses being the single biggest risk. We see those infections, like keratitis, in our practice every week, and many can be very painful and difficult to treat,” Dr. Whitman says.

If You Want To Get LASIK, You’ll Need A Thorough Eye Exam First

Before agreeing to perform LASIK surgery on a patient at Key-Whitman’s Dallas surgery center, Dr. Whitman and his team of board certified LASIK surgeons perform a thorough eye exam. Wondering if you could get a passing grade? You’ll need to pass the following tests:

No. 1: Healthy eyes. All patients undergo numerous eye health tests before they can be cleared for surgery. As Dr. Whitman explains, “We make sure the retina is healthy and check for glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, eye infections and other issues. Some conditions disqualify the patient from having LASIK and other issues need to be treated prior to the procedure.”

No. 2: Stable vision. If your vision has changed in the past 12 months, you may be disqualified from getting LASIK – at least for the time being. “We want people to be satisfied with their vision for the long-term, so we look at past prescriptions to make sure the patient’s current prescription is the same. If it has changed, and we perform LASIK, the patient may not be satisfied with their vision in the near future,” Dr. Whitman says.

No. 3: At an age where LASIK will benefit you for years to come. As we get older, we all eventually end up with cataracts, the clouding of the lens of the eye. That’s why a thorough pre-operative exam is so important. Dr. Whitman and team look for the source of the patient’s vision problems, and if the issue is cataracts, LASIK won’t resolve that problem.

“We have a lot of patients in their sixties and seventies who say, ‘I’ve heard about this LASIK thing, I need to have LASIK done,’ and when we do they’re exam, we find out they have a cataract. LASIK isn’t going to fix that, but we have all these wonderful high-tech lenses, like Symfony and Crystalens, that can give them a better range of vision for life. They often end up with better vision than they’ve ever had before, following cataract surgery at Key-Whitman,” says Dr. Whitman.

No. 4: Level of vision correction needed is in an acceptable range. Some patients don’t qualify for LASIK because they are way too nearsighted (LASIK primarily treats distance vision), or they want surgery to address near vision. For those patients, Dr. Whitman may recommend another solution.

As he explains, “Unlike some providers that only do LASIK, Key-Whitman offers a wide range of surgical options. For example, patients with extreme nearsightedness may be good candidates for ICLs (implantable collamer lenses), where we essentially implant a microscopic vision correcting lens behind the pupil of the eye, resulting in very good quality vision.

“We have other patients who come in, and they don’t have cataracts yet, but they do have extreme nearsightedness and farsightedness. For those patients, we can offer refractive cataract surgery, where we remove the pre-cataract lens of their eye, and replace it with a high-technology lens implant like the Symfony or Crystalens. This option gets rid of a huge amount of nearsightedness, farsightedness or both, and it’s a permanent fix.”

No. 5: Level of astigmatism is in a treatable range. Key-Whitman uses leading-edge, high-technology instruments during pre-LASIK eye exams to determine not only the level of vision correction required but also the amount of astigmatism that may need to be corrected. While LASIK can be used to treat astigmatism very successfully, patients with irregular astigmatism typically are not good candidates for LASIK.

Dr. Whitman uses a high-tech tool that allows him to see the topography of the cornea. “It’s like looking at a topographic map of the U.S., where you’re looking at the plains, the deserts and the mountains. You have higher areas and lower areas. The cornea is the same way. With astigmatism, there are generally higher areas and lower areas. For somebody without astigmatism, the ‘map’ is pretty much even throughout. For people with irregular astigmatism, corneal topography will pick up areas in the eyes that have very asymmetric amounts of steepening or astigmatism. That can indicate different disease processes and is when we’ll say, ‘You’re better off with your current correction. LASIK or PRK surgery may not be right for you,’” explains Dr. Whitman.

No. 6: Adequate corneal thickness. During LASIK surgery, the eye surgeon creates a corneal flap under which the laser treatment is performed. The cornea must be thick enough in order for the flap to heal properly and to achieve optimum vision correction.

According to Dr.Whitman, “We look at the amount of correction that is needed and whether there is enough thickness in the cornea to perform LASIK. If the cornea isn’t thick enough to perform LASIK, we may recommend that the patient forgo surgery altogether or consider another procedure like PRK (photorefractive keratectomy). PRK uses the same laser treatment as LASIK, but it’s performed on the surface of the eye instead. Other patients may be a better fit for ICLs.”

No. 7: No dry eye issues. “There has been an ongoing rumor that LASIK makes the eye dry, and that’s not true. Because you interfere with the nerves to the surface of the cornea when you make the corneal flap, there is a decreased sensation to the surface, usually for about three months. That decreases the blink reflex, or the amount of times that you blink, and blinking releases your tears. So, during that time, people, particularly those who were drier to begin with, can end up having drier eyes, and that can affect the healing of the corneal flap. That’s why we are very rigorous about measuring for dryness,” says Dr. Whitman.

Key-Whitman’s Dallas headquarters is one of the few eye care providers with a true dry eye center in North Texas. If dry eye issues are discovered during the patient’s eye exam, they will need to undergo treatment for dry eye before LASIK can be performed. Fortunately, many excellent treatments for the different forms of dry eye disease are available at Key-Whitman.

No. 8: Getting LASIK for the right reasons. LASIK has been shown to be a real money saver over the long term, because you don’t have to continue paying for new glasses, contact lenses and contact solution. Many people just love the convenience of being able to see great 24/7 without hassling with glasses and contacts, or dealing with eye infections due to improper contact lens wear. If that’s you, great! LASIK may be an excellent option for you.

However, if you’re considering LASIK because someone else thinks you should, Dr. Whitman cautions you to think again. As he explains, “We always talk with the patient about why they want the procedure. I’ve had patients say, ‘Oh, I love my glasses,’ or ‘I love my contacts, but my sister is saying I really should do this.’ That’s when I tell the patient, ‘That’s fine for your sister, but is this something you really want to do?’ If they’re not sure, now probably isn’t a good time for them to get LASIK.”

Want To Find Out If You’re A Good Candidate For LASIK?

To find out if LASIK surgery or another procedure is right for you, contact us to schedule a consultation. You can reach us by calling (214) 225-2577, or if you prefer to connect with us online, please fill out our handy online appointment form here. Our team of eye doctors in Dallas, Arlington, Mesquite, Plano and Rockwall are ready to answer questions about all of your options for better vision.


Jeffrey Whitman, M.D., is a nationally renowned eye surgeon, board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. He has been the President and Chief Surgeon of Key-Whitman Eye Centers in Dallas since 1996 and was past President of the Outpatient Ophthalmic Surgery Society, American College of Eye Surgeons and The Dallas Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Whitman is a frequent participant in clinical trials and is known as a respected researcher, innovator and leader in refractive cataract surgery, LASIK eye surgery and for his extensive experience implanting high-technology lenses. He is frequently called upon to serve on the boards of local and national medical associations and organizations. Dr. Whitman and his wife reside in Dallas and enjoy fitness, playing tennis, snow skiing and traveling.