There are several surgical treatments for myopia, including LASIK and PRK. Each procedure comes with its own risks and benefits.
Myopia — better known as nearsightedness — is a common condition that can make it hard to see things that are far away.
If you have myopia, the shape and structure of your eyes cause incoming light to focus improperly. This is called a refractive error. Nearby objects are often clearly visible, but more distant objects become blurry.
There are many ways to treat myopia. The treatment that’s best for you will depend on:
- your overall eye health, specifically the health of your cornea (the clear, front part of your eye surface)
- whether you have an astigmatism
- your personal goals and preferences
- your financial situation
- the severity of your myopia
Some of these treatments include surgery. We answer the most common questions about surgical treatments for myopia.
There is no known cure for myopia.
Myopia is a distortion in the shape of your eye, and there isn’t a way to fix this shape.
However, many corrective treatments — including surgeries — can be used to reduce or eliminate refractive errors caused by myopia.
There are many surgical treatments for myopia. Some can also be used to treat other eye conditions like astigmatism.
Let’s briefly review the existing options:
- Laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK): LASIK is perhaps the most well-known surgical treatment for myopia. A surgeon will cut a flap into your cornea, lift the flap, and then use a laser to reshape your cornea’s inner layers so that incoming light focuses on your retinas. The flap is then repositioned so it can adhere to the underlying cornea.
- Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK): PRK is very similar to LASIK, but instead of cutting a flap in your cornea, the outer epithelial layer is removed and the laser energy is applied directly to the superficial cornea. PRK is among the least expensive refractive surgery procedures.
- Automated lamellar keratoplasty (ALK): This technique is similar to LASIK but uses a special cutting tool instead of a laser to create a flap on your cornea and then cut out a flat piece of corneal tissue. This is usually reserved for more severe myopia.
- Intracorneal ring (Intacs): Intacs are clear plastic rings that can be surgically implanted in your cornea to help flatten and center any bulges. This surgery is usually intended for people with both myopia and keratoconus.
- Laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy (LASEK): LASEK is similar to LASIK, but instead of making a flap within the corneal stroma, the surgeon lifts the top epithelial layer of the cornea using an alcohol solution. After the laser reshapes the cornea, the epithelium is repositioned on the stroma. Finally, topical steroids and an antibiotic are applied, and a soft contact lens is placed. Usually, LASEK has a slower recovery than LASIK but also has a reduced risk of infection or other complications.
- Small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE): Using the SMILE technique, a special laser cuts a disk of corneal tissue called a “lenticule” from your eye. Then a surgeon creates an incision and removes the lenticule.
- Refractive lens exchange (RLE): While most surgical myopia treatments alter your cornea, this one instead centers on your eye’s natural lens. Your lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant. This is sometimes called clear lens extraction (CLE).
- Phakic intraocular lens (PIOL): This procedure is similar to RLE, but in this case your natural lenses are not removed.
- Radial keratotomy (RK): In this procedure, a surgeon will make eight or more incisions in your cornea using a diamond blade, pointing outward (like hands on a clock), which changes the cornea’s shape. This was one of the first myopia surgeries, but other procedures have mostly replaced it.
Surgeries for myopia generally have the best results for people at least in their mid-20s whose vision hasn’t changed for at least a year.
Being free of other eye conditions and having generally good health also make you a better candidate.
Laser eye surgeries should not be performed on anyone before age 25 since the eyes are still changing during this time.
People with existing corneal conditions like keratoconus, corneal ectasia, and previous corneal trauma may not be good candidates for laser eye surgery.
Your vision can also fluctuate during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and during menopause.
Vision also frequently changes after age 45 due to natural aging unrelated to myopia.
Certain health conditions like immunodeficiency may also prevent or delay your ability to safely undergo surgical procedures.
Each surgery differs in recovery time, risk, and the amount of vision correction they can accomplish.
Speaking with a specialist like an ophthalmologist about your goals can help you choose a treatment plan that’s right for you.
All surgeries come with some amount of risk. The risks associated with surgical treatments for myopia are generally very low but can include:
Before laser eye surgery, you will be given a sedative, anesthesia, or both, depending on the surgery and your specific needs.
If you are awake during the surgery, you may feel some pressure, but this is not typically painful.
There may be some mild pain or irritation during recovery.
The type of surgery you have will affect the cost. Surgical treatments for myopia usually range from
Surgical treatments for myopia aren’t typically covered by insurance, but check with your provider first and ask the surgeon’s office if discounts are available.
The most common nonsurgical treatments for myopia are wearing glasses or contact lenses. This is recommended for those who cannot have surgery, such as children.
For those whose eyes are still developing, atropine eyedrops or special contact lenses might help slow the progression of myopia.
The most common treatment for myopia is to wear prescription glasses, while the most common surgical treatment is LASIK.
Speak with a doctor about what treatments will help you best achieve your vision goals.
If you have myopia (are nearsighted), the shape of your eye is distorted. This can lead to blurry vision.
Advances in refractive surgical techniques have created several methods for treating myopia. Surgery may not be an option for everyone, but there are nonsurgical options available as well.