What is a LASIK flap?

LASIK surgery is a procedure to correct physical abnormalities of the eye that cause nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. LASIK surgery is performed with a laser instead of traditional surgical tools, but to do so still requires access to the cornea. What is a LASIK flap?

The pupil is the black aperture at the center of the eye; it is responsible for opening and closing to adjust to the amount of light coming in. Behind the pupil is the lens, which focuses the light from the pupil into an image that is sent to our brain. Around the pupils are the irises, the part of the eye that gives us our eye color. The irises work to open and close the pupil as needed. Protecting all of these parts is the clear cornea; it acts like a filter for the light coming in. The cornea is also the location of physical deficits that cause refractive errors. A cornea that is misshapen will interfere with the way light is focused as it comes into the eye, impacting the ability to see near or far. 

When LASIK surgery is performed, a laser is used to cut into the cornea and make repairs to correct its shape. To do so in a way that allows access while also optimizing the healing process, doctors will create a LASIK flap. The cornea has several layers, but only the first one is used to create an opening in the eye. A circular cut is made into the cornea with the laser, but only about three quarters of the circle is completed. The remaining section acts like the hinge on a door, allowing the LASIK flap to open during surgery for access to the rest of the cornea and then close again after. 

Why use a flap for LASIK surgery? Doing so minimizes complications and the healing process begins almost immediately upon closing the flap. In fact, the edges of the flap will be almost entirely sealed again within a day of surgery. There are no stitches required. 

If you suffer from nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, talk to your eye doctor about LASIK surgery. Improved vision is possible, without the need for glasses or contacts. Your eye doctor can perform an eye exam and determine if you are a candidate for LASIK.