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Considering Your Laser Vision Correction Options

Considering Your Laser Vision Correction Options
LASIK and other types of Laser Vision Correction procedures have been performed in the United States since 1994 with over 15 million procedures performed. These remarkable procedures have evolved as the technology has improved over the years, indications have expanded allowing more patients to enjoy clearer vision without glasses or contacts, and far superior results are obtained when compared to those of the early procedures.

Despite the widespread acceptance of LASIK and the vast amount of public information that is readily available, there are still certain areas of particular interest, as well as sources of potential confusion, to patients who are considering the procedure. In this report, the first of a series, we will examine and clarify some of the most common issues and choices patients face when considering Laser Vision Correction.

Bladeless All-Laser LASIK vs. Microkeratome Blade LASIK

In LASIK, a microscopic corneal flap is created under which an excimer laser applies the patient’s prescription. Healing of the corneal flap is quite rapid, allowing highly functional vision within 12 hours. The corneal flap can be made with a femtosecond laser (bladeless) or with an automated instrument called a microkeratome (using a microscopic blade).  Currently, about two-thirds of the procedures in the United States are done with a microkeratome. Both are excellent methods of performing LASIK, but most importantly, there are no statistical differences in visual outcomes between the two procedures. The prescription that is applied to the eye is the same with both methods and the success rate in achieving 20/20 vision is the same.  There are, however, important differences between the two methods. Microkeratome technology requires more training and experience, yet it is significantly less expensive, takes less time in surgery, and nearly always causes less discomfort than bladeless. Bladeless technology may be a better choice in patients with certain corneal parameters and is generally easier to learn and to use by surgeons who are less experienced in corneal surgery. It is important to choose a surgeon who offers both technologies, allowing the selection of the best procedure for you.

I Have Good Distance Vision but I Hate My Reading Glasses! Is Laser Vision Correction for Me?

Over the past decade, several procedures such as LTK, CK, and multifocal IOLs have been promoted as being able to eliminate reading glasses in patients over 40 while not reducing their distance vision. Despite the desirability of such a procedure, there is no technology that will create normal vision both at near and at distance simultaneously in an eye of a patient over the age of 40. As all patients who wear only reading glasses can attest to, the distance vision is blurred when looking through a reading prescription. Unfortunately, research testing of bifocal laser prescriptions has been uniformly unsuccessful… and, not surprisingly, the laser “time machine” which reverses the normal aging process has yet to be invented! 

Nonetheless, LASIK may eliminate distance and reading glasses simultaneously in patients over 40 given the correct scenario. If a patient can function well with one eye corrected for distance and one corrected eye for near, which is called monovision, and which many patients already achieve by wearing a distance contact in one eye and a reading contact in the other eye, then LASIK monovision is a highly successful option. LASIK monovision corrects one eye for distance and one eye for near, allowing a patient over age 40 to see both without glasses or contacts.

In patients who wear reading glasses only who are not regular contact lens wearers, a short trial of a reading contact lens in the non-dominant eye with their current Eye Doctor can usually determine if they can have LASIK monovision.

Recurrent Contact Lens Infections: Can I Still Have LASIK?
Does LASIK Correct Astigmatism Better than Glasses and Contact Lenses?

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Recurrent Contact Lens Infections and the LASIK Alternative

Recurrent Contact Lens Infections and the LASIK Alternative

Recurrent episodes of irritation and infection from contact lenses may range in severity from mild redness and discomfort during prolonged wear, to more severe and sight-threatening complications such as bacterial keratitis and corneal ulceration. Fortunately, most contact lens “infections” are not infections at all, but instead are chronic recurrent inflammatory or allergic conditions associated with contact lenses. Patients sometimes forget, that no matter how advanced contact lens technology may become, a contact lens is still an artificial plastic foreign body in the eye which nature never intended to be there.

Most contact lens irritations which cause redness, soreness, and a mild discharge can be attributed to simple problems such as poorly fitting or dirty contacts, contact lens overwear, or an underlying dry eye condition. In these cases, there is no real infection present, although patients may refer to the redness and irritation incorrectly as “conjunctivitis”.  Conjunctivitis, or pink eye in layman’s terms, more correctly refers to infection of the conjunctiva and may be viral or bacterial in etiology.

One special case of chronic contact lens irritation is Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis, or GPC, in which the patient develops an allergic response to proteins that bind to the contact lens. GPC results in redness, a foreign body sensation, itching, a mucous discharge, and a proliferation of papillae, or bumps, on the inner surface of the lids which cause discomfort. Unfortunately, medications do not treat this condition effectively, the only alternative being a drastic reduction of contact lens wearing time, or in many cases, a complete cessation of contacts.

Bacterial keratitis and corneal ulceration occur infrequently in patients who do not abuse contacts but are very serious sight-threatening conditions that cause severe pain, inflammation, light sensitivity, and if untreated, may cause scarring, corneal perforation, and permanent loss of vision. The risk of bacterial keratitis increases significantly in patients using extended wear lenses, especially if lenses are worn more than two weeks continuously.

Patients with chronic recurrent contact lens irritation and GPC may be excellent candidates for laser vision correction and LASIK. Very simply put, contact lenses cannot irritate the eye if they are not needed. In addition, patients who may not be able to wear contacts comfortably due to an underlying dry eye condition may still be excellent candidates for LASIK. Certain precautions and procedures must be undertaken in patients with dry eye syndrome undergoing LASIK; however, LASIK does not permanently worsen dry eyes.

LASIK may be an outstanding alternative to contacts in patients who have previously had serious corneal infection and ulceration. Microscopic scarring of the cornea from infection or ulceration is not an absolute contraindication to laser vision correction and LASIK. In fact, the laser vision correction procedure can be specifically designed to remove the microscopic scar tissue as well as correct the patient’s prescription.

Next in our series:  “I’m over 40 and I hate these reading glasses!”  Is LASIK Monovision for me?

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“I’m Over 40 and I Hate These Reading Glasses!” Monovision: The LASIK Alternative to Reading Glasses

“I’m Over 40 and I Hate These Reading Glasses!”  Monovision: The LASIK Alternative to Reading Glasses

Patients who have normal distance vision will usually require reading glasses beginning in their early 40’s.  The aging of the proteins inside the human lens leads to a progressive loss of focusing power, eventually resulting in blurred vision at near.  Many patients over the age of 40 can use simple over-the-counter reading glasses for their near vision. It is not surprising that the newly found need for reading glasses is a significant annoyance to people who have previously enjoyed clear vision without glasses for their entire lives. As a consequence, one of the most frequently asked questions about LASIK is whether it will correct the need for reading glasses.

The simple answer is yes, the more complete answer is that it requires LASIK monovision.

As many patients are aware, reading glasses work only for near vision and make everything blurry at a distance. If a patient has both eyes corrected for reading with glasses (or contacts or LASIK), then distance vision is blurred. Only one eye can be corrected for reading if distance vision is to remain clear. The situation where one eye is corrected for distance and the other eye is corrected for reading is called monovision.  The resultant vision is a compromise, and a combination of distance and near vision, and although not absolutely perfect at distance or near, many patients adapt to monovision extremely well. There seems to be a direct correlation between the ability to adapt to monovision and how much an individual dislikes reading glasses.

Many patients use monovision in their contact lenses. If a person has normal distance vision, they can wear a single reading contact in one eye. If a person wears bifocal glasses, they can wear a reading contact in one eye and a distance contact in the other eye.

If a patient is an acceptable candidate for LASIK based upon a number of other factors, LASIK can create virtually any reading or distance prescription, and therefore, can create monovision as well. Prior to having LASIK monovision, a patient must undergo a monovision contact trial in order to test their ability to function and adapt to the vision. Virtually any eye care provider can provide a monovision contact lens trial without requiring the purchase of contacts. Patients typically know right away if they can adapt to monovision and if it would be successful in reducing or eliminating their dependence on glasses and contacts. Patients who are successful with Monovision LASIK are able to enjoy vision at distance and near… without searching for those annoying reading glasses!

Next in our series of articles:

“Seeing Without Glasses after Cataract Surgery: Your Lens Implant Options”

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Does LASIK Correct Astigmatism Better Than Glasses or Contact Lenses?

Does LASIK Correct Astigmatism Better Than Glasses or Contact Lenses?

The second article in our series “Considering your Laser Vision Correction Options” addresses the frequently asked question,

“Does LASIK correct astigmatism better than glasses or contact lenses?”

In order to understand how laser vision correction corrects astigmatism, it is important to understand the nature of astigmatism, how it causes blurred vision, and how it can be corrected by different methods.

Astigmatism is not a disease, but rather a refractive error of the eye which simply causes blurred vision. If the cornea (the front window of the eye) has a surface curvature which is spherical, such as the shape of a basketball, the eye has no astigmatism. If the cornea has a toric shape, like the surface of a football, it has two different curvatures on the surface, and has astigmatism. These two curvatures are usually at right angles to each other with one curvature steeper and one flatter. A greater difference in curvatures creates a larger amount, or magnitude, of astigmatism.

In addition, astigmatism also has an axis (direction) which is determined by the orientation of the steeper curvature of the cornea. Put another way, the football shape of the cornea can be pointed in any direction like the needle of a compass.  Thus, astigmatism has a magnitude and a direction which are equally important.

Glasses and contacts correct blurred vision from astigmatism by using the opposite shape of the correcting lens to “cancel out” the abnormal shape of the eye. For this reason, the frame of the glasses or the fit of the contacts must match exactly the correct magnitude and direction of the astigmatism of the eye. Any deviation in the compensating lens will cause blurred or fluctuating vision. This is why patients with astigmatism and glasses can tolerate very little twisting or maladjustment of the frame as it sits on their face. Similarly, patients with toric (astigmatism correcting) contact lenses frequently notice large fluctuations in vision as the contact lens spins on the eye. These problems arise because glasses and contacts simply compensate for the abnormal shape of the underlying cornea by adding the opposite shape in the correcting lens in front of the eye.

Laser vision correction and LASIK, on the other hand, actually correct the astigmatism by reshaping the cornea, eliminating the two different curvatures, thereby creating the correct spherical shape of the cornea. Laser vision correction actually corrects astigmatism, it does not compensate for the refractive error in a similar manner to glasses and contacts.  As a result, patients with astigmatism frequently notice better vision with LASIK than with contacts or glasses. In fact, with the newest laser software, LASIK can frequently correct larger magnitudes of astigmatism than can even be placed in glasses or is available in contacts. In addition, patients with small amounts of astigmatism who do not wear toric contacts notice better vision after LASIK than with spherical contacts.


Recurrent Contact Lens Infections and the LASIK Alternative


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You may have heard about someone having an eye transplant, but what exactly does that mean? Medical science has no way to transplant whole eyes at this time. One group of researchers hope to be able to perform whole eye transplants within a decade. However, when someone receives a transplant today, they are usually having a corneal transplant. Donor corneas make this amazing, sight-saving surgery possible.

Your eye is a complex organ connected to your brain by the optic nerve. The optic nerve sends visual signals from the eye to the brain, where they are interpreted as images. The optic nerve is relatively small, varying in length between 1.3 and 2.2 inches, and at its widest point, inside your cranial cavity, it is still less than one-fifth of an inch wide. Yet the optic nerve is made up of more than one million tiny nerve fibers, much like a fiber optic cable. Once these nerve fibers are cut, they cannot be reconnected. That is why it’s impossible to transplant a whole eye. Even if a surgeon could implant the eye into the eye socket, the eye still would not be able to transmit signals to the brain through the optic nerve and thus would not provide sight.


Cornea transplants are the most common use of donated eye tissue. Each year, nearly 47,000 cornea transplants are performed to restore vision in people with corneal injuries or keratoconus. But it is important to remember that other parts of the eye are equally vital in the mission to save sight.

Corneal transplantation is more than a century old. A healthy, clear cornea is necessary for good vision. If your cornea is injured or affected by disease, it may become swollen or scarred. A cornea with scarring, swelling or an irregular shape can cause glare or blurred vision. In a corneal transplant, a surgeon removes the damaged or unhealthy cornea tissue. She puts a clear donor cornea in its place. There are several corneal transplant surgery options available, depending on the situation.


Amniotic membrane transplantation (AMT) has a well-established history. For problems affecting the sclera or the conjunctiva, doctors can transplant amniotic membranes. These membranes are taken from donated placental tissue and can be grafted on the surface of the eye as needed or used as a dressing or bandage of sorts. They can be temporary or permanent. These membranes help heal and regenerate surface tissues of the eye. Surgeons have also been able to successfully perform eyelash transplantation. This can restore eyelashes lost due to burns, injury and other medical conditions. Doctors continue to explore whether it is possible to transplant other parts of the eye. In July 2010, French doctors transplanted eyelids and tear ducts as part of a full-face transplant. Eyelids have been included in other face transplants in recent years as well.Today, researchers are replacing damaged retinal cells with healthy transplants. In clinical trials, researchers have used human stem cells to grow retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. In the near future, we can expect RPE transplants. This is good news for people suffering from macular degeneration and Stargardt disease.


Anyone can be an eye donor, regardless of age, race or medical history. At the time of death, medical professionals will determine whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation or research.


First, tell your family you want to be an eye donor when you die. Eye banks—the agencies that help get eye donations to medical and research institutions—will always ask your family if you told them you wanted to donate your organs. This is true even if you have an advance directive—legal documents that spell out your wishes for end-of-life care and other decisions.

In many states, you can sign a card at the driver’s license bureau stating that you want to be an organ donor. You may specify whether you wish to donate your eyes, organs or other tissues.

To learn more about becoming a donor in your state, contact your area eye bank or the organ procurement organization (sometimes called OPO or OPA) for your region. They will explain how you can make your organ, eye and tissue donation wishes known.

If you choose to be an eye donor, you can be proud knowing you are helping to improve the quality of life for someone with little to no sight.

David Turbert
Reviewed By: G Atma Vemulakonda, MD
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Staring at your computer screen, smartphone or other digital devices for long periods won’t cause permanent eye damage, but your eyes may feel dry and tired. You may develop blurry vision, fatigue or eye strain. Some people also experience headaches or motion sickness when viewing 3-D, which may indicate that the viewer has a problem with focusing or depth perception.


Normally, humans blink about 15 times a minute, but studies show we blink half to a third that often while using computers and other digital screen devices, whether for work or play. Extended reading, writing or other intensive “near work” can also cause eye strain.


  • Sit about 25 inches, or arm’s length, from the computer screen. Position the screen so your eye gaze is slightly downward.
  • Many devices now have glass screens with considerable glare. Reduce glare by using a matte screen filter if needed.
  • Take regular breaks using the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry. Consider using a humidifier.
  • If a screen is much brighter than the surrounding light, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjust your room lighting and try increasing the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.

A note to contact lens users: Contact lenses can exacerbate eye dryness and irritation common to heavy users of computers and other digital devices often.

Some tips: 

  • Give your eyes a break by wearing your glasses. 
  • Don’t sleep in your contact lenses, even if they are labeled “extended wear.”
  • Always use good cleaning practices.

If your eyes are consistently red, blurry or watery, or they become sensitive to light or painful, see an Ophthalmologist.

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