Laser Eye Surgery: What You Need to Know
Contact lenses that attract debris more irritating than CÃƒÂ©line Dion. Glasses that slip around like Shamu in baby oil. No wonder 1.5 million Americans--many of them women in their 20s and 30s Ã¢â‚¬” get laser eye surgery to fix their vision every year. But 36 million contact-lens wearers still haven't, some because they were told they weren't good candidates for surgery and others because of those horror stories you hear at dinner parties: My cousin got lasered a few years ago and now (choose one) sees worse than she did before/has problems with glare/spent a fortune getting her botched surgery fixed. Those stories are way out of date. Not that laser surgery is perfect for every single person. But over just the past few years, there have been so many improvements that you should take another look.
The surgery is better at fixing vision.
No doubt you've heard of LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), in which a laser beam reshapes your cornea Ã¢â‚¬” it's the most popular kind of vision correction surgery. Now there's a better way of doing LASIK, incorporating a new procedure called wavefront analysis, which "allows a surgeon to see all the small irregularities in the eye and smooth these out during the procedure," says Brian S. Boxer Wachler, M.D., director of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills, California. That means much better vision in the end, especially at night and under glare conditions, adds Alan N. Carlson, M.D., chief of the corneal and refractive surgery service at Duke University Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina. With wavefront analysis, you're also less likely to experience once-common side effects like "halos" around objects at night (a potential problem if you're very nearsighted). Before you schedule your appointment, ask whether your surgeon uses wavefront analysis (more and more do) and make sure she has completed a fellowship in refractive and corneal surgery Ã¢â‚¬” not a quickie LASIK course Ã¢â‚¬” and has performed at least 1,000 procedures.
More of us qualify for surgery.
Not so long ago, you might have been ruled out for vision correction surgery if you were very nearsighted or had very large pupils or thin corneas. That's because extreme nearsightedness and large pupils raise your risk for halo vision Ã¢â‚¬” and if you have thin corneas, it's a bad idea to shave off some of your corneal tissue, which happens with LASIK. But in the last few years, the FDA approved two implantable lenses: Verisyse in 2004 and Visian ICL in late 2005. Instead of reshaping your cornea with lasers, surgeons correct nearsightedness with an implantable lens that leaves the cornea intact. "The halo effect of LASIK is virtually unheard of with Visian ICL," Dr. Boxer Wachler says. Bonus: a quicker recovery time Ã¢â‚¬” just a few hours with Visian ICL versus a full day with LASIK.
The surgery itself is less stressful.
The idea of someone messing with your eyeballs while you're wide awake (LASIK and implantable-lens patients get only numbing drops in the eye before the operation) isn't exactly relaxing. "In the past, people were afraid the procedure wouldn't work if they moved their eyes during the surgery," Dr. Boxer Wachler says. Now you can ask your surgeon to use an eye tracker, new technology that follows your eye movements during the procedure. So even if you can't stay perfectly still, the surgery will be accurate Ã¢â‚¬” and your CÃƒÂ©line Dion moments will be a thing of the past.
No Fungus Among Us
Three simple steps to keep you healthy in your lenses
You've probably heard last year's news that more than 160 contact lens wearers had gotten a rare fungal eye infection called Fusarium keratitis, which inflames the cornea and can lead to serious vision loss. Turns out that some of the victims had neglected to change their lens solution daily, which increased their risk. To keep your peepers safe, clean your lens case with disinfecting solution and a paper towel every single day (no reusing solution!) and let it air dry. Avoid "no-rub" lens solutions; rubbing solution into the lens with your thumb and index finger is better for clearing out germ-harboring oils and proteins. And if you want to be insanely careful, docs say not to shower while wearing your lenses since tap water isn?t sterile.