New form of Lasik comes to market

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    By Nate Hawley

    Most students who wear glasses or contact lenses agree; they are a pain in the neck and many people would love to leave them behind.

    As technology advances, so do the techniques and equipment used by ophthalmologists who perform Lasik surgery. Lasik was developed in the early 1990s and was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1998. The surgery holds the potential to correct the vision of almost anyone who uses corrective lenses.

    Tom Joyce, regional vice president of TLC Vision Inc., a group that operates 75 laser centers in 27 states and three Canadian provinces, said Lasik surgery keeps getting better every year.

    “Lasik surgery is a fairly simple procedure that can, if not totally eliminate, at least reduce the dependence one has on eyewear,” Joyce said. “In terms of the benefits, probably the best is that it can have a significant impact on your lifestyle, freeing you from the hassle of glasses or contacts.”

    The newest advancement in Lasik is Custom Lasik. This technology allows the doctor to be even more precise and has a smaller risk of complications. Before doctors go in for the surgery they make digital, computerized measurements of the eye. With traditional Lasik only the surface was measured, but with the Custom Lasik both the surface and the interior of the eye are measured to ensure the correction made by the laser is complete.

    The surgery itself takes only about five minutes to complete.

    Only those who have had stable vision for more than a year are considered good candidates for the surgery. This means doctors will normally not operate on anyone younger than 18 because their eyes are still growing and changing. Also, certain eye conditions such as cataracts will prevent someone from receiving the surgery.

    Joyce said the best way to determine if one is a good candidate is to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist who can check the patient”s vision and run the necessary tests.

    “This is surgery, it”s not like going out and buying a set of snow tires,” Joyce said. “Surgery has potential complications and risks so what a consumer wants to do is minimize the possibility of those complications and risks. The way to do that is to make sure you have the best and latest technology and the best and most skilled surgeon.”

    April Holt had the surgery done about two and a half years ago while she was a student at BYU. She began wearing glasses when she was 6 years old and then switched to contacts when she was 12. After seeing the success of her mother”s surgery, she decided to have it and has not regretted that decision.

    “It has been really great because I had really bad vision,” Holt said. “It is amazing to wake up every morning and actually be able to see the clock next to me.”

    Holt said her doctor and his staff went out of their way to explain the process and make sure she felt comfortable during the procedure.

    “I got real nervous before the operation, but it was really quick and it wasn”t painful at all,” Holt said. “They gave me a little stuffed animal to hold onto while they were doing the surgery, I guess it was to keep my mind off of it or something.”

    Holt said the only negative aspect is her night vision. Right after the surgery it was as good as her daytime vision, but has worsened since. She has a pair of glasses she wears if driving at night. Joyce said this is not uncommon with the traditional Lasik surgery, but is not as much of a factor with the Custom Lasik.

    The FDA warns there are other potential risks associated with the surgery such as dryness, developing poor night vision, among others, although the percentage of patients who experience any of these side affects is low, in some cases less than 1 percent.

    “There have been some rather profound advances in the technology just in the last year or two that significantly increase the probability of people achieving 20/20 or better vision and at the same time have made the procedure safer than it ever was before,” Joyce said.

    Currently most insurances do not cover Lasik surgery in their standard policies, but in some more detailed policies or where special arrangements are made it is covered. The cost of the surgery can vary anywhere from discount centers that offer prices as low as $499 an eye to other centers charging up to $2500 an eye.

    Though high cost is an issue, Joyce said he recommended not choosing the doctor only on price, but instead to look for the best surgeon available. The cost may be greater but the risks are lower and the quality of the surgery may be higher.

    “The combination of technology employed, the skill and experience of the doctor and the judgment of the doctor will make for the best possible outcome,” Joyce said.

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