When it comes to ways to correct vision, it seems like there are more choices than ever to consider. Which one—Lasik surgery, contact lenses or traditional eyeglasses—is the right option for you? A lot will depend on what type of correction you need, as well as your age, lifestyle and budget.
Lasik corrective surgery has been performed on millions of patients, with a more than 90% success rate. The procedure involves the reshaping of the cornea to correct the eye’s focus by using a laser instrument. The surgeon first cuts a flap from the corneal surface, then reshapes the cornea below. The flap is then replaced for healing. Lasik is most successful on adult patients aged 21 to about 50 with nearsightedness and/or astigmatism. By the age of 21, most people’s vision has stabilized with no changes for a least a year. The procedure can work with older adults, but there are more issues as the eye ages, and these patients still may require reading glasses for close vision tasks. Though a relatively common and safe procedure today, there are still some important questions to ask before deciding to have Lasik performed.
- Have my eyes changed within the past year? If your prescription has changed, you might have what is called “refractive instability.” This changing prescription may be due to certain medical conditions and medications, and can affect the outcome. Most adult vision stabilizes at around age 21.
- Do I have an autoimmune disease or take medication that affects healing? If so, you may not be able to properly heal after the procedure, resulting in complications.
- Do I have chronically itchy or red eyes, or dry eye? If you have any of a number of inflammatory conditions of the eye, then Lasik is not recommended.
- Do I play contact sports? If you actively participate in contact sports without eye protection—boxing, wrestling, martial arts—where a blow to the eye is a common occurrence, Lasik may not be appropriate.
- Are my corneas thick enough? People with thinner corneas are not encouraged to have Lasik surgery as there is not enough corneal material to reshape.
- Can I afford Lasik? Most medical insurance policies do not cover Lasik procedures, so you will need to be able to cover costs of the surgery. Choose a surgeon who has a good reputation and who has been actively involved with Lasik for several years and hundreds of cases. Do not opt for a low budget commercial operation.
Your regular eye doctor can help to make an assessment on the above factors before you actually make an appointment at a Lasik clinic, and can make suggestions as to where to go and who has the best reputation.
Lasik is a very good option for many people, but there are limitations to what the surgery can do. Your eyes can continue to change after the procedure, which may require additional laser treatments or other correction, such as glasses. Occasionally, events during surgery may have a permanent effect on vision, with some people experiencing less than 20/20 vision that is not correctible. Some people can experience increased light sensitivity dryness, or night halos, which may make tasks like night driving more difficult. Most of these symptoms will diminish over time. For many millions, the benefits of Lasik surgery outweigh any risks and these people have enjoyed positive results.
Contact lenses have been a mainstay for vision correction since the 1950s, when the original hard contact lenses were first introduced. Hard lenses posed a comfort problem for many people, and subsequently soft contact lenses were developed for ease of wear. Today, soft lenses—with their advanced designs and materials—can provide as good or better correction as eyeglasses with maximum comfort.
Early soft contact lenses wearers had developed some issues with infections and irritations. The eyes naturally secrete mucous and protein that can build up on soft contact lenses over time. But these early problems have been resolved by stressing good hygiene, improved cleaning and storage solutions, and affordable daily replacement contact lenses. Contact lenses are now available to correct near- and farsightedness, astigmatism and some aging eye issues. Though some people wear contact lenses overnight on a regular basis, is not recommended by many optometrists.
While bifocal contacts are available, many patients may have good success with monovision correction. For monovision, the eye doctor will test to see which eye is dominant. The dominant eye is corrected for distance vision and the other, non-dominant eye is corrected for close vision. Though it takes a little adjustment, the brain compensates quite well for many people and negates the need for readers. Some people corrected for monovision may lose some of their depth perception.
Contact lenses can also be recommended for children, depending on the child’s maturity and dexterity. For some children, contact lenses offer the best correction for significant prescription problems. Contact lenses work very well for strong prescriptions for most patients.
Some questions to ask about contact lenses include:
- Do sports play an active role in my life? Contact lenses perform quite well for most sporting activities.
- Do I have enough tears for contact lenses? For the best comfort, your eyes should naturally produce a good lubricating tear film.
- Do I work or play in changing environments? Conditions that make eyeglasses fog up or become uncomfortably hot or cold may indicate a good candidate for contact lenses. However, if your environment involves exposure to chemicals or solvents, contact lenses may not be a good selection as they tend to absorb these harsh contaminants and damage the eyes.
- Can I tolerate inserting the lenses into my eyes? ? If you have difficulty with touching your eyes or inserting eye drops, contact lenses may not be the best choice for correction.
Eyeglasses have become a fashionable lifestyle choice. With so many options, styles, shapes and colors, it’s hard not to enjoy the possible positive effect on your appearance. And, there are benefits for those who wear glasses.
Eyeglasses can be worn full time or as needed, depending on the activities you are engaged in. Glasses can also provide an extra level of protection for the eyes, as they can block or deflect debris from entering the eye. Eyeglasses also can offer extra protection from ultra violet (UV) light, which can damage the eyes and lead to serious eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. If your prescription changes, it’s a simple matter to change the lenses in your glasses.
With the modern, lightweight materials and designs from which eyeglasses are made, there are literally no risks associated with eyeglasses as a corrective device. There are some myths, however, that persist with eyeglasses. One common myth is that the more you wear eyeglasses the weaker your eyes will become. There is no truth to the myth that avoiding glasses will keep your eyes stronger. Also, don’t fall for money-wasting scams to “train” or “exercise” your eyes for sharper vision. The shape of your eyeball and your cornea determine whether you need vision correction, not the muscles that control the eyes.
Which choice is right?
As with any important decision regarding your vision, it is important that you review all your options with your eye doctor. He or she can help you take an inventory of the plusses and minuses of each option and recommend the best treatment for comfortable, clear vision. In the end, it may be a combination of vision correction options that work best for you – many people use more than one method of correction depending on the situation.