At one time, laser eye surgery was only for the rich or famous. But today, the procedure has become almost as common as glasses, and more and more people are opting for surgery over corrective lenses.
Lasik is the most common type of refractive laser eye surgery procedure used today. It is used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.
There are alternative procedures for those who may prove not to be good candidates for Lasik surgery. There is a procedure called PRK or Photo-Refractive Keratectomy, which reshapes the surface of the eye. Another is Lasek, which is very much like PRK but saves the first layer of the cornea to minimize potential discomfort.
Dr. Cynthia DeAngelis of Tallman Eye Associates, with offices in Southern New Hampshire and the Merrimack Valley, said Lasik surgery is an excellent choice for those who want to get rid of their glasses or contact lenses.
"Lasik surgery has evolved over the last 10 years and is now safer and more accurate than ever before," she said.
During Lasik surgery, a thin corneal flap is created using a device called a microkeratome. With the flap raised, the laser beam is applied to the interior layer of the cornea reshaping it. The flap then acts as a natural bandage.
But while the procedure is now very safe, it is still a complicated surgery.
"Lasik surgery is a bigger step than getting glasses or contact lenses," said Dr. Gerald Spindel of Spindel Eye Associates, which has offices in Derry, Londonderry, Salem and Plaistow, N.H. "There are certain risks and complications that need to be considered."
Spindel uses the latest in technology and medical devices such as Excimer Laser by Alcon. He does Custom Cornea Lasik using the very latest in tracking lasers, the LADARVision system. LADARVision combines the first laser radar eye tracker with unique, small spot shaping laser pulse delivery, taking away the concern of eye movement during surgery and ensuring complete accuracy, he said.
"We are able to treat more patients because of the better accuracy of these technological advances," he said. "However, people still need to be carefully evaluated to make sure they are good candidates for the procedures."
Another procedure for people who need only reading glasses is the high-frequency radio wave procedure, or Conductive Keratoplasty, Spindel said.
"This is a safe and very predictable procedure," he said.
Technology is a wonderful thing, DeAngelis said. As knowledge and technology grows, she said, doctors have the opportunity to provide more personalized options for patients desiring to be free of the burden of glasses and contact lenses.
"The most recent developments in refractive surgery have been the introduction of premium intraocular lenses," she said. "These lenses are placed inside the eye, while Lasik modifies the shape of the cornea on the surface of the eye and provide excellent vision for all three ranges distance, intermediate and near.
"More and more people over 40 are turning to these lenses as an alternative to Lasik surgery."