High tech LASIK procedure gives eyeglasses the boot

Excimer laser technology was developed in the 1970s in the research facilities of Kansas State University, Sandia Corporation and IBM. In a classic paper published in December 1983 in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, Dr. Stephen Trokel demonstrated the excimer laser’s ability to precisely shape corneal tissue. This led to a series of animal studies to determine the best way to use this new tool to change the optical properties of animal eyes. In 1987 human eyes were treated with “photorefractive keratectomy” (PRK) for the first time in the United States by Dr. Marguerite McDonald. Her early success led to further human eye studies and eventually to the FDA approval of PRK as “safe and effective”. During the latter half of the 1990s the technique called “LAser assisted in-Situ Keratomileusis” (LASIK) has become increasingly popular among both physicians and patients. LASIK is a modified version of PRK in which the excimer laser is used to alter the shape of the cornea by treating underneath a thin corneal flap. Nearly all laser vision correction is now done by LASIK. Over one million eyes are treated annually using photablation by excimer laser. Patients are able to reduce or eliminate their need to wear glasses or contact lenses. Laser vision surgery can be performed on both eyes in a matter of minutes with rapid visual recovery following the procedure. Utilizing the accuracy and precision of the excimer laser, the shape of the cornea is changed to improve the way light is focused or “refracted” by the eye. In less then 60 seconds, pulses of high energy light from the laser reshape the cornea. By adjusting the pattern of the laser beam, it is possible to treat high levels of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The procedure is performed using “eye drop” anesthesia. Healing is rapid and does not require stitches. Most patients return to their normal activities with in one or two days. During the procedure, the physicians use a special instrument called a microkeratome to make a “flap” in the cornea. This flap allows the physician to keep the natural surface of the eye intact, resulting in minimal discomfort, speedy recovery and low risk of complications following surgery. The laser works beneath the flap and “polishes” the patient’s glasses measurement into the cornea. Vision returns to normal within hours and continues to improve for several days. The effects of the surgery are permanent and will not wear off over time. However, no surgery eliminates the need for reading glasses when patients approach their 40s and 50s. Patients over the age of 18 who require the use of corrective lenses can easily find out if LASIK is right for them by scheduling a consultation with a reputable doctor.

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