The fact is, not everyone thinks glasses and contact lenses are a great solution to many common vision problems. Fortunately, for those people, the field of refractive surgery is dedicated to surgical procedures that help improve and correct many vision problems including nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, presbyopia and cataracts. Today, refractive surgeons perform vision correction procedures – such as LASIK, PRK, lens implants and cataract surgery – that can reshape the cornea or implant a lens inside the eye to correct the problem and help improve the eye’s ability to focus.
While most people have some form of visual disorder, many don’t actually know the specifics of these conditions – here are some of these common disorders:
Myopia – known as nearsightedness – means you have a hard time seeing things clearly in the distance – or far away. This is caused by the shape of the cornea, in this case the cornea is steep and light rays are focused in front of – rather than onto – the retina. Vision correction procedures such as LASIK or PRK can refine the shape of the cornea to flatten out the curve and allow light rays to focus properly onto the retina for clear images. Hyperopia means you are farsighted – so it is difficult to see images clearly up close. If you are farsighted you have a cornea that is too flat and light rays focus behind the retina. Refractive procedures work to increase the curve of the cornea, which helps to improve the near vision field for activities such as reading.
Astigmatism is defined by a cornea that is irregularly curved, causing your vision to be generally out of focus. Interestingly, astigmatism oftentimes shows up in combination with one or more of the other visual problems listed here. The goal with a laser vision correction procedure such as LASIK or PRK is to shape cornea into a smooth, symmetrical curve to improve the focus of light onto the retina with clear vision as the result.
Presbyopia occurs with age. Almost everyone at some point will experience the gradual loss of near vision that makes reading, needlework and other close-up work difficult. As we age, the eye’s lens loses its elasticity – meaning it is no longer able to move through the full range of focus. Recent advances in refractive surgery provide a variety of technologies and techniques to help treat presbyopia. Today, patients can consider both laser vision procedures as well as lens implants and replacement to help reduce or eliminate their reliance on reading glasses.
Cataracts is another lens condition that is most associated with aging. Over time, the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, which limits the amount of light coming into the eye and focusing on the retina. This results in generally poor vision which gets progressively worse the denser the cataract becomes. Cataract surgery is one of the most performed procedures today. Surgeons removed the damaged, cloudy lens and replace it with a clear artificial one. Cataract patients can now take advantage of the latest lens technologies that go beyond eliminating the cataract; they also correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
If you find glasses or contacts are a less-than-ideal solution to your vision problem, there has never been a better time to talk to your ophthalmologist about your options. We look forward to having a thoughtful discussion with you and your needs for vision correction. If you are curious about the different types of refractive procedures available, you can explore the Parkhurst NuVision website or visit the American Refractive Surgery Council.