Health Beat: Seeing clearly now: The truth about LASIK

Health Beat: Seeing clearly now: The truth about LASIK

BALTIMORE - If you're tired of wearing glasses or contacts lenses, you've probably at least considered LASIK surgery.  Each year, about 700,000 people undergo the laser surgery used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, however, there are some new techniques that cut the risk.

For 13 years, Chelsey Vandemark's morning began like this, "I would look at the alarm clock and it was just all blurry," she said.

Tired of wearing contacts, Vandemark considered LASIK but was apprehensive.

"The benefits are I can see great. The risks are something goes wrong and I can't see ever again," Vandemark said.

It's a concern ophthalmologist Sherri Rowen hears often.

"We really do like LASIK today. We wish we could get rid of the fear factor," said Rowen, directory of ophthalmology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore and clinical assistant professor at the University of Maryland.

In fact, she said contacts can be much worse.

"If you have an infection from a contact lens and it's in the center of your eye, there's nothing you can do about it. You've lost vision," explained Rowen, adding that lasers are safer and more precise than ever. "There's not a lot of high-end risks anymore like there used to be."

A study of more than 3,000 LASIK surgeries performed, using a femtosecond laser for flap creation, had a complication rate of less than 1/2 of one percent. Also, all complications were taken care of during the same procedure.

"The laser is better than anything we've ever had to create a perfect flap," Dr. Rowen explained.

Studies from the American Academy of Ophthalmology report seven out of 10 patients achieve 20/20 vision or better following surgery.

"The predominance of patients walk out and say, ‘I'm only sorry I didn't do this five to 10 to 20 years earlier,'" Rowen said.

Chelsey is one of them. Her vision went from minus 4-50, to 20-15.

"It's definitely worth the money," Vandemark said.

Now she can set her sights on other things, like playing fetch with her dog Cocoa.

Custom LASIK can cost upwards of two to three thousand dollars per eye. Even with LASIK, most people over the age of 40 will still need reading glasses. To know if you're a good candidate, doctors must evaluate the severity of your prescription, your age, and how thick your cornea is.

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