WILL PINKSTON | The Sun
Advances in laser technology in the last several years have greatly increased the effectiveness of LASIK surgery to where this machine at Innovative Ophthalmology in Paducah, can correct lenses in a range of -12 to +6.
Advances in technology have made lasers a staple in minimally invasive surgeries throughout the medical community, but those same advances have vaulted precision corrective eye surgery to a new zenith.
Developed in the late ’80s, laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis — better known as LASIK — is a form of refractive surgery that uses a laser to physically reshape the cornea and improve overall visual sharpness. But in recent years, technology for laser eye surgery has really taken off.
“In the last five to six years, it’s really made leaps and bounds in safety and the range in which you could be treated,” said Dr. Barbara Bowers, an ophthalmologist at Innovative Ophthalmology in Paducah.
“The lasers with LASIK I feel have really reached their pinnacle.”
Originally only used in nearsighted patients requiring a thin to medium width lens (diopter range of -4 to 0) at the time surgery is performed, LASIK machines have increased their scope of suitable candidates with an expanded range of nearsightedness to farsightedness (roughly -12 to +6 diopter), helping a wider spectrum of people see better than they could’ve imagined with corrective lenses.
With some of the newest LASIK machines available, Bowers said, the advances in laser technology translate into an overall better experience.
Older laser eye surgery techniques shaped only the central part of the cornea, causing the egg-shaped surface to flatten and could result in patients seeing halos around lights in dim settings. Though newer technology reshapes the entire eye structure, extremely decreasing the amount of high order aberrations.
Furthermore, the newest LASIK technology combines speed and effectiveness for unparalleled results during the procedure.
As part of the surgery, a suction ring holds the eye in place while an ophthalmologist creates a thin flap at the surface of the cornea. While the flap is raised, the laser reshapes the eye structure in only several seconds, before the eye has a chance to dry out.
“So the less time the flap is up and the faster the laser, the more precise the treatment,” Bowers said. All told the process takes seconds and translates into better results and a quicker recovery. With the newer procedure, recovery takes only two to three hours to regain vision.
“They’re seeing as well as they ever did with the best corrective lenses and by the next morning they usually say they’ve never seen that crisp and sharp before,” Bowers said.
Though technology continues to increase the range of patients suitable for treatment, many ophthalmologists around the country require a minimum age of 20 and/or a steady prescription for at least two years, and patients still must have corneas thick enough for the procedure.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.