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Options for the Visually Impaired

Many people are quite unhappy to learn that they were born with poor vision or have developed poor vision over time. However, at some point in time, almost everyone experiences refractory errors. There are multiple treatment options for patients to consider including glasses, contact lenses and corrective surgery, making a diagnosis far less burdensome than it may have been in the past.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are rapidly growing in popularity. They are, in many cases, more comfortable and easier to wear than glasses, making them the first choice for many individuals. They are much more convenient for sports. Additionally, contact lenses can treat virtually all forms of refractory errors. Cosmetic lenses are also a growing trend; some individuals order tinted prescription lenses or even non-prescription lenses to alter the appearance of their eye color.

Glasses

Glasses are often made from a high-strength resin, a kind of plastic, making glasses lighter and more durable than ever before. Polycarbonate is one of the most popular materials for lenses, due to its durability, high index potential and UV filtering properties.

Modern glasses are made using high index lenses, a form of lens that is thinner and sleeker, despite the severity of a refractory error. While commonly employed in resin glasses, this technology is also available for those who choose to have glass lenses. High index lenses can be made in any shade, eliminating the need for sunglasses. Certain brands even offer glasses that change to sunglasses when in bright light and return to regular clear lenses under fluorescent or other interior lighting.

Modern science has taken great strides when it comes to glasses. Bifocals can be made invisible, even glasses for the worst refractory errors can be thin and durable, trifocals and multifocals are possible and tinted glasses allow for a stylish lens and a prescription sunglass all in one. Computer glasses are also available, allowing relief for individuals who spend long periods of time looking at a screen. Eyeglasses exist for virtually all demographics and purposes and are easy to put on and take off, making them a simple solution to turn to for vision correction.

Refractive Surgery

Some procedures, such a LASIK, a procedure using a laser, are quick and painless and can permanently correct refractory errors. Despite the advantages, however, all surgery comes with risks.

LASIK can correct nearsightedness and astigmatism and some amount of farsightedness, but not all issues can be solved through surgery. Presbyopia, for example, cannot be treated with surgery. This means that patients who undergo corrective surgery to treat another condition may have to wear reading glasses later in life.

Many people have been pleased with the results of refractive surgery but it is not for everyone. Some people are ineligible based on age, physical condition and prescription. The cost of surgery can be between $1,500 and $2,500 per eye and is generally not covered in full by insurance.

The three most common kinds of refractive surgery are Radial Keratotomy (RK), Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) and Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK).

Radial Keratotomy (RK)

In Radial Keratotomy, a surgeon makes several incisions in the cornea with a diamond scalpel, causing the center of the cornea to flatten. This surgical procedure is only used for treating myopia caused by an overextended cornea.  RK is rarely performed today due to the increased safety and better results with laser refractive surgery.

Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)

In Photorefractive Keratectomy, a surgeon uses a laser to reshape the cornea. The reshaping process differs for myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism but the process is effective for all three conditions.

Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK)

LASIK, like PRK, uses a laser to reshape the eye. However, a LASIK procedure involves creating a superficial flap of the cornea and hinging it during the procedure, allowing a surgeon access to the inner layers of the cornea. Once the necessary changes have been made with the laser, the surgeon places the flap of cornea back in place. This procedure is the newest and most precise refractive surgery procedure. LASIK is suitable for treating myopia and astigmatism and moderate degrees of hyperopia.

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