Laser surgery fast becoming an alternative to eyewear
March 10, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Eyewear is big business in the United States. Fifty-five percent of Americans regularly wear some form of corrective glasses or contact lenses, shelling out a total of $16 billion a year.
That trend may soon change as a small but growing number of people choose to correct their vision with laser surgery.
This year, an estimated 300,000 people will undergo undergo one on the main two types of laser surgery -- PRK and LASIK -- at an average cost of $2,100-$2,500 per eye.
Although laser eye surgery is considered cosmetic and is rarely covered by insurers, the procedure is fast becoming a popular alternative to eyewear, especially among those fed up with the daily ritual of wearing contact lenses.
"I didn't think about is as an economic decision, for me it was more lifestyle," said laser surgery patient Steven Kornblau, who was considered legally blind without his contact lenses.
Kornblau had LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis) surgery, the more complex of the two procedures performed on all degrees of nearsightedness. Under the LASIK procedure, a surgeon uses a knife called a microkeratome to cut into the corneal tissue and then removes the targeted tissue using lasers.
PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) is less invasive and used to correct minor problems. The patient is given local anesthetic eye drops before the surgeon gently reshapes the cornea with a cool, ultraviolet beam of light.
Although PRK surgery is less complicated, doctors warn that both procedures include risks -- ranging from infections to night-vision glare -- and don't guarantee perfect vision.
"Some patients have pretty good vision without correction afterward, but still might need glasses for night driving or something like that. Generally, these procedures do not eliminate the need for reading glasses when you are in your late '40s or early '50s," said Dr. Karla Zadnik of the Ohio State College of Optometry.
Correspondent Tony Guida contributed to this report.
Latest options for surgically correcting vision may mean no more glasses
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