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My Odyssey With LASIK Surgery

Seeing the Light

WebMD Feature

March 12, 2001 -- The good news is, I can see; the bad news is, I can see. More on that later.

But the fact is, two and a half months after LASIK surgery to correct my farsightedness and astigmatism, my eyes still aren't fully adjusted.

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Maybe you're like most people over 40 -- the aging of your eyes is beginning to change your life in a way you don't like. It was happening to me. I'd reached the point where I couldn't see the dirt on the kitchen counter until I put on my reading glasses, and the numbers on my car speedometer were a little fuzzy.

So let me flash back to how I ended up, three days after this past Christmas, wearing plastic bubbles taped over my eyes at the laser surgery center of Zale Lipshy Hospital at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas (UTSW). It may help you decide if this procedure is for you.

For several years, the idea of LASIK had lurked in the back of my mind. But until about a year and a half ago, the procedure was FDA-approved only for nearsightedness, or myopia. This is when the corneal curve is too steep, causing distant images to blur. When the operation was approved for farsightedness (the corneal curve is too shallow, causing close objects to blur), the possibility of having it done myself moved one step closer.

Then last summer, the FDA approved two laser machines for correcting farsightedness with astigmatism (where the cornea is irregularly shaped -- more like a football as opposed to a basketball). I did a story about it, using as my main source H. Dwight Cavanagh, MD, PhD, vice chairman of UTSW ophthalmology department. I listened carefully to what he had to say about the procedure; after all, he had been one of the doctors who had conducted LASIK clinical trials and also one of the researchers on a study comparing this method with another type of laser surgery called PRK. I also talked with a man in his late 60s who'd participated in the clinical trial of LASIK at the medical center, who gave a glowing review.

This was sounding more and more like a real possibility for me, but the thought of surgery made me squeamish. The surgeons use a tiny instrument called a microkeratome to cut a flap of corneal tissue, then use a laser to remove a hair-thin piece of tissue, effectively changing the shape of the eye. Cavanagh said the surgery for farsightedness was easier and safer because the laser didn't focus on the field of vision, as in the nearsightedness procedure. Rather, it removes a donut-shaped piece of tissue around the corneal edge.

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