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    Laser Not the Only Option for Nearsightedness

    WebMD Health News

    March 30, 2000 (New York) -- Everyone's doing it. Getting laser eye surgery, that is.

    Laser eye surgery is all the rage today, and as many as 800,000 Americans will throw away their eyeglasses and contacts lenses after they undergo laser eye surgery this year.

    But at least one leading eye surgeon says that for certain people with low levels of nearsightedness, or myopia, a newer procedure involving Intacs may be the way to go.

    The first FDA-approved option for correcting mild nearsightedness without a laser, Intacs are two tiny half rings that are placed within each eye to gently reshape the cornea, which is the transparent tissue covering the front of the eye. In the nearsighted eye, the cornea is too steep, but the Intacs remedy this problem.

    "[Putting in] Intacs is almost a cosmetic procedure for people who can see OK without glasses, but want extra crispness to their vision," says Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD, director of the UCLA Refractive Center at the Jules Stein Eye Institute in Los Angeles.

    While LASIK eye surgery (laser in situ keratomileusis) also corrects mild nearsightedness, "the big difference between Intacs and LASIK is that Intacs are removable and easily adjustable in the future," he tells WebMD.

    Because it is a newer procedure, Intacs are not as widely available as the laser surgery and may be more expensive, he adds.

    During LASIK surgery, the cornea is cut with a blade in a circular pattern so it can be lifted and held back to show the tissue underneath. Then some corneal tissue is removed using a laser.

    LASIK surgery, however, is not without its risks -- namely decreased night vision and dry eyes. "People with low degrees of nearsightedness are often afraid of having a risky, drastic procedure like LASIK on their eyes," Boxer Wachler tells WebMD.

    But some people, including Jessica Mulrain, 30, still opt for LASIK surgery. "I had LASIK in August 1999 to correct mild nearsightedness," she tells WebMD. "The results were immediate and fantastic. My friends don't even recognize me without my glasses."

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