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For the Farsighted, Getting Rid of Glasses Now a Reality

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WebMD Health News

July 24, 2000 -- You wear glasses and you just found out that common vision correction surgeries such as LASIK or PRK may not work as well for you because you are farsighted. Are you doomed to your blurry vision or chained to glasses forever as the nearsighted crowd has all the fun? Maybe not.

A new surgical treatment for farsightedness that doesn't involve any cutting or even any direct contact with the eye has recently been approved by the FDA. This new procedure, called non-contact laser thermal keratoplasty (LTK), appears to be even safer than traditional surgery geared at improving vision, but it only works on certain types of farsighted patients.

Other types of eye surgery aimed at improving vision are usually most effective at treating nearsightedness, or the inability to see clearly at a distance. LTK treats only farsightedness, which affects an estimated 77 million Americans, and is an inability to properly focus on near or far objects.

"A farsighted patient can't see anything without glasses," says Alan B. Aker, MD. "They may go through 40 years of life without needing glasses ... and then because of aging in the lens [inside the eye] they lose their ability to focus [for] distance and also their ability to focus for nearness." Aker has been researching LTK for several years for Sunrise Technologies International, makers of the LTK device. He is also director of the Aker-Kasten Cataract and Laser Institute in Boca Raton, Fla., and chief medical editor for the journal Ophthalmology Management.

Up to now, vision correction procedures have required that a physician make a cut in the cornea -- the clear front part -- of the eye. The major advantage of LTK is that there is no cutting. Rather, a small circle of tiny laser beams is focused around the outer edge of the cornea. These beams heat the cornea in a ring, which pulls together in a purse string effect, causing the center of the cornea to form a dome shape and hopefully improving the patient's vision in the process.

Aker and another LTK investigator, Sandra C. Belmont, MD, presented their experiences with LTK at a recent conference for eye specialists in Miami. Aker presented data showing that the procedure is safe and relatively long lasting, while Belmont showed that farsighted people feel very trapped by their need for glasses and freed by a successful LTK procedure.

An LTK procedure takes only a few minutes, and Aker says, "[the patients] don't feel anything ... There's no sensation at all." Afterwards, patients may feel as though they have something in their eye for a day or two.

It is important that people who decide to undergo LTK do not have unrealistic expectations. The procedure is only geared to minimize or eliminate dependence on glasses, not perfect vision.

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