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Understanding Vision Problems -- Treatment

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What Are the Treatments for Vision Problems? continued...

To treat nearsightedness, your eye doctor will usually prescribe lenses to focus visual images correctly on the retina. Depending on the specifics of your eye exam, you may have a choice between wearing conventional eyeglasses and contact lenses.

As an alternative to corrective lenses, surgery can sometimes be performed to treat nearsightedness. Excimer laser treatment (like LASIK) uses a laser beam to remove microscopic amounts of tissue from the cornea. This effectively flattens or steepens the cornea as needed so that light rays focus correctly on the retina. LASIK is safe and effective for most patients with nearsightedness, but only up to a certain level. Some patients with thin corneas, very large pupils, and extreme nearsightedness may not be good laser candidates. There are advanced options for these patients, including surgical correction with implantable contact lenses.

To treat farsightedness that does not resolve itself naturally, glasses or contact lenses can be prescribed. People typically seek treatment for farsightedness when they begin to complain of eyestrain, especially at the end of the day, or when they have trouble focusing while reading. LASIK can also be used to treat lower levels of farsightedness. Higher levels of farsightedness can only be surgically corrected with a refractive lens exchange -- the natural lens is replaced with an intraocular lens that is more powerful, thereby focusing the light on the retina.

To treat astigmatism, the accepted prescription is a lens that will correct or neutralize the effect of the uneven cornea. Again, you will typically have a choice between glasses and contact lenses. Surgery for astigmatism can include limbal relaxing incisions, LASIK, and toric intraocular lenses.

In cataracts, the eye's natural lens hardens and becomes cloudy, obscuring vision. Correcting the problem was once a complex procedure requiring general anesthesia and a week of hospitalization. Today, a process called "phacoemulsification" uses ultrasound to break up the cataract and remove the tiny lens fragments through an incision so small that it usually requires no stitches. Some people mistakenly call this laser cataract surgery. The surgeon then inserts an artificial lens implant. Local anesthesia is used and the patient goes home from an outpatient facility typically within an hour or two after surgery.

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