Myopia is the medical term for nearsightedness. It affects almost 30% of Americans, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). While most commonly treated with prescription glasses and contacts, there are other options—surgical and nonsurgical—for treating myopia.
LASIK, or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, is the most common vision correction surgery, according to the American Family Physician journal. During LASIK, an ophthalmologist uses a laser or blade to cut a flap in the cornea, the thin outer layer of the eye, and then rebuilds the tissue underneath. Despite its popularity, not everyone is a good candidate for LASIK, including people who are pregnant or nursing and those with chronic eye conditions, extremely strong lens prescriptions or autoimmune disorders.
Bladeless LASIK is usually the preferred method because “it eliminates human error and allows for a more predictable surgical outcome,” Nader Iskander, MD, FACS, medical director of San Antonio Eye Specialists in Texas, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
SMILE, or small incision lenticule extraction, is a LASIK alternative in which an ophthalmologist reshapes the cornea. It’s a good option for those with active lifestyles, since a corneal flap can dislocate during levels of high activity, says the AAO.
“It’s the newest procedure available in the U.S.,” Jay Bansal, MD, medical director of LaserVue Eye Center in Santa Rosa, CA, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy, is another laser surgery for mild to moderate prescriptions.
“...There is never a risk of that flap dislodging, and the cornea keeps its original integrity,” Yuna Rapaport, MD, assistant clinical professor of ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and director of Manhattan Eye in New York, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
RLE and PRELEX, or refractive lens exchange and presbyopic lens exchange, refer to when your natural lens is replaced with a plastic implant. This is the same procedure referred to as cataract surgery minus the removal of a cataract. RLE and PRELEX are ideal for those with strong prescriptions or reading glasses, Bansal says.
“...A presbyopic lens exchange can potentially treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia, thus providing both distance and reading vision without the need for reading glasses,” Bansal says.
ICLs, or phakic intraocular lens implants, are inserted without removing your eye’s natural lens. ICLs are a good option if you have near vision and want to maintain it, Rapaport says. According to Bansal, younger people who aren’t candidates for laser vision correction could consider ICL.
Ortho-K, also known as orthokeratology or corneal refractive therapy (CRT), is a non-surgical solution for myopia. Ortho-K involves wearing rigid contact lenses overnight to reshape your cornea over time. If you stop wearing your Ortho-K lenses, your new prescription will fade, the AAO says. The AAO also warns that Ortho-K comes with an increased risk of eye infection, but for healthy people, the lenses can be used for years.
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