Millions of people use glasses to correct their vision. Others turn to a surgical procedure called LASIK that permanently changes the shape of the cornea, the clear part of the eye over the iris. But now there is another choice for people who are nearsighted.
Tommy Hardeman cannot believe how well he can see. "Everything is so clear," he said. "I'm still not fully used to not wearing glasses or contacts." He is a 20-year-old college student who says that he did not get perfect vision with LASIK. Hardeman had contact lenses surgically implanted in his eyes.
This procedure is most often used for patients who cannot have laser surgery and whose low vision cannot be corrected any other way. Dr. Jeffery Whitman is enthusiastic about the results. "Patients are really thinking this is better than sliced bread (a vast improvement)," Dr. Whitman said.
Implanting the lenses involves minor surgery. The doctor makes one small, self-healing cut in the eye and inserts a plastic lens in front of the patent's natural lens. Patients are awake, and the procedure takes about 10 minutes per eye.
The surgery is similar to cataract surgery, except the patient's own lens is left in place.
And unlike LASIK, this technology does not permanently change the shape of the cornea.
"We have a lens that we can remove if we want to do something, (if) a new technology comes out and we want to do something down the line," Dr. Whitman said. "And we haven't interfered with the structure of the eye at all."
"It left me more options than LASIK did," Hardeman said. "For later on in life, if my eyesight had to change a little bit, I (am) still able to fix that."
The American Academy of Ophthalmology says as eye doctors become more comfortable with this procedure, it will become more common. In some countries the procedure has been done for more than 20 years.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the lenses for use in the U.S. four years ago. New lenses are being developed that are expected to be better than those already available.