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by Asuka Spangler, student writer

 

Not able to see clearly, she reached for her glasses. She found her room in a total mess. Her drawers were open, all of her clothes scattered. Her TV was missing, along with her jewelry box.
Kim had been robbed right in her own home, right before her eyes.

“ The biggest thing for me was that I had seen him,” said Kim, 42. “He was standing right there. He turned around and looked straight at me, yet when the police asked me for his description I had no idea.”

Kim’s life had revolved around her glasses for 32 years. Without them, she was hopeless. Wearing corrective eyewear since the age of 5, and having to live with difficulties that others don’t think twice about, she dreamed of the day she would wear them no more.

Her dreams came true five years ago when she underwent photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) laser eye surgery.

“ This surgery has totally turned my life around,” Kim said. “You can’t believe the freedom I feel.”
Unlike Kim’s experience, California college student Patrick Dela Cruz regrets having had laser eye surgery and feels, he said, “it has been the worst mistake of my life.

“ I understood the risks, but I had heard so many good reviews that I never thought it would come to this,” Dela Cruz said.

Since undergoing the surgery a year ago, Dela Cruz’s vision has gotten worse. There were no flaws during the procedure, yet his eyes did not heal as well as doctors had expected. “I guess I’m just thankful that I can still see,” he said. “It’s sad that I spent all that money and nothing has changed for me. I still wear glasses just as I used to.”

Clinical studies show that 5 percent of patients continue to wear glasses after surgery, and 15 percent need them occasionally for tasks such as driving, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Any surgery involves risks. In this surgery, these include loss of vision; developing debilitating vision symptoms such as a glare, halo, or double vision; severe dry eye syndrome; and miscalculating final results that end in over or under treating the eyes.

Also, Lasik surgery was approved in 1995. There are no long-term data on its effectiveness and safety.

Laser-eye surgery is not for everybody. Candidates must be at least 21years old for a Summit laser or 18 for a VISX laser; have healthy eyes free from retinal problems, corneal scars, or eye diseases; and have regular-sized pupils as defined by the FDA. They must also have mild to moderate eyesight within the range of treatment and have the money to cover all the expenses since most insurance companies do not cover the surgery.

The average cost for laser eye surgery is rising every year. An average $1, 550 - $1,600 per eye in 2002 grew to $1,965 per eye in mid-2005, according to allaboutvision.com. These prices can change depending on individual surgeons who lease their equipment to regional and nationwide multi-center practices.

There are also different types of laser-eye or refractive surgeries, the two most common being LASIK and PRK. The major difference is the way that the middle layer of the cornea is exposed before it is vaporized with the laser. In PRK, the top layer of the cornea is scraped away to expose the middle layer underneath. In LASIK, a flap is cut in the top layer and folded back. The same type of laser is used for both surgeries, according to the FDA.

Dr. Stanley Sato, an Hawai‘i optometrist, highly recommends laser eye surgery to everyone. Sato has been working at the medical clinic in the Royal Kunia Wal-Mart for the past six years.

“ I see patients day in and day out for checkups and have heard nothing but success stories,” he said. “Overall, I believe it is very safe, and the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Dr. Janice Durham, an optometrist at the Waipio Kaiser Permanente clinic, has had the surgery performed on herself.

“ It’s great, I love it,” she said. “You just have to make sure you go to the right place.”

Durham, who graduated from Pennsylvania College of Optometry, has been working for Kaiser Permanente since 1988. She is a professional in this field, so finding the right doctor wasn’t hard for her. She said to look for a doctor who is willing to sit down with you and explains the risks in detail. “Everyone only hears good stuff about it, so it’s often easy to forget about the down side,” she said. “Not everyone goes home happy.”

For Durham the benefits outweighed the risks, and her surgery was a success. “My eyes recovered very quickly and didn’t cause me any trouble at all,” Durham said. “It’s great being able to open your eyes and see everything really clearly. I don’t have to hassle with all of the lenses, solutions anymore. I’m normal.”

For more information about laser eye surgery, consult with your local eye doctor or visit
http://nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lasereyesurgery.html.

 

 
 

 

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