What Contact Lens Wearers Should Know before the Lasik Consultation.
If you wear contact lenses there are some things you should consider before making the decision to have Lasik surgery.
Similarities. Both Lasik and contacts are able to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and, to some extent, astigmatism. Both Lasik and contacts can eliminate the effect of minification and peripheral distortion that might have been evident if and when you wore glasses, because both options correct your vision right at the surface of your eye.
Convenience. Extended wear contact lenses, introduced in the late 1970s, made contact lenses far more convenient than they were previous to that. Extended wear contacts, however, did not quite live up to their claims; it became evident that they could not be worn continuously for the length of time that had been claimed (usually 30-days) without problems occurring. When “disposable” contact lenses were introduced it made wearing contact lenses much more convenient but they were still a daily concern. In the past few years, thanks to advances in contact lens research and manufacture, the "30 Day Lenses" have returned. Time will tell how successful these will be in providing the convenience that contact lens wearers desire. The Lasik procedure, for those who can take advantage of it is, of course, the ultimate in convenience with no lenses to worry about at all.
Comfort. Certainly Lasik wins the comfort 'derby' after, that is, the initial discomfort of post-op recovery which, in more extreme cases, may last up to six months. Contact lenses are more “comfortable” for some people than for others because of the varying degree of tolerance for discomfort between individuals and new advances in the materials used to manufacture contacts have made the lenses even more comfortable. The fact remains, however (as reported in the Contact Lens Spectrum at http://www.clspectrum.com/article.aspx?article=12787) that an estimated 2-3 million people of 'drop out' of contact lens wear each year due to comfort and inconvenience factors. That number equals approximately 10% of contact lens wearers.
Lifestyle issues. Again, as far as being able to go about your daily activities without the inconvenience and worry that may be caused by contact lenses, gives Lasik another win in the Lifestyle column.
Safety and Risk. The two most important factors in any decision you make in life are safety and risk. This varies by individual; some people enjoy living their life “on the edge” while others (probably the majority) prefer to keep a “safety barrier” of some sort around them. Such is the choice between continuing to wear contacts and electing Lasik surgery.
Wearing contact lenses, in spite of convenience, comfort and lifestyle issues, is not normally 'risky business' . . . not normally! Even when used as directed by your optometrist, some complications can arise -- nothing normally sight-threatening or remotely life-threatening but still problematic. Some contact lens wearers have contact lens “fit” problems and some develop 'dry eye' or 'giant papillary conjunctivitis.' Dry eye usually occurs in contact lens wearers who had dry eye (insufficient natural eye lubrication) before wearing contacts. The conjunctivitis problem usually occurs in patients who have been wearing lenses for some number of years and who have not been as careful as they possibly can to keep their contacts clean. Both conditions are fairly easily treated.
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (see http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1998/298_lens.html), "The most serious safety concern with any contact lens is related to overnight use. Extended-wear (overnight) contact lenses--rigid or soft--increase the risk of corneal ulcers, infection-caused eruptions on the cornea that can lead to blindness. Symptoms include vision changes, eye redness, eye discomfort or pain, and excessive tearing."
Another contact lens concern that is potentially sight threatening is the chance of a parasitic eye infection called “Acanthamoeba Keratitis.” This difficult to treat infection is primarily caused by not taking proper care of your contacts and may be complicated by using hot tubs or by swimming.
Contact lenses have been marketed as "care free, trouble free and risk free," you can clearly see that these claims are subjective.
Lasik while it may win under the headings of convenience, comfort and lifestyle requires some risk taking. Any type of surgery presents a risk and while an estimated 96% to 98% of the many millions of Lasik patients have no serious concerns, even years after surgery, there are a great number of them who have found that Lasik did not fully meet their expectations (they still needed glasses or contacts after surgery). Some small percent of Lasik patients are left with minor vision problems and a very small percent have had catastrophic problems. Such is the nature of any surgical procedure.
The choice is yours but it's not an easy one: contacts or Lasik?
This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read. This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease".
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