Report Suggests LASIK may be Safer than Contacts

Lifeline: Laser Eye Surgery,

Since 1995, the Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, or ASCRS, estimates more than 3 million Americans have had laser eye surgery.

It's not hard to imagine that millions more are thinking about it. But, many are worried about going forward.

The Mayo Clinic offers reassurances gathered by closely tracking its own laser eye surgery patients. Mayo did not leap into the technology lightly, holding off until just 6 years ago, when its doctors were sufficiently confident the risk was minimal.

Laser surgery, or LASIK, works by cutting minute amounts of tissue off the cornea, so there’s little surprise that patients might have questions about long-term effects. But, so far, Mayo says eye function holds up very well in every way.

Researchers are even studying cellular health beneath the eye's surface. Everything there appears to be normal.

Complications usually happen with patients who were not good candidates for surgery to begin with. Doctors should warn about increased risks: if your cornea is too thin, astigmatism is too severe, or your eyes need an excessive amount of correction.

Near-sighted patients tend to be happier with the outcome than those who are far-sighted.

In a 2003 survey by ASCRS, 93% of patients were satisfied with the results. 95% of people reported improved vision. 85% said LASIK improved their quality of life.

Back to the bottom line on safety.

"Severe complications where you actually have a significant degradation of optical quality are very rare," said Dr. Leo Maguire.

Dr. Maguire says contact lenses may put your vision at greater risk than Laser surgery because the risk of developing bacterial infection in the cornea is higher.

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