Nearly a third of Americans suffer from some degree of myopia (nearsightedness), according to the American Optometric Association. Since the early 1990s, laser surgery has been used to restore normal vision to millions, yet little research has been done on the long-term efficacy of the procedure.
Jorge L. Ali and his research team from the Miguel Hernandez University in Alicante, Spain, and the Ankara University School of Medicine in Turkey undertook a 10-year study of 196 myopic (nearsighted) eyes, in 118 patients, that were operated on using the LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) technique. The researchers said the subjects were all severely myopic, originally requiring 10 diopter corrections to achieve 20/20 vision. A diopter is a measure of the curvature of a lens.
After surgery, 40 percent of patients no longer needed eyeglasses to see properly. Almost everyone experienced at least some vision improvement. However, after 10 years, only 61 percent of the LASIK eyes were within two diopters of 20/20 vision. And 1 percent of eyes developed corneal ectasia, a bulging of the cornea that seems to be a side-effect of laser surgery.
In addition, nearly a third (27 percent) of patients needed to be re-treated during the decade, the research team said. Looking at the results from the glass-half-full angle, Ali said, “This study has allowed us to demonstrate that, in spite of the prejudices about the limits of LASIK technique, the results regarding predictability, efficacy and safety for high-myopic patients are very good in the long term.”