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What is safer LASIK or contact lenses?

A recent study has concluded that LASIK eye surgery is now safer than contact lens wear in long-term safety. While this news is nothing new it does provide food for thought for the millions of people who are currently using contact lenses.

Recent outbreaks of viral, bacterial, and fungal eye infections have left many wondering about how safe contact lenses really are. As recently as 5 years ago the Center for Disease Control (CDC) observed severe outbreaks of untreatable infections by Acanthamoeba, a soil-dwelling protozoa that is resistant to most antibiotics. In April 2006, Fusarium keratitis, a rare but serious fungal infection of the cornea, created a major stir. Consumers were told by the FDA and CDC not to use Bausch & Lomb ReNu with MoistureLoc, which the CDC says was used by people in a majority of the confirmed cases of fungal keratitis. Other cases, in smaller but still significant numbers, involved Bausch & Lomb ReNu MultiPlus solution. Contact lens solutions manufactured by Alcon and AMO were also mentioned, but in just a handful of the cases.

In fact, sight-threatening infections are believed to occur in 1 in 2000 contact lens wearers. Despite the best contact lens care and careful prevention, contact lens related infections can still occur and are occasionally very serious, resulting in loss of vision. Patients who abuse their contact lens wear are even more likely to suffer from contact lens relation corneal or eye infections. Wearing them overnight, sleeping in them, overwearing them, or wearing improperly fit or improperly cared for lenses can significantly increase the risks of contact lens wear.

While contact lens wear has received increased publicity for the very widely-publicized incidents of infection, LASIK has steadily improved its safety profile. Many centers now report that fewer than 1 in 10,000 patients measure significant vision loss following laser refractive surgery, such as LASIK. Custom LASIK, Wavefront LASIK, IntraLase, improved surgical care, and more exact laser profiles have all led to an improvement in the accuracy and safety of LASIK eye surgery.

This most recent study confirms what many LASIK surgeons have known and taught for years. A one time LASIK procedure can be safer and healthier for your eyes than the long term use of contact lenses. While contact lenses are considered safe, they carry certain risks which are compounded over years and perhaps even decades of wear. Certainly a single procedure of significantly low risk should be able to replace a daily task with its own amount of inherent risk.

While this study is nothing new to LASIK providers, it does confirm that LASIK is a healthy alternative to glasses and contact lens wear and certainly should be considered thoughtfully. If you are interested in LASIK eye surgery or in finding out if you are a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery, please contact our counselors at Turner Eye Institute. Dr. Stephen Turner has performed over 30,000 successful LASIK eye surgeries and is among the most experienced surgeons available.

Turner Eye Institute has offices in San Jose, San Francisco, Concord, and San Leandro.