Healthwatch: Eyeing Surgery

Refractive eye surgery can generally help anyone who wears glasses or contact lenses for distance correction. It's approved for both near and far-sighted individuals and those with astigmatism.

"It's mostly a procedure of convenience. Some people just don't like wearing glasses," said Dr. Lawrence Mason, an ophthamologist with Eye Clinic of Meridian.

Mason said the procedure can be medically necessary for a small percentage of individuals. However, it is not an option for people with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and several other systemic diseases, nor can it turn back the clock.

"Most everyone is going to need reading glasses at the age of 40 to 45. This does not correct for that aging process," Mason said. "However, some people that we do the surgery on, we can correct one eye for reading and one for distance, and this allows some people to go without glasses. We have quite a few people, it seems that most are female, who wear one contact lens for distance and one for reading."

While valuable to the person involved, it is viewed by most insurance providers as cosmetic.

Mason said the procedure is painless, with most patients returning to normal activities the next day. The worst complaint is typically dryness of the eye.

A free screening offered by Eye Clinic of Meridian will determine if the procedure can help a patient and the correction is permanent.

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