New Laser Procedure at Casey Eye Institute Treats Farsightedness

06/17/99    Portland, Ore.

Laser used to treat nearsightedness can now help the farsighted

Patricia Aieollo has worn two pairs of glasses for more than 18 years, one for driving and golf, the other to read and watch television. Aiello is farsighted, or hyperopic, meaning she has a problem seeing things close-up. Now, with the help of an excimer laser, she hopes to eliminate the need for her glasses all together. Aiello had her right eye treated with the laser in May, now she's getting her other eye treated on Fri., June 18 at 10:45 a.m. at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University.

So far she's pleased with the results of the first procedure. "It's absolutely wonderful. I'm so excited to be getting the other one done, so I don't have to wear my glasses anymore. On the golf course the glasses were especially annoying because they kept sliding down," says Aiello.

Last November, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the first laser surgery system to treat farsightedness, the Visx laser. Two lasers have been used to treat nearsightedness, or myopia, and myopia with astigmatism for many years. Photorefractive keratotomy (PRK) and laser in-situ keratomileusis (Lasik) both reshape cornea so light focuses more precisely on the retina. PRK shapes the cornea's surface; Lasik, a midcorneal method, reshapes the middle of the cornea rather than the front to improve focus.

Dr. Scott MacRae, associate professor of ophthalmology at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University, says farsightedness is more difficult to correct because instead of just giving the cornea a crewcut, you have to steepen the center of the cornea. This brings the focus of light from behind the retina to the retina.

"More than 50 million people in America suffer from farsightedness. So, it's really exciting to finally have an effective procedure to treat our patients," says MacRae. MacRae was on the FDA panel that recommended approval of the Visx laser system. The Casey Eye Institute will be doing a farsighted clinical trial using the NIDEK laser system, which he helped design, later this summer. MacRae and physicians from Italy and Mexico recently developed a new laser treatment, called cross cylinder ablation, which treats higher levels of nearsighted and farsighted astigmatism.

Patricia Aiello called the Casey Eye Institute the minute she found out there was a laser approved for farsightedness and was one of its first patients. She says now she can't wait to hit the golf course without her glasses.