FOR PEOPLE with refractive problems like Cecilia Ramirez, 34, bringing eyesight back to perfect vision was blurry a decade ago, and options were limited to wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. But hope came with the discovery of Lasik treatment which revitalizes optimum vision in an instant.

After learning of Lasik treatment’s availability in the Philippines, particularly in the University where she took her undergraduate and master’s degrees, Ramirez immediately cleared herself for treatment to get rid of her near-sightedness. A month after, her eyes were as good as new.

Lasik: The Thomasian way

According to Dr. Jessica Marie Abaño, resident ophthalmologist at the UST Hospital Eye Center, Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis — or Lasik — is one of the most commonly performed refractive surgeries in the world. It removes errors in refraction, which is the eye’s ability to change light’s direction.

People with visual disorders, particularly refractive problems, suffer from near-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism, wherein the cornea or sometimes the lens of the eye is abnormally curved. Any irregularity in the shape of the cornea will distort images.

“A special instrument, microkeratome, is used to lift a portion of the cornea, creating a flap or small opening. Once the flap is made, the exposed surface of the cornea is treated with laser to adjust its curvature, achieving the desired correction,” Abaño told the Varsitarian. “When the laser procedure is complete, the flap is gently placed back into its original position.”

The UST Hospital has the most complete and advanced Lasik system in the country, Abaño said.

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“UST Hospital acquired last year the WaveLight Allegretto Eye-Q Lasik system, the fastest and most expensive Lasik machine in the world. Only UST has this kind of machine in the Philippines,” Abaño said.

The Wavelight Allegretto system is the first European laser treatment to receive quality approval in the United States in 1999. It is the fastest Lasik system today, using PerfectPulse technology to safely and accurately control every laser pulse from start to finish. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had revealed that 93 percent of patients achieved normal (20/20) vision in clinical trials.

The UST Hospital Eye Center Refractive Surgery section offers three advantages: high speed eight to ten seconds of surgical performance, a wide range of US FDA-approved treatments, and international approval. Some 800 machines are being used worldwide.

“Working on the principle of wavefront-optimization, the WaveLight Allegretto Lasik system preserves the curvature characteristics of the eyes and delivers additional laser treatment to the eyes’ periphery, rendering a smooth, optimized visual outcome,” Abaño said.

Refractive surgery has been used globally since the 1970s. In 1990, Dr. Lucio Burratto of Italy and Dr. Loannis Pallikaris of Greece pioneered the Lasik technique. It was also in 1990 when Dr. Jose Barraquer of Colombia developed a device that could cut thin flaps in the cornea and alter its shape, the microkeratome.

Reshaped vision

Vision is achieved when the eyes and brain collaborate to form pictures of the environment. It starts with reflected light rays bouncing off the surface of objects and entering the eye’s structures: cornea, iris, pupil, and lens. Retina, the light-sensitive membrane in the back of the eye, is the final destination of the light rays, where images from the lens are sent to the brain.

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With near-sightedness, the curvature of the cornea is too steep, making it difficult to see far objects. Refractive surgery works by flattening the central cornea to put images back in focus. Likewise, far-sightedness and astigmatism require steepening or flattening of the cornea in certain areas of the eye.

The UST Hospital Eye Center has set guidelines for Lasik treatment candidates. A patient must be more than 18 years of age with a stable condition and wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses for the past year, and has a healthy cornea. The candidate must have been diagnosed with a refractive error, and has no history of an auto-immune disease or immunodeficiency status.

“The attending ophthalmologist will fully assess a patient’s eye condition through evaluation, screening, and post-screening to determine if the eyes are fit for Lasik treatment,” Abaño said.

The appearance of glares and halos is normal after undergoing Lasik treatment, she said.

“These are just minimal and common side effects as they do not interfere with the patient’s lifestyle after the surgery. It will eventually improve and be resolved after the first few months,” Abaño said.

She also said patients may experience a sensation of the presence of foreign bodies or a “sandy” feeling in their eyes after undergoing Lasik treatment, but this will eventually set off after one to three months of recovery.

But each patient is different, with distinctive pain tolerance, recovery process, and needs.

“Treatments will vary depending on the patient. But we remind them that the goal of refractive surgery is only to reduce dependence on glasses or contact lenses. Lasik patients may still benefit from reading glasses or distance glasses when they deem necessary,” Abaño said.

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