Steamboat Springs Even experienced professionals such as Steamboat Springs optometrist Dr. Gary Migues are amazed with the continually improving technology in eye care and treatment.
"Compared to a generation ago, it's a whole different world," said Migues, who practices at Steamboat Vision Clinic.
LASIK surgery continues to be one of the most popular and rapidly growing forms of eye treatment. LASIK, which stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a procedure that uses a laser to permanently change the shape of the cornea. LASIK surgery is performed in an attempt to reduce a person's dependency on eyeglasses or contact lenses.
The results are often successful and to each patient's satisfaction, Migues said. But he warned potential LASIK candidates to match their expectations with reality.
"It's very accurate," Migues said of the 10-minute procedure, "but it might not come out perfect. It's the latest, greatest technique of these laser procedures."
Successful LASIK surgery patients may still need to wear reading glasses and the procedure does not prevent other eye problems such as cataracts, Migues said.
Many factors can determine whether a person is a strong LASIK candidate, such as age and eye stability.
Numerous Steamboat optometrists, including Migues, are qualified to perform all pre-operation and post-operation work, but expensive equipment has prevented the surgical procedure from coming to Steamboat.
Most local optometrists refer their patients to Denver-area locations for the actual LASIK procedure. Dr. Mark Helm, who practices in Steamboat and Craig, performs the operation himself, but only in Denver.
Those who are interested in learning more about the procedure and whether they qualify should contact a local optometrist for an appointment, Migues said. Advances in technology mean people who may not have been candidates for LASIK surgery a couple of years ago may now qualify.
"The technology is improving so quickly that there aren't many limitations to who can get it," Migues said. "The laser surgery has been available for a long time, we just never had the software technology that makes the laser surgery so accurate."
LASIK surgery typically costs between $2,000 and $4,000 for both eyes, Migues said.
Other forms of refractive eye surgery also are available; LASIK is just one variety.
The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend LASIK surgery for people who don't like taking risks, who identify cost as an issue, who have changed their prescriptions for contact lenses or glasses in the past year, who actively participate in activities in which blows to the face are a normal occurrence and for those who are not adults.
Because LASIK surgery is a relatively new technique -- it was first approved in 1998 -- the FDA has not identified the long-term safety and effectiveness of the procedure.
Laser procedures aren't the only advance in the field of optometry and ophthalmology.
Changes in contact lenses make it easier for eye doctors to deal with issues like stigmatisms. Lens technology such as polarization greatly improves the performance of glasses and many optometrist offices are now equipped with machines that can make prescription glasses much quicker than in the past, Migues said.