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Vision Correction

History of Eye Correction

A brief summary of Eye Correction Surgery you might find useful while deciding which procedure is best for you.

For nearly as long as people have had vision problems, efforts have been made to correct nearsightedness and farsightedness. Prior to the twentieth century, however, little progress was made beyond the development of eyeglasses and contact lenses. With the advent of modern surgical eye correction, the history of laser eye surgery began in earnest. RK, ALK, PRK, LASIK, and other corrective eye surgeries have allowed people to give up their glasses and contacts.


RK – Radial Keratotomy

Radial keratotomy, or RK, was the first type of surgical eye correction to become popular. First developed in 1898 and improved in the 1960s, RK is designed to correct myopia, or nearsightedness. It is performed by making several small incisions in the surface of the cornea that radiate outward like the spokes on a bicycle wheel. These incisions cause the cornea to flatten out somewhat in the center, changing the way in which it focuses light onto the retina. One of the primary disadvantages of radial keratotomy is that stable, predictable results were hard to calculate. As a result, the next stage in surgical eye correction was developed.


ALK – Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty

Researchers attempted to standardize the results of surgical eye correction by changing the method with which it was performed. Automated lamellar keratoplasty, or ALK, completely did away with the practice of making radial incisions in the cornea. Instead, the surgeon creates a thin flap in the cornea using a blade called a microkeratome. Then, the shape of the cornea is changed and flattened by removing a small slice of tissue before the flap is replaced. In most cases, there is no need for sutures to hold the flap closed. Though the results of ALK were more predictable than with RK, patients still reported a notable number of side effects. In the mid-1990s, laser eye surgery was introduced following the development of the excimer laser and its subsequent approval for use in surgical eye correction.


PRK – Photorefractive Keratectomy

Photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, was the first kind of corrective eye surgery to use a laser rather than a blade to remove corneal tissue. Though the excimer laser was developed in the early 1970s and modified for ophthalmic use in the early 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration did not approve its use for PRK corrective eye surgery until 1995. PRK was originally developed to treat myopia by removing a small amount of the cornea with a laser. Later refinements in the technology allowed surgeons to also treat patients with hyperopia, or farsightedness, and astigmatism. Unlike the previous technique of ALK (and LASIK, which had not yet been developed), PRK does not require the creation of a flap in the cornea. Instead, the laser is applied directly to the surface of the cornea. As a result, recovery from PRK corrective eye surgery is rather lengthy and uncomfortable. PRK became less and less popular following the development of LASIK, a procedure that allowed patients to have their vision corrected without the need for extended recovery from surgery. In fact, only ten years after its initial FDA approval, PRK corrective eye surgery was performed in only a small percentage of surgical eye correction treatments.


LASIK – Laser Assisted in-situ Keratomileusis

Laser assisted in-situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, was first conceived in 1989 by a Greek doctor named Ioannis Pallikaris. As in automated lamellar keratoplasty, LASIK requires the creation of a flap in the cornea before surgical eye correction can take place. The Food and Drug Administration did not approve the first LASIK corrective eye surgery until 1999. There are several reasons LASIK has become the most popular corneal refractive procedure. The use of a laser to shape the cornea rather than a microkeratome allows surgeons to predict and control the amount of surgical eye correction. In addition, the use of a corneal flap to access the underlying tissue greatly reduces the amount of post-surgical discomfort compared to procedures such as PRK corrective eye surgery.


Visian ICL – Phakic Intraocular Lens

Phakic intraocular lenses, or lenses that are inserted into the eye and work with the natural lens, have been used successfully to treat vision disorders for over 10 years. First developed in 1992, at the Fyodorov Institute in Russia, the Visian ICL has undergone extensive development and rigorous clinical trials, resulting in the product now available for use worldwide and in the US since 2005. Unlike corneal refractive surgery, such as LASIK and PRK, the Visian ICL does not alter the structure of the eye, or involve tissue removal. Instead, the lens is inserted inside of the eye and works with the eye’s natural optical system (cornea and lens) to enhance its performance. The Visian ICL requires a small opening during a short surgical procedure with an almost immediate improvement in visual acuity. This extremely quick visual recovery is one of the many reasons surgeons choose this phakic IOL technology for vision correction. While the Visian ICL is meant to be a permanent solution for vision correction, the lenses are removable should the need ever arise. This benefit makes the Visian ICL an attractive alternative to corneal-based refractive surgery. The Visian ICL provides excellent quality of vision compared to the results of corneal refractive procedures. 1 It is the ideal choice for patients with the highest expectations of their refractive correction procedures. If you desire high quality results, read more about the Visian ICL.


Vision Correction Today

An astonishing number of innovative techniques and technologies have become part of the history of surgical eye correction and laser eye surgery over the past several years. From glasses and contacts to PRK, LASIK, and innovative new devices used in corrective eye surgery like the Visian ICL, today’s patients enjoy an array of choices that give them greater control over their vision correction treatment. Contact STAAR® Surgical Company today to learn more about the technology behind the Visian ICL. If you’d like to find out whether you’re a candidate for the ICL or any other method of surgical eye correction, contact a qualified Visian ICL Surgeon in your area.

1. Sarver EJ, Sanders DR, Vukich, JA. Image quality in myopic eyes corrected with laser in situ keratomileusis and phakic intraocular lens. J Refract Surg. 2003;19(4):397-404.

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