Is LASIK Better Than Wearing Contacts?
It’s a question patients ask frequently: Which is better — contacts or LASIK? LASIK provides patients with clear, crisp vision without the (very real) hassle of contacts or glasses, but a new study published in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery indicates that contact users have even more reason to consider LASIK in St. Louis–and anywhere else you may be.
The meta-data study showed that, over five years, nationwide contact users are three times more likely to get potentially serious eye infections called microbial keratitis, compared to those who have gotten LASIK. After 10 years, contact wearers are six times more likely to contract microbial keratitis. Those numbers go up for contact wearers who leave contacts in while they sleep.
For those who want to reduce their risk for microbial keratitis, LASIK may be the answer.
What is microbial keratitis?
Eliminate Your Possiblity of Infection
Add to that the benefit of eliminating much of the risk of infection related to contact lens use, and for good candidates, it’s really a no-brainer.
To be fair, microbial keratitis is a rare complication, and in rare cases, can also occur after LASIK surgery — most often if patients rub their eyes, smoke, swim, or otherwise expose their eyes to potential pollutants immediately after surgery. In these cases, as a refractive surgeon, I’ve found that a little bit of education goes a long way.
Taking the time to let patients know what they should avoid and why, both before and after surgery, is usually very effective. In my own St. Louis LASIK practice, I have never had a patient develop microbial keratitis from LASIK, even after the thousands of surgeries I have performed., although I have seen many cases of microbial keratitis caused by contact lenses. I credit the time I spend with them and the diligence of my staff with much of our success.
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Study results: What they mean and don’t mean
This new study is significant. Data compiled from 2010 indicates that, among the approximately 38 million contact lens wearers in the U.S., there are an estimated 1 million clinical visits related to microbial keratitis at a cost of about $174.9 million. This is something to think about when comparing contacts versus LASIK.
This peer-reviewed study is believed to be the first meta-analysis (or statistical combining of data compiled from multiple studies) to compare the rates of microbial keratitis in contact lens wearers to those who have had LASIK. Its authors were Jordan Masters, MD; Mehmet Kocak, PhD; and Aaron Waite, MD, all of Hamilton Eye Center at University of Tennessee’s Health Science Center.
In a nutshell, these noted researchers found that the risk for infection was about the same for LASIK patients and contact wearers during the first year after surgery. In the years following though, the risk was all but eliminated for LASIK patients, while it continued at the same rate for contact wearers.
The study does not show causation, meaning there can be a number of factors, such as lens type, lifestyle factors, poor hygiene, and other determinants that would also be helpful to modify in order to lower risk of infection among contact wearers. In addition, Dr. Waite pointed out that more studies are needed to determine if additional contact lens complications, such as dry eye, scarring, droopy eyelids, oil-gland drop-out, and allergies are more likely to lead to vision loss in contact lens wearers.
Still, there is no doubt now that LASIK reduces the chance of infections over time. “Most contact lens wearers use them for decades, which means they have a much higher risk of corneal infection compared to the risk with LASIK,” Dr. Waite said.
If you would like to find out if you are a candidate for LASIK in St. Louis, or for any other laser vision correction procedure, schedule your comprehensive Brinton Vision Ocular Analysis. We are happy to share in your journey to visual freedom. Click here to schedule your consultation!
St. Louis LASIK surgeon Dr. Jason P. Brinton, MD is an internationally recognized specialist in the field of refractive surgery. He is a graduate of Harvard College, earned his medical doctorate from the Harvard Medical School, and is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. He has been inducted to America’s Top Ophthalmologists by the Consumer Research Council of America, Leading Physicians of the World by the International Association of Healthcare Professionals, and Top Doctors in America by Castle Connolly. In 2015, he received global recognition as the recipient of the Visian ICL Young Ophthalmologist Award in Barcelona, Spain, and in 2016 was named Ocular Surgery News’ Premier Surgeon 300 Innovators in Refractive Cataract Surgery. He is a dedicated husband, father of four beautiful children, and is passionate about his life, his work, and service to others.