Eye Reshaping

Reporter: Jonathan Creek

Anyone ever facing a lifetime of glasses or contact lenses, is a candidate for a promise of 20/20 vision -- without eye surgery. "It's a really remarkable process. The first night of wear probably creates the greatest change so for people with low levels of sight, in one wear they do extremely well and actually get 20/20 vision", said Optometrist, Russell Low.

Russell claims corneal re-shaping does pretty much the same thing as laser surgery , without the risk. "It's a very interesting alternative to laser surgery because it essentially does much the same thing -- it reshapes the cornea. However the big difference is that contact lens corneal reshaping is a reversible process. It's not invasive and a lot of patients really like the thought of that, it's really appealing", he added.

To test it, Nikki Heaney, at twenty four has been short sighted for about seven years. "I started wearing glasses when I was about 17 and started wearing contacts shortly after that, so I've been wearing contacts for about five years now", Nikki said. Nikki says contact lenses were fine most of the time, until it came to spring or somewhere smokey. The other alternative, laser eye surgery, she ruled out early. "I thought about having the laser eye surgery, but was very reluctant with that. There's always that little worry that it might not work or something might go wrong. And it's irreversible", Nikki said.

"That's one of the concerns people have and I think it's a valid concern. We don't really have a lot of long term data for laser surgery, it's probably only been around for something like 10 years and it's true that some people do experience regression and need re-treatment", Russell said.

A definite convert is AFL footballer Jason Akermanis, who's failing eye sight was affecting his game. With glasses ruled out, and contacts struggling to cope with the physical nature of his sport, he needed an alternative. Jason turned to corneal re shaping. The process involves him wearing hard contact lenses, three or four nights a week and when he wakes up --he takes them out, for perfect vision. "You have nothing in your eye all day, no contacts moving around, no glasses to worry about, perfect vision and for every night bar Wednesday and probably Saturday, you're just sleeping with this stuff in your eye. Because they're so clean, the risk of eye infection or whatever comes with it, is very low", Jason said.

And this is how it works -- first your eye is mapped by a computer. It takes into account the prescription needed to achieve 20 / 20 vision and that information is used to mould hard contact lenses. Unlike conventional lenses, corneal re-shapers work in reverse -- it reshapes the front surface of your eye while you sleep.

One advantage with corneal reshaping is the effect isn't permanent. If you stop putting the lenses in, the surface of your eye returns to it's original position. But it's not for everybody. Corneal reshaping doesn't work for long sighted people and often patients who have sensitive eyes can suffer. Professor Hugh Taylor, Chief of Opthamology at Melbourne's Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital warns putting anything in your eyes, whether it be lenses or laser, has its risks. "The use of contact lenses would be the number cause of infections seen at this hospital", he said.

It's time for Nikki to check her eyesight. She's only had the lenses in overnight and Russell Lowe is promising some dramatic results. "You've got 20/20 vision, six /six in each eye after just one night of wear. That's got to be pretty good", Russell said. "The first things I noticed was the boldness and the crispness of things. Even looking at street signs and things in windows, the letters are really standing out to me whereas if I didn't have my contacts or glasses, I couldn't see that at all", Nikki said.

"I think the biggest single advantage is the freedom it gives people, the sense of self improvement, the fact that they're able to see more naturally without a device -- be it a contact lens or pair of glasses - and the fact that they can do that without a surgery, meaning that we have a reversible, non invasive treatment that's really quite easy to administer", Russell said.

For further information visit the website at: www.osa.net.au