Laser-free 'cure' for short sight

A new method of correcting short sight could be better and safer than laser eye surgery, experts say.

A quarter of Britons are short-sighted and the popularity of laser surgery to correct the condition has soared. A procedure involving insertion of an artificial lens may be set to challenge its dominance.

In laser surgery, a razor-thin layer is shaved from the outer surface of the eye, the cornea, to focus light from an image in the right place on the retina. The new surgery achieves the same effect by inserting an artificial intra-ocular lens, known as a "phakic", in front of the natural lens.

In the first systematic review comparing the two methods, published online by the Cochrane Library, researchers say the insertion of the lenses had advantages. Allon Barsam, of Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, said: "The worst outcome of either procedure is that after treatment, even with glasses, your vision is worse.

"We found that patients who had lenses inserted were less likely to have lost vision than patients who had laser treatment. One problem with lasers is that you can't go back and [restore a layer of the cornea] but you can remove the lens."

The lens method has a slightly higher risk of cataract and further tests are needed, Dr Barsam said.

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