Annoying foggy glasses contribute to a rise in corrective eye surgery : NPR

Lasik surgery practices are experiencing a sharp increase in the number of clients. People are tired of seeing their glasses fog up every time they put on a mask.



LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Many know that struggle – foggy glasses from an ill-fitting face mask, and it’s part of the reason corrective laser surgery has increased so much in recent months. From member station WBUR in Boston, reports Simon Rios.

SIMON RIOS, BYLINE: Tom Eighmey teaches math at a prep school near Boston. After her homework period ended in the fall, foggy glasses in class became a constant nuisance.

TOM EIGHMEY: Between the air coming from the mask and the cold goggles and all that, not only did I get foggy when I entered the building, but every time I talked to people for almost the first hour of the day, it was like an immediate fog.

RIOS: Eightmey’s first instinct was to find a way for the mask and the glasses to coexist. He tried several methods, but none worked. So Eighmey pulled the trigger and got Lasik, one of many corrective laser procedures available as an alternative to glasses or contact lenses. With Lasik, doctors remove tissue from the cornea to treat conditions such as nearsightedness or astigmatism. Eighmey says he couldn’t be happier with his decision.

EIGHMEY: I was a person who couldn’t see a television without it being blurry from about 6 feet away. And literally the next morning, I woke up, I could look across the street and see, like, the little number 19 on the house next door. It was just amazing. I won’t forget this moment.

RIOS: The American Refractive Surgery Council is the professional group that represents Lasik practitioners. The group reports an almost 20% increase in laser correction procedures from 2019 to 2021. That means Boston Vision is booming.

SAMIR MELKI: You will feel some pressure.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Okay.

MELKI: Your vision may darken for about 30, 40 seconds. It’s all planned.

RIOS: Dr. Samir Melki prepares his patient, then turns on the laser. Melki says business is up 30% from pre-pandemic levels, and fogged up glasses are a key reason. Melki also cites people having more time and more money.

MELKI: People don’t travel as much, so they have disposable income that they can spend on procedures like laser vision correction. Two – recovery time. These patients think it might be a good time to do it because you are recovering at home.

RIOS: But laser surgery isn’t for everyone. Thomas Steinemann is an ophthalmologist in Cincinnati and spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He says that even if the level of risk is acceptable, Lasik might not last forever. Your eyes will continue to change.

THOMAS STEINEMANN: Maybe not. I mean, some people need a little touch-up or enhancement, and there are even examples of people losing the effect over time.

RIOS: And Steinemann’s pro tip – he says that during eye surgery, he sticks his mask over his nose to keep the lenses from fogging up. And some people just dig the look of the glasses. Among them, Sean Painter (ph), a barista in Danvers, Mass. As a cappuccino maker, he doesn’t have many long conversations with customers, but while we were talking his glasses were almost completely fogged up. The painter considered Lasik, but decided against it.

SEAN PAINTER: It’s the kind of thing where I haven’t, like, had, like, enough trouble with my glasses to really, like, engage in that kind of thing. And, like, I also generally like the way I look in glasses.

RIOS: And, says Painter, there’s the fact that Lasik can cost north of $5,000 and isn’t covered by most insurance plans. For NPR News, I’m Simon Rios in Boston.

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