5 Ways to Improve Eyesight Without Glasses or Contact Lenses

If you’re not a candidate for Lasik corrective eye surgery, you may have resigned yourself to a lifetime of fumbling for glasses or contact lenses every morning. But there are options that can help you see clearly without corrective lenses. 

1. Lasik Surgery

Lasik surgery remains popular because it’s extremely accurate, says Dr. Tom Edmonds of Tidewater Eye Centers in Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. Since Lasik surgery affects only the surface of the eye, the risk of infection is low, he says. 

Not everyone is a candidate for Lasik, says Edmonds, who has performed more than 15,000 procedures including Lasik since 1997. The surgery is not recommended for people with extremely thin or abnormally shaped corneas, Edmonds says. Nor is Lasik recommended for the small percentage of people whose myopia (nearsightedness) is minus 12 or worse or whose hyperopia (farsightedness) is plus 6 or worse, Edmonds says. 

Lasik also is not recommended for people whose vision prescription is still changing, whose hormones are fluctuating because of diseases such as diabetes, who are taking medications that may cause fluctuations in vision or who are taking medications that may affect wound healing, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Other risk factors include inflammation of the eyelids, large pupils and dry eyes, according the FDA. Get solutions for helping dry eye here.

2. Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)

Like Lasik, Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) vision correction also can’t be done on extremely nearsighted or farsighted patients, Edmonds says. But PRK can be done on people with very thin corneas who aren’t candidates for Lasik. PRK requires more down time for healing after surgery—three to four days—than Lasik, Edmonds says. But six months after surgery, the results are identical to Lasik. Like Lasik, the surgery is only on the surface of the eye, so the risk of infection is low. The national average cost for PRK is $1,800–$2,500 per eye, comparable to Lasik.

3. Implantable Lenses

Implantable Contact Lenses (ICL) are a good option for people who are extremely nearsighted or extremely farsighted, Edmonds says. There’s not much pain with the procedure, and people don’t notice the contacts in their eyes afterward. The procedure is reserved for patients without astigmatism. (Astigmatism, when the cornea is shaped like a football instead of a basketball, causes vision to be blurred at any distance). The surgery can be combined with Lasik. The downside is, the lens implants can cause a patient to develop a cataract later, he says. If a cataract does develop, determining the right lens replacement can be difficult, he says. Cost per lens ranges from $1,500 to $5,500.

4. Clear Lens Exchange

A clear lens exchange, normally done as part of cataract surgery, is another option even for patients who don’t yet have cataracts. The replacement lenses correct astigmatism as well as nearsightedness or farsightedness—not both, Edmonds says. Some patients choose to correct one eye for near vision and the other eye for distance vision—an option referred to as monovision. Since not all people can tolerate monovision, it’s a good idea to test it out with contact lenses first before surgery. Since the surgery involves going deeper into the eye, there’s a small risk of infection. Some people see rings around lights at night. When cataracts are present, this surgery is usually covered by insurance.

5. Multi-focal lenses

A lens exchange with multi-focal lens implants can correct for distance, intermediate and near vision, Edmonds says. A multi-focal implant that also can correct astigmatism is expected to be available this spring, he says.  Insurance will pay for part of the cost in patients that have already developed a cataract. Overall, these patients are very happy after surgery, he says. “There’s some strong word of mouth for this,” he says. Nationwide average cost per multi-focal lens is $2,000–$2,500 per eye. These lenses reduce the dependence on glasses at any distance in almost all cases but can associated with rings around lights at night. An alternative to the multi-focal lens, at a similar price, is an accommodating lens such as the Crystalens. Patients with these lenses see well at the computer and far away without glasses, with minimal rings at night, but still need glasses for reading. When cataracts are present, insurance covers a portion of the cost—the added out-of-pocket cost per lens ranges from $1,500 to $4,000.

Next: Learn how a vision exam can uncover many diseases and conditions.

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