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Alleviating Myopia through RELEX-ation

Myopia or nearsightedness is an eye disorder that affects around a quarter of the population.  Those afflicted with it can only see objects that are close to the eyes; objects at a distance will appear blurred and hazy. This is a result of an error in refraction wherein the eye is unable to bend light properly that will allow clear vision.

The most common form of surgical procedure to cure myopia is LASIK surgery.  It involves using a laser to reshape the cornea which is done by cutting a flap off its front part.  The outer cells of the eye are then pushed to one side.

LASIK has its limitations, however. An estimated 15% of those who want to undergo laser eye surgery are adjudged to be improper candidates for the procedure because of thin corneas, lack of tolerance for the use of contact lens or very high prescription. Additionally, LASIK is associated with post-operative discomfort in the form of dry eyes.

The Refractive Lenticule Extraction (or ReLex) procedure to correct myopia aims to address these concerns. Remember this procedure is not yet available in Australia.

The ReLex Advantage

Advantages of ReLex include the following:

  • ReLex uses a laser that is five times more accurate and precise than traditional laser used in LASIK. It also makes use of a single laser, as compared to LASIK’s two.
  • The procedure is even less invasive than LASIK.  It takes only four to five minutes to complete ReLex surgery.
  • There is no need to cut a flap off the front of the cornea. This means that the patient’s myopia will be corrected without weakening the cornea.
  • Post-operative dry eyes that are common in LASIK surgery are minimal to none in ReLex. Patients who are contact lens intolerant are therefore now deemed as viable candidates for surgery.
  • Those with extremely high myopia who are not allowed to undergo traditional LASIK can now be accommodated with the help of ReLex procedure.  ReLex can help patients who possess prescription of up to -14.

The ReLex Procedure

  • Drops are applied to numb the eye.
  • Using state of the art laser called Visumax, a series of micropulses is created beneath the surface of the cornea, also called lamella. This is a piece of corneal tissue that is shaped like a disc.
  • The micropulses will outline the tissues that have to be removed in order to correct the myopia.
  • The tissues are then removed using forceps. Removal is done through a tunnel measuring around 3 mm. Laser also creates this tunnel.

The entire procedure should only take around five minutes because, unlike LASIK surgery, there is no need to pass from one apparatus to another.  ReLex surgery is also free of noise and odor.

In trials conducted in Western Europe, patients testified to an improvement of vision of up to 80% almost instantly. After a few more days, myopia was reported by the patients to have completely healed as the improvement in their eyesight reached 100%.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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