Beyond Lasik: Four Emerging Treatments For Vision Problems

Lasik has been excellent in restoring clear vision to people who suffer from refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, but there are new treatments on the horizon for people who suffer from poor vision. Here are four of them:

Gene Therapy

Genes have shown promise in helping patients overcome a type of eye disease that progresses into irreversible blindness. The disease is called choroideremia and is caused by a defective gene. The disease stops the cones and rods in the eye from sending information to the brain. The defective gene is replaced by injecting a healthy gene into the eye. A follow-up study found that all of the patients at least had improved perception of light, and at least two patients enjoyed better vision.

Drug Therapy

Three drugs, Lucentis, Avasin and Aylea are treatments that are injected into the eyes of patients with macular edema caused by diabetes. When given in the early stages of the disease, these drugs improved the patient’s vision by decreasing the dangerous leaking of fluids and the growth of unnecessary new blood vessels in the eye. The National Eye Institute is now conducting a study on the efficacy of these drugs.

PRK Surgery

What is PRK eye surgery? Short for Photorefractive Keratectomy, this is a treatment that tries to repair nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Vision is at least partially restored by reshaping the cornea with a laser. As opposed to Lasik, PRK surgery is done on the surface of the cornea, and not underneath. Prk is very effective in treating nearsightedness, and many patients have 20/20 vision within a year of the surgery.

Stem Cell Therapy

Though there are no studies that definitively show that stem cells can improve vision, researchers are looking into the ability of stem cells to treat vision problems in the future. Stem cells are immature cells that have the ability to change into any type of cell in the body. Researchers are looking into using the limbal stem cells in the cornea to help people who have damaged corneas to regain or improve their vision. In experiments in vitro or in animals, stem cells seemed to have matured into retinal pigment epithelium and retinal nerve cells. There are several studies being conducted to help people with visual problems through stem cell technologies.
All in all, the future of new therapies to improve vision problems seems bright and exciting.