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Lasik Problems In High Elevations?

May 17, 2008
There are many different eye problems that are magnified by high elevation. People who reside in high altitude areas have more difficulty with several eye conditions that can make their eyes extremely dry. These conditions can make it harder to wear contact lenses and live a normal life.

Although there are now contact lenses that can be worn overnight, high elevation can limit their use on certain individuals.

This issue is caused primarily by the fact that high altitude can cause an enlargement of the cornea in certain people. This swelling is called corneal edema. Because of the increase of corneal edema in high elevation, many have questioned whether LASIK is safe in high elevations. They wonder whether it's as safe to have the surgery performed in a city that has a higher elevation.

This is a valid question, and you should probably address it with a LASIK surgeon in your area. However, the common consensus among surgeons is there is no extra risk having your surgery performed at a high elevation. In fact, many experts believe that having LASIK done at a high elevation is much better than continuing to wear corrective lenses, because irritation caused by corrective lenses is more common in high altitude areas.

Those of you that live in higher elevations are great candidates for the surgery. You may have had issues with extremely dry eyes while wearing contacts.
The common misconception that LASIK isn't safe in higher elevations comes from problems with an outdated procedure called radial keratometry.

Many who had their vision corrected with this procedure have suffered from a vision decrease while living in or visiting elevated areas. Studies, however, have shown that this problem doesn't exist with patients who had their vision corrected by LASIK.

There is a quite famous case study where a prominent doctor, Dr. Beck Weathers, tried to climb Mt. Everest. Dr. Weathers had has vision corrected via radial keratometry and had a severe loss of vision during his ascent. Because of the vision issues caused by the extreme elevation, Dr. Weathers almost lost his life and had to turn around. This story has added to the folklore that LASIK correction is affected by elevation.

What's the conclusion? It's worth talking to your surgeon about this issue, but he or she will probably tell you that the elevation isn't going to be a problem. While you should always discuss all of your concerns with a certified, licensed surgeon, it will probably be better for your eyes to go ahead with the surgery.
About the Author
Court helps those looking for Colorado Lasik to educate themselves on the procedure. You can find more on altitude and Lasik on his site.
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