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For the first time in more than 20 years, Theodore Smith, a 44-yearold physical education teacher and golf caddy from Washington, D.C., is seeing clearly thanks to photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) laser eye surgery. “It’s been totally life changing because I had been legally blind. So now my quality of life is just amazing,” Theodore says.
Theodore was used to seeing the world as rather blurry. At the age of 22, he was diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease that causes the cornea to thin over time. Hard contact lenses helped for about 13 years, but his eyes continued to worsen. He eventually required two cornea transplants, but as often happens after a cornea transplant, he was left with astigmatism and nearsightedness.
While these conditions can be corrected with glasses or contacts, Theodore didn’t want either given his active jobs. His doctor, Jay Lustbader, MD, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center and physician executive director, MedStar Health Ophthalmology, recommended PRK.
“Some patients are good candidates for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) and others for PRK. It depends on what’s happening with their eyes. Both are vision-correction procedures that use the same laser—just in slightly different ways,” Dr. Lustbader explains. “Both procedures are safe, effective options for patients who don’t want to wear glasses and contacts anymore and even for those who have other eye issues and diseases. It’s a painless procedure that’s very quick—it takes 10 to 12 minutes to do both eyes.”
Dr. Lustbader has performed about 40,000 LASIK and PRK procedures throughout his career, including surgeries on patients with serious eye issues and degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, dystrophies, and congenital corneal abnormalities. He says patients heal in one or two days for LASIK and five to seven days with PRK. For most people the changes are permanent, with just 5% of patients needing a touch-up in the long term.
Theodore acknowledges he’s been a challenging case. He needs one slight refinement to his right eye but says he’s thrilled that his long journey to clearer eyesight is nearly complete.
“I now see 20/20 in my left eye, and my right eye just needs a small touch-up that should be easy after all I’ve done,” Theodore says. “This technology is incredible, and the things I can see now are just amazing. I can see my 2-year-old daughter and all her smiles and facial expressions. When I caddy, I can see the ball 200 yards away. This procedure is so worth it. Everything changes for the better when the world isn’t blurry, and I’m so grateful.”
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