July 3, 1997
Media Contact: Marc Kusinitz
Phone: (410)955-8665

Johns Hopkins researchers are testing a new laser operation that could do for farsighted eyeglass wearers what surgery has long offered the nearsighted: clear vision without glasses or contact lenses.

"Excimer laser surgery to gently sculpt the cornea--the clear `front window' of the eye that focuses incoming light, has the potential of opening laser treatment to millions of individuals," says Nada S. Jabbur, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology. About 6 percent of Americans are farsighted, and the condition usually affects people in their 40s, she says.

The procedure uses the first and only laser system to receive pre-market approval for the treatment of both nearsightedness and farsightedness with astigmatism. A person with astigmatism has wavy, distorted vision. The Hopkins investigators are using the system, called VISX Star Excimer Laser System, to reshape the corneas of volunteers.

"Using the laser, we treat the outer edges of the cornea to make the central area steeper," says Jabbur, the lead investigator for Wilmer Eye Institute. "This allows the cornea to focus light properly onto the retina, improving the person's sight without glasses."

"We are encouraged by the excellent results at Wilmer of the laser treatment to correct farsightedness, thus far," says Terrence P. O'Brien, M.D., director of refractive eye surgery. "The condition of farsightedness can be a real handicap, and the level of patient satisfaction after treatment has been very high."

Earlier studies done with the system showed excellent results for the farsighted, according to Jabbur. In one, in 1996, at the University of Ottawa Eye Institute, 96 percent attained 20/40 vision or better--vision good enough to pass a driver's test in most states without eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Candidates for clinical trials must be in good health, wear glasses or contact lenses and must not have had any form of eye surgery. In addition, patients should be willing to follow-up with periodic visits to Wilmer. To find out more about how to participate in these trials, potential volunteers can contact Mary Ann Millar, Wilmer Eye Institute, at (410)-614-2020.

The study is being funded by VISX Incorporated.

-- JHMI --
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