Dramatic rendering of BEFORE and AFTER. Text and photographs by West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro
Lasik? No way. Not when there’s something better and safer.
The 95 percent success rate of Lasik eye surgery is a small comfort to the other 5 percent (up to 600,000 people) who have had complications or complaints. And even if the rate is just 1 in 100, it still seems a pretty big risk to take on something as precious as your vision—especially to athletes, photographers, and the other folks who might use their eyes from time to time.
Indeed, prompted by complaints over failed, botched, or ineffective surgeries, an FDA panel is meeting today to look at whether doctors are overselling the procedure and underselling the risks.
But like I said, there’s something a lot better. This morning, I crawled out of bed, stumbled into the bathroom, removed the hard contacts I wore while sleeping, and found myself with perfect vision. Better than perfect, actually: It’s more like 20-15, thanks to the non-invasive, non-surgical contacts.
Called corneal refractive therapy, or CRT, these rigid devices temporarily change the shape of your eye as you sleep, eliminating the imperfections that cause blurriness, in my case nearsightedness. I was an early adopter when they hit the market, and in four years I haven’t had a single complication, complaint, or problem.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
It’s stunning that a product so impactful remains almost completely unknown (“Hello, CRT Marketing Department? Get to work”): No other piece of “gear” has made such an improvement in my life. Glasses broke, got scratched, didn’t work when skiing, couldn’t block the sun unless I got expensive prescription shades. Soft contacts got lost surfing, shifted on my eye when cycling, became scratchy in desert dust storms. With CRT, I have the best vision I’ve had in my life—it’s sharper than with soft contacts, purer than with glasses. There’s no surgery. And if I stop wearing them, my vision will return to its normal nearsightedness within four or five days.
CRT is not without its hassles. You have to wear them every night (I can skip a night, but by the afternoon of day two, my vision is deteriorating). Desert camping requires extra-special care to keep dust out. You clean them every day. And I ain’t gonna lie to you—the first three nights with CRT, until my eyes adjusted, the discomfort was not insignificant. But still: Weighed against the risks of Lasik—double vision, permanent blurring, dry eyes—these issues are nothing.
The cost is about $1,000-$1,500 for fitting and lenses, plus annual checkups. Other than on coffee beans, it’s the best money I spend.