The most common vision problems - refractive errors - can be the trickiest to manage. If not treated adequately, a person could lose the ability to focus.
Most refractive errors are congenital, genetic and hereditary, being passed down through the generations and making their appearance soon after birth.
They are classified as myopia or near sightedness; hypermetropia or far sightedness; astigmatism or blurred vision caused by an oval cornea instead of a round one; and presbyopia or a reduced ability to focus on near objects, usually affecting people over 40.
There used to be one solution: spectacles. Today, you can also opt for contact lenses or lasik (Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis) eye surgery. The trick though is to choose the right one.
Experts put spectacles on top of the list, followed by lasik surgery and then lenses.
In this case, most doctors agree that the optimal solution is the spectacles, because there is no direct contact with the surface of the eye, and therefore no risk of infection.
“Though the technology has improved, contact lenses are still foreign bodies. Our eyes are essentially not built for them,” says ophthalmologist Nishant Kumar, consultant at Mumbai’s Hinduja hospital.
Particularly in India’s tropical weather, with its high levels of humidity, doctors say the risk of developing eye infections through the use of contact lenses is as high as 10% to 15%.
“Lenses tend to absorb water, and their moist surface then has a tendency to breed infection,” says Delhi-based Dr Harbansh Lal, co-chairman of the department of ophthalmology at Sir Ganga Ram hospital.
Lasik surgery, meanwhile, has evolved to become a completely bladeless procedure, leading to quicker recovery and lowering chances of infection. But the effects of the surgery are not permanent.
“Ideally, people should get lasik surgery in their 20s, so they can enjoy at least a couple of decades glasses-free,” adds Dr Kumar.
“The minimum age for vision correction surgery is 18 and the eye number should have been stable for a year at least,” says Dr Ritika Sachdev, additional director of medical services at Delhi’s Centre for Sight chain of hospitals. “For seniors, we recommend a bit of a wait if there is a chance of developing a cataract, because even cataract can be gotten rid of in the same surgery.”