HealthCheck

New procedure can whiten your eyes

Monday, March 08, 2010

If you want whiter teeth, you can go to a dentist and get them brightened. Now a new procedure can give you whiter eyes. But is cosmetic surgery for your eyes a good idea?

Steven Smith works long hours and reads a lot of fine print, but he blames years of sun exposure for making his eyes red.

"The byproduct of all the years of sports fishing very foolishly without sunglasses," said Smith.

It irritates him when people tell him how tired he looks. So, he was relieved when his ophthalmologist Dr. Brian Boxer-Wachler described a new eye-whitening procedure called, I-Brite.

"The eye brightening procedure consists of three steps. The first step is I mark the area that needs to be removed that has the blood vessels, or the yellow and brown pigment spots. The second step is I delicately remove that part that contains all the blood vessels and yellowing or the pigment, and that reveals the underlying white of the eyes which we all had when we were young kids," said Dr. Boxer-Wachler.

I-Brite is basically a variation on conjuctiva plasty, a procedure that's been around for decades. Doctors use this procedure to remove growths in the eyes. But in California, they've taken it to a whole new level.

However, taking away healthy, normal eye tissue purely for cosmetic reasons concerns some eye surgeons. They say that tissue is in your eyes for a reason.

"The blood vessels really need to be there. They supply oxygen to the underlying surfaces of the eye," said ophthalmologist Dr. Alan Berg.

Ophthalmologists say the conjunctiva helps protect and lubricate the eye and removing it could increase the possibility of dry eyes and cause scarring. There's also a possible side effect of infection. Dr. Berg says eye drops may be a better alternative for red eyes.

"To have this particular procedure where you just have a little bit of redness, it's a mark of overkill. It would be, I guess, like taking a sledgehammer to a flea," said Dr. Berg.

The surgery takes about 30 minutes and patients can return to work the next day. I-Brite costs between $3,000 and $5,000 per eye. But like most cosmetic procedures, it isn't covered by insurance. The procedure is new and Beverly Hills ophthalmologist Dr. Boxer-Wachler is the only one in the country performing it.

Dr. Boxer-Wachler says the full "whiter and brighter" eye results are visible within two to eight weeks after the procedure. Patients use eye drops for eight weeks to allow for full recovery.

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