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Perfect Vision

By Inese Timuka . 02.11.2009

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Our eyes are our windows to the world. Outstanding vision enables us to experience life to its fullest. Many visual dysfunctions are effectively treated. To find out what local experts can offer, we visited some of the city’s best eye clinics.

Laser treatment

Vision repair surgery, also called refractive and laser eye surgery, is a surgical procedure used to correct problems associated with people’s vision. In recent years, tremendous advances have been made in this field. After refractive and laser eye surgery, many patients report seeing better than they have at any other time in their lives. With laser systems the actual treatment time lasts only a few seconds. The average treatment takes no more than 10-12 seconds and in many cases even less. This speedy treatment reduces the risk of infection
because it minimizes the exposure time to the surrounding air. Also, quick treatment lessens the healing and recovery period since the stress impact on the eye is lessened and dehydration is reduced.

Pioneers in Latvia

Overall there are around 200 eye doctors in Latvia. The Latvian American Eye Center, established in 1993, was the country’s first private ophthalmologic clinic. It currently offers treatments from the provision of spectacles to highly delicate ophthalmic operations.
Dr Mara Briede, the center’s chief doctor, told RigaNOW! that since the 1990s the ophthalmic industry has grown rapidly, and today Latvian doctors use the most modern diagnostic equipment and surgical techniques available.
“Our foreign colleagues evaluate our work at the highest level,” she said. “Latvian eye doctors regularly attend ophthalmology congresses, to share their achievements with their colleagues.”
Their work has been appreciated by foreign patients as well. “We have quite a lot of foreign diplomats and businesspeople among our patients,” she said. Another pioneer in the field with more than 25 years of clinical experience, Dr IgorsSolomatins, established his own medical center for different kinds of eye treatments back in 1999. Solomatins was the first eye doctor to use laser operations in the Baltic
region. His clinic provides a full range of services connected with eye health problems, from simple spec prescriptions to complicated eye surgery. Asked about foreign patients, he explained that they come to his clinic because of good recommendations they hear. He has plenty of patients from Germany, the UK, Denmark, Italy and other countries in Europe.
“But interestingly, nowadays a lot of foreign students from the east come for practice at my center too.”

That is because of the high level of knowledge and modern technologies Solomatins use. He emphasized: “We not only own these technologies, but know how to work with them as well.” They deal with almost all kinds of eye pathologies at all ages with state-of-the-art equipment. Dr Solomatins added that although their technology is modern sometimes it is not possible for some patients to have laser eye surgery for certain reasons. But there are other methods, such as surgical alternatives for acquiring clear vision, and one of these is lens implants (ICL). Dr Briede said: “If you are very short or long-sighted ICL is the best treatment as it can correct your short-sightedness and astigmatism at the same time. Each lens is made individually for each patient.”

Quick and affordable

Dr Felikss Lukins opened his vision correction clinic in 2003, and his specializations are cataracts, glaucoma and refractive and plastic eye surgery. Dr Lukins cautioned that vision correction is one of the most expensive operations in Europe, but that Latvia can be comparatively inexpensive. Since January, he has begun to cooperate with a orwegian medical travel company, who send him every month a group of 10-15 patients. “Previously, this company sent patients to Istanbul, to Prague, but now they are directed to Latvia because of good air connections and the short distance – and the fact that we offer good quality for a good price.”
Usually it happens like this, he said: “Patients visit the doctor in their home country for the initial tests. They then arrive in Riga, let’s say on Thursday, do further tests in our clinic, and on Friday the operation is done. The next day we make some checks and then they leave on the fourth or fifth day.” Back in Norway, the company organizes postoperative checkups too. Payments, of course, should be made prior to the treatment.
Dr Solomatins gave an example of the kind of prices being offered:

“The average cost for laser eye treatment in Europe is EUR 4000, but at my clinic it’s just EUR 1000.”
He added that the techniques they use for operations are virtually the same, but the prices are lower just because of lower labor costs – even though service here tends to be more attentive and personal than in Western Europe.

Eye prostheses – unique in the Baltics

There are cases where patients have lost not only their vision but also the eye as well. The leader in this field, Dr Valdis Valters, is the only ocularist in the Baltics who works with eye prosthesis. Most of his clients are foreigners; just 20 percent of his clients are locals. And foreign patients are more and more interested in his products. “Usually patients need my help after serious accidents, but there are patients with inherited conditions too.” Valters works with the world’s best materials and state-of-the-art technologies. He doesn’t have many competitors as his business is so specific, but at the same time it is badly needed. He said there are only two laboratories making glass prostheses in this part of the world. Usually patients find him through eye clinics or have been recommended to seek him out.
Even though he has plenty of work, he likes to be involved in the process personally. “I travel a lot to Estonia, Lithuania, Scandinavia and countries to the east too and I enjoy working closely with my patients.
Together we find the best technological solution we can use.”
Valters said that usually the fabrication process and fitting of ocular prostheses are done on the same day, but patients stay for two more days after the prosthesis is fitted. “After that we only need to meet again after three or four years.” Asked about the costs for patients, Valters said that prices may vary depending on whether he has an agreement with the country or whether the patient is paying himself, as well as used technology and materials
but he hesitated to say the exact price.

Summing up

The recession has made several changes in the medical professional, in a positive sense. Most experts confirm that specialists have become better available for their patients and their schedules are not as tight as they were only a year-and-a-half ago. All our experts confirmed that Riga is a good and affordable destination for foreign patients. Doctors are easily accessible, Dr Briede said: “Before their arrival in Riga, patients usually communicate with us by email or Skype, so we are close enough during these days!”
Add to this the affordable prices, doctors communicating in various languages and the attentive service, and you have your perfect medical tourism destination.

Helli 18.12.2009 15:37

Does Dr. Valters travel to Scandinavia too?



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