Deciding to get laser eye surgery can often be a huge decision, not helped by some common myths surrounding the process and the potential side effects.
But, regaining your sight can also be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do, so we thought we’d bust those myths (and horror stories!) and find out what really happens if you opt for surgery.
Mr David Allamby is a specialist laser eye surgeon and founder of London’s Focus Clinic.
He’s not only one of the most respected vision experts in the world, but he’s also treated a host of celebrities, including model David Gandy, Olympian Victoria Pendleton, TV host Laura Whitmore and Love Island’s Scott Thomas.
Here, he lifts the lid on everything you ever needed to know about surgery to correct vision:
How does it work?
The most popular form of laser eye surgery is called LASIK – aka ‘laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis’. It works by changing the curvature of the cornea, the transparent, curved window at the front of the eye. Something called an ‘excimer laser’ evaporates a really thin layer of collagen within the upper layers of the cornea and surgically reshapes the overall dome.
This means light entering at the front of the eye comes to a clear focus on the retina at the back of the eye, ensuring you can see clearly. And several studies have shown that once the shape of the cornea is adjusted, the change is ‘permanent’.
Will I ever need to wear contacts / glasses ever again?
It’s a common myth that surgery will ‘wear off,’ but your surgery for short-sightedness should last many, many years or indeed for your lifetime. The same applies for correcting astigmatism.
Long-sightedness and the need for reading glasses are age-related problems, and so re-treatment may be needed in the future.
At our clinic, we give short-sighted patients a ten-year guarantee on their laser surgery – ten times longer than other clinics.
So, in the extremely rare circumstance that you require re-treatment in the first 10 years post-treatment, the cost of the repeat surgery is free!
Might I need to wear reading glasses?
As we age, the lenses in our eyes lose some of the elasticity that lets them focus on objects up-close. This is just part and parcel of growing old and known as ‘presbyopia’, and is the reason why many people aged 40 and over will need reading glasses.
But there are solutions.
We offer two techniques that can help patients already suffering from presbyopia—the ‘LASIK Blended Vision’ procedure, or alternatively Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE). The choice will depend on your age and prescription.
Also, contrary to common misconceptions, if you’re under 40, LASIK surgery will NOT cause you to need reading glasses prematurely.
How long does the procedure take?
The laser aspect of the surgery lasts for just a few minutes per eye and takes around 10 minutes in total.
The rest of the time—your appointment will last for about 90 minutes—simply involves the surgeon carrying out a series of checks to ensure complete accuracy.
After surgery, you’ll spend about twenty minutes in a patient recovery room, essentially relaxing while eating tea and biscuits!
How long is recovery time / will I need much time off work?
With LASIK, most patients have a little discomfort immediately after surgery, as your eyes need a few hours to heal.
You’ll also need someone to drive you home or help with a taxi, too, and you should rest up for the remainder of the day. If in London, you mustn’t use the tube on the way home, to avoid dust or dirt being blown into your face.
Your eyes might also feel a little dry and scratchy, though this won’t last long and eye drops can relieve the symptoms.
You’ll have a follow-up appointment at the clinic the following morning after surgery, and most people are then able to return to work immediately afterwards.
Do I have to stop wearing contact lenses pre-surgery?
Contact lenses can alter the shape of your corneal surface, so it’s important you take them out long enough for your cornea to return to its natural shape before surgery.
Typically, if you wear regular soft contact lenses or extended wear lenses, you’ll need to take them out a week before surgery.
But if you wear Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, and have been doing so for some time, you might need to go without contacts for 4-8 weeks before coming in for your treatment.
It’s also fine to switch to soft lenses for most of this time if you’d rather not wear glasses for that long.
How long will it take after the surgery for me to be able to see?
Most patients who have LASIK will have good vision straight after surgery. However, in some cases, it can take up to 24 hours for your 20/20 (or better) vision to come into effect.
It’s also important to remember that laser eye surgery doesn’t hurt. Most patients don’t find it an uncomfortable procedure, more strange and rather ‘sci-fi’!
How do they stop your eyes from blinking during the surgery?
During surgery, your eyes are gently held open by a device which makes sure you can’t blink.
You’re given anaesthetic drops so that you don’t get any pain, and it’ll feel like you’re blinking normally, even though your eyelids aren’t opening and closing. The muscle to blink still twitches, but the lids don’t close.
Some people worry that if they move—or sneeze!—it will affect the results. But it’s impossible to do so. During the time the laser is running, sophisticated tracking technology rapidly analyses the position of the eye to make sure it’s always in exactly the right position.
And this all takes place faster than you can physically move your eyes anyway. All you have to do is look at the flashing green light directly in front of you and your surgeon will do the rest.
What happens if something goes wrong?
As with everything, when you’re choosing a surgeon you need to think carefully and check their results. You should ask questions like, “What percentage of patients get 20/20 vision after surgery?”
Be aware that the main risk in laser eye surgery is a surgeon who selects and treats people who aren’t actually good candidates for surgery in the first place.
You should choose a specialist surgeon who works in a lower volume setting, and who can, therefore, take the time to properly assess and treat you.
As with any surgery, there are potential risks, but treatments are available for almost all complications that affect your vision.
Serious complications with LASIK are actually very rare if the patient is well selected.
The chance of having a significant complication affecting your vision (in one eye or the other) from LASIK is around 1 in 10,000. The risk of infection is even less, at 1 in 20,000.
What precautions do I need to take following the surgery?
It’s bad news if you like swimming or hot showers—we recommend avoiding getting water in your eyes for the first 48 hours after surgery and you should keep away from saunas and steam rooms for around two weeks.
You should also skip sporting activities for the first week after treatment, which will give your eyes time to heal properly. As for flying, you can take short-haul flights the next day after surgery and you can travel long-haul around a week after treatment.
Original Date: November 29, 2017