By Mr Alex J Shortt
As a refractive surgeon I am constantly astonished by the misperceptions that patients and the public have about vision correction surgery. These vary from minor inaccuracies, such as “it only lasts a few years, right?” to the ludicrous; “Do you have to take the eyeball out to do it?”. To be clear, the answer to these questions is no. Here are some of the common myths answered in more detail:
Myth 1. “You can go blind”. This is completely incorrect. There has never been a case of blindness reported anywhere in the world as a result of laser eye surgery. Yes, there are small risks but no more so than risk of damaging your vision by wearing contact lenses.
Myth 2. “I was told my eyes are not suitable for laser”. Most patients have been advised this by their well-meaning optician. Unless you have had a specialized corneal PentacamÒ scan to assess the shape and thickness of your cornea and a full assessment by a refractive surgery specialist then any advice you have been given may be incorrect, especially given the advances in laser technology over the past 10 years.
Myth 3. “My prescription is not suitable for laser” The truth is that with modern state of the art laser eye surgery almost all prescriptions are treatable, from +4.00D of long sightedness to -12D of short sightedness and with astigmatism of up to +/-4D (i.e. a lot!!!). But the misperception does not end there. For patients with even more extreme prescriptions VisianÒ ICL lens implant technology can be life changing.
Myth 4. “I am too young”. If you are over 21 and your prescription has been stable for at least 1 year then most clinics will happily treat you. Many specialists are also happy to treat patients between age 18 to 21 but only if they can show that their prescription is fully stable and not changing.
Myth 5. “I am too old”. It is technically possible to perform laser on a patient of age and my personal record is an 85 year old patient. The issue here is that tradition laser eye surgery corrects distance vision only and reading glasses are still needed. What the public and most opticians are completely unaware of is a new third generation laser called PresbyondÒ LASIK by Zeiss. This is a remarkable new technology which corrects both distance and near vision.
Myth 6. “It hurts, and you smell burning”. The only sensation that you will be aware of during the 2-minute-long procedure is gentle pressure on your eye lasting no more than 30 second. As for the “burning” the LASEK / LASIK laser is actually a cold UV laser and there is no heat involved but the vaporisation process does release carbon atoms which if inhaled do smell a little like burning. If this is a deal breaker for you then simply request the newest 3rd generation of laser called ReLEx SMILE which is smell free and completely silent.
Myth 7. “You have to take 2 week off work” Wrong. You need 2 days off.
Myth 8. “We don’t know the long-term effects of laser”. Wrong. Patients have been undergoing this procedure routinely for 27 years and there hasn’t been a single long-term problem identified.
This is only a taster in terms of the questions people ask on a daily basis. If you would like to read more then visit the Q&A section and the “Videos for Patients” section of our website www.alexshortt.co.uk.