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Seven Things Nobody Tells You Before You Get Laser Eye Surgery

1. You’ll probably wish you’d had it done sooner.

The Telegraph

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From wishing you’d had it done sooner to not wearing a jumper on the day of surgery, here’s everything you didn’t know about laser eye surgery…

You’ll probably wish you’d had it done sooner

“I wanted laser eye surgery for many years before I actually got it,” says 40-year-old Lucy Whitehead from Surrey. “I started wearing glasses at university because I’m short sighted with astigmatism. But I didn’t love wearing them and never felt they suited me, so I moved to contacts but I suffer from dry eye so I never got on with those either.

"I spent most of my twenties and thirties debating whether to get laser eye surgery and every time I went to book it, I chickened out fearing it may be painful or go wrong. I got married in 2007 and wanted it for my wedding day, but I had this fear of it going wrong and being blind at my wedding so I put it off again.

"When I finally had it in 2014, it was so simple, painless and effective, I just remember thinking, ‘Why on earth didn’t I do this sooner?’ I wish I’d had it done years ago.”

There are a few types to choose from

“LASIK  is the most common form of laser eye surgery,” says Professor Reinstein, a specialist ophthalmic surgeon at the London Vision Clinic. “A flap is created within the outer layer of the cornea which simply folds back, and a computer controlled amount of tissue is removed, then the flap is returned to its original position. Most patients only feel mild discomfort for a few hours and visual recovery is fast, with most patients seeing 20/20 or practically 20/20 the next morning.

“LASEK eye surgery involves the surface skin of the cornea being polished away and a laser evaporates the tissue required to change the prescription off the surface of the cornea itself. Recovery takes 4-5 days with protective specialised bandage contact lens. It’s mainly used for patients with glasses who also have problems with their corneal surface: such as contact lens infections that have caused scarring."

Before deciding, however, it’s best to keep an open mind: “There are a few other types, and while most patients come to us with an idea of which treatment they want, after a consultation, eye exam and medical evaluation they often have something different,” says Professor Reinstein.

It’s not the time to look for a deal

“Another reason I waited so long is because I wanted to take my time finding the right surgeon,” said Lucy. “Some high street brands offer it, and I’m sure they’re brilliant, but I thought if I’m going to do it I’m going somewhere good and I spent ages researching clinics and surgeons and ending up choosing the London Vision Clinic. I met the team at the clinic, had several lengthy consultations and lots of different equipment was used to screen my eyes, to check my eyes were a good candidate for surgery. It was time consuming, but it was comforting they didn’t just say yes and sign me up the minute I walked through the door.

"I ended up spending £4,800 to have LASIK Smile, and while I know people who have had brilliant results on the high street, I didn’t feel this was the time to go looking for the cheapest deal.”

If you’re a new mother, you may have to wait

“I was breastfeeding my youngest child when I first went to the clinic," says Lucy, "and I was told I would need to have stopped breastfeeding three months before the procedure. This is because breastfeeding affects your sight and you need to let your vision settle to its natural state. So many things affect your eyes that I didn’t realise.”

Don’t wear make-up on the day of surgery - or a wooly jumper

“Patients are unable to drive on the day of surgery or take underground public transport,” says Professor Reinstein, who suggests asking somebody take you to and from your surgery. “However, practically all patients are seeing to the driving standard the next day.

"On the day, we also ask patients not to wear any make-up, hair products, perfume or cologne. Patients should not drink alcohol on the night before or the day of surgery. And woollen clothing and anything which may generate lint should not be worn either as it can land in and irritate the eye, which can cause uncomfortable itching and even increase your risk of infection.” 

It doesn’t hurt (really)

“On the day of the surgery, I arrived at the clinic and was talked through the anaesthetic drops I would be given pre-procedure and the tablets I’d need to take afterwards for pain and infection prevention," says Lucy. "Then I went into the room, a machine was pressed against my eye and that was it. It was all over so quickly you don’t have time to think about it.

"It didn’t hurt, although it did feel uncomfortable having something pressed against my eye. You’re not supposed to open your eyes much for 24 hours afterwards and not look at sunlight, so I spent some time at the clinic wearing sunglasses and then went home and rested with my eyes shut as much as possible. That night I slept with eye guards on - similar to the type you wear on a sunbed - and for the rest of the week.

"The next day I turned on the TV and could see it crystal clear and my vision just got better and better after that.”

You may need more treatment in the future

“I was told I may have to go back in the first year if anything needed tweaking, but it didn’t so now I just see an optician once a year like everybody else,” says Lucy. “But my surgeon told me they can’t control how my eyes will naturally age over the years.”

“The effects of laser eye surgery are mostly permanent,” says Professor Reinstein. “However, the eye of course is a living organ and over many years can change. However, after surgery it’s relatively simple to make small adjustments to counter these ageing changes.”

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This post originally appeared on The Telegraph and was published September 13, 2018. This article is republished here with permission.