If you are contemplating laser eye surgery to correct your eyesight, or maybe someone you know is, there are questions that would inevitably spring to mind. The first would be “what are the risks involved?”
People might be happy to have a tooth capped at the dentist, or a knee reconstructed to keep on playing a favourite sport, but when it comes to considering eye surgery, a sharp intake of breath seems to be the first thing that happens. After all considering laser eye surgery is not the same as considering a pedicure.
Eyes are so fragile – it’s difficult for most people to remotely contemplate letting anyone, however professional and experienced they are, perform surgery on them.
But with millions of LASIK (which stands for Laser In-situ Keratomileusis) surgeries completed since the mid 1990s, the popularity of the procedure is growing, especially with young people.
What are the Risks?
Making use of highly sophisticated equipment as it does, Laser Eye Surgery has eliminated a great deal of the human intervention that has in the past sometimes led to poor outcomes in general surgery.
You don’t seem to hear about people on the TV news magazine programs complaining as much as they do about breast implants, face lifts and so on, and this is borne out in figures compiled on customer satisfaction post surgery. Around 95 per cent of patients are satisfied. Of the ones who are unsatisfied, many could be categorised as expecting a result that was perhaps over optimistic.
Undoubtedly the number of eye surgery procedures is phenomenal, with a typical centre in Australia completing more than 25,000 in a ten year period, so there is a growing acceptance of the procedure in Australia, where people are quick to take up anything technological.
There is some opinion that the surgery may be less effective for older people and people who are very short-sighted. There is a real risk of side effects such as “dry eyes” which may sometimes continue in certain cases. Rare complications include severe infection and or inflammation and a condition known as Iatrogenic Keratectasia. Iatrogenic Keratectasia is a deformation of the cornea post laser eye surgery than in many cases causes the vision to be worse than before the procedure. In severe cases fitting a rigid gas permeable contact lens is required for reasonable vision, as glasses no longer work.
Expect a top level centre to carry out an extensive assessment to confirm that the prospective patient’s eyes are suited to being treated.
Patients undergoing laser eye surgery need to take a good deal of care prior to the procedure. They are required not to wear any contact lenses for up to 3 weeks before being assessed for suitability and dry eyes need to be treated aggressively before any procedure will be considered.
It’s a good idea to check that there hasn’t been any significant change in prescription glasses for two years before the surgery – this ensures that the eyes aren’t undergoing any major change or degeneration at the time.
The whole process seems quite quick and painless, being over in some 20 minutes, with the patient wide awake but probably relaxed by a “little something” and the eyes anaesthetised with drops.
An automatic process holds the eye steady and a laser first cuts a small flap with a hinge at the end to allow folding back, and that allows access to the cornea for a second laser to do its work. This is the most popular procedure, which is called LASIK.
Sometimes after careful examination, the patient is not suitable for LASIK. There are other procedures though that you might be suitable for. These will be discussed in future posts.
Costs of Laser Eye Surgery
Costs for having two eyes treated is upwards of $5,000 although shopping around, especially overseas, can result in some bargain rates, but you would have to ask yourself if the money savings are worth the risk. As they say – you’ve only got one pair of eyes! Make sure you ask your optometrist, who would they recommend, as they will normally only refer to ophthalmologists that they trust.