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Author Topic: Laser eye surgery - has anyone had it, if so would you recommend it and...  (Read 4592 times)

Offline Hiheels

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..what was it like? Painful? If so, for how long?
Were you long or short sighted and did it cure it completely?
How long do the effects last? (I would imagine that varies).

Offline siasl

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Twas an interesting experience, and not necessarily for the faint of heart.

I believe that since I had it done, there have probably been advances in techniques, but I'll describe the state of the art as it was around 6 years ago.

Back in the day, there were two options, and I forget what one of them was called. The first option was to have the surface of your eyes "carved" with a laser. This was done one eye at a time, with a gap of days between eyes. I understand the recovery for this was moderately painful, and I think it was the first technique offered.

The second option, LASIK, was known as the "flap & zap". This is what I had. It does both eyes in the same appointment, and your recovery time is effectively overnight.

First you need to have an appointment or two to measure your eyes curvature and to work out the desired changes. The worse your eyesight is, the more chance that you will not end up with 20/20 vision. The technique was better for short sighted folks than long sighted folks, and it can also correct astigmatism (rugby ball shaped eyes).

So, onto the procedure. First up, you sit on a bench and the optician/surgeon marks your eye with a permanent (ish) marker so that he knows which way is up when you are lying down. This is important as when you do lie down, your eyeball will rotate a bit. Then you lie down. You then get some eyedrops that are a local anaesthetic (I think you have some pain receptors there!). Next up, they tape back your eyelids on one eye and get out a whizzy little gadget called a "micro-keratome" (I think) which is effectively a miniature circular saw that runs along a "U" shaped rail. It also comes with a sucker, which they attach to your eyeball prior to flicking the switch to power it up. Here, at the time, surgeries were offering either the "U" shaped rail, or some surgeries offered the "C" shaped rail. The "C" shaped one was the "old-tech", and there were issues with the flaps then not reseating themselves properly as the hinge part in the open end of the C would be somewhat strained.

Anyhow, they switch on the saw and carve a "U" shape out of the surface of the eyeball. Here your vision goes a tad blurry due to the tears (but no pain!). They remove the saw (leaving the sucker, I think, as it helps stabilise your eye position) and you see the surgeon appear wielding a pointy stick which he proceeds to poke you in the eye with. What he does is flip the flap up. Here your vision goes really blurry. Next, a ruddy great machine with a small red light on is pushed into place above your eye. This is the laser, and you stare into the light while you hear the high frequency zap-zap-zap (think the sparks from a piezoelectric lighter) and smell the burning flesh (not too unpleasant). I like to think that I could see where the laser was hitting as it carved my eye up - I think it swept around in an anti-clockwise direction. Anyhow, once the zapping stops your eye is carved into shape. It's worth noting that the laser equipment can tolerate some eye movement as it has a camera pointed at your eye too, to ensure that the zap it's going to do is aimed at the right place. It's also a gradual process so that it can afford to be slightly out a few times. Still - you need to make an effort to keep your eye from wandering.

Next up, you see that blurry shape that is the optician/surgeon come in with that pointy stick, and the flap is then flipped shut. The sucker removed, and an eye-patch applied. Then you repeat it on the next eye.

After it's all complete, you go sit in a dark room for an hour or two before you are allowed to go home. Wear sunglasses for the way home and for the rest of the day. You would also be sent home with some drops for your eyes (that anaesthetic, again) that you should put in every hour or so or suffer some discomfort. I stuck my drops in and then went straight to bed - slept like a baby (which is a misnomer, in itself) and woke up with slightly sore eyes, but near perfect vision.

Over the next week or two, expect fluctuations in your eyesight, but it should settle down.

Note: you have a small, but non-trivial chance of ending up with imperfect vision that may still require correction for things like driving.

Was it worth it? Yep, indeedy. I was rather fed up with glasses, and contact lenses were a right pain in the behind.

Offline Hiheels

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Interesting stuff!

It made my eyes water a little just reading it, but as a contact lens wearer I'm used to sticking things in my eye. Like you say, though, they're a pain, especially if you get a bit of grit caught behind them - they stick on the liquid surface and of course irritation makes your eye water...hence making it more difficult to get the lens out when you really need to. A brilliant invention  :-[

I might look in to it further, if you'll pardon the almost non-existent pun.

Offline siasl

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Things to read (I found some old bookmarks):
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A593679
http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1998/498_eye.html
http://www.optimaxuk.co.uk/
http://www.stlukeseye.com/
http://uk.opticalexpress.com/

The first two seem a bit out of date, though. PRK is the one where they just carve your eyeball - I'd be surprised if anyone still offered that, though.

I had mine done at Boots in Reading - I'm not sure they still do it, though. But hunt around for an experienced practitioner, and there used to be some review sites out there (although my link for that has since died a death and there is no longer a site there).

Offline Hiheels

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Splendid - I'll have a shufty at those for starters, cheers.

Offline siasl

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Bah - forgot to list other known side-effects that I was told about and have experienced (and remember):

a) I get tired eyes a lot easier, and they go bloodshot a bit easier - particularly if staring at a laptop screen for significant durations
b) starburst vision at night - i.e. bright lights such as headlights have a corona around them (doesn't interfere with driving, though)
c) slightly drier eyes than before

It is possible that the flap comes loose (I've not had that) - in particular if you have a habit of rubbing your eyes a lot (which you are advised against). Also, you will probably want to take extra care against getting stuff in your eyes as they will be slightly more sensitive.

Lastly, it will not prevent degeneration of sight caused by age.

Offline Hiheels

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I tend to get the corona thing anyway, suspect it's the lenses - interesting about getting tired more easily though.

And ARGH! at the flaps coming loose.

Offline siasl

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I think the flaps coming loose is due to the fact that they never reseal up - i.e. the flap will always be there. But I could be wrong, on that account. I've not had any trouble with mine in 6 or so years - but that's not to say that I won't later on in life. But then it might just be down to the "applied force" - as long as it's small enough you'll be ok. Worth asking an optician about it...

Offline Hiheels

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Mind you, as a contact lens wearer it's easy to get in to not rubbing your eyes - I suppose anyone used to just glasses would have to concentrate on breaking the habit more.

Offline robinsamuels

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I want to have this done, but I've been put off by my wife.

The problem is that there have been no long term trials on the side effects of the treatment. Yes, there are people around who have had treatment for years, but they keep moving the goalposts. All of the treatments done now are new or modified versions of the older treatments. Because the techniques keep changing, there is no way to set up an accurate study on the long term benefits and risks. All the companies say, if there are problems, is that they don't use technique x any more so don't worry.