Laser Eye Surgery – See The Light

Darren Chouch transformed his cycling with laser eye surgery, and so can you.

The Problem:

“I used to wear glasses for cycling” says Darren Couch. “I had worn contact lenses from age 18 but developed an intolerance for them so could not wear them all day. Riding in the rain totally smeared the lenses so I couldn’t see and at night it was worse because of the beads of rain. It made riding much more dangerous.”

“Glasses do not have full peripheral vision so you are not aware of the people coming up behind you, whether that’s cars, pedestrians or even trucks. I’d imagine it’s the same in a competitive environment; you can’t hear cyclists and will be less aware of who is around you. You feel safer when you have better awareness. Riding at night was the most unpleasant because of the glare and ghosting from the glasses.”

The Rider:

Darren Couch is a regular commuter riding round 100 miles a week from Middlesex to London. He also enjoys training rides around Richmond Park. Although he has never raced, Couch describes himself as willing to ride “pretty hard” but more for the fitness gains than competitive ambition.

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The Expert:

Darren Couch works as director of optometry at London Vision Clinic so he was in the perfect position to know the options available to him and decide on his own course of treatment.

“Laser eye surgery was developed for people who are short-sighted. Problems with early treatment left starbursts or halos from light and the quality of vision at night was not so good. More recent treatment techniques have eliminated glare and starbursts for the very short-sighted and there is now customised treatment in even very high prescriptions. The risk of anything going wrong in the hands of an expert is 0.1 per cent per eye. The risk is low and always improving.”

The Solution:

There are two basic procedures, Lasik or surface work. The two treatments give the same results in the end but the surface treatment takes longer for vision to recover, from one week to ten. With Lasik you can see the next day. Lasik surgery employs a laser to create a thin hinged circular flap of tissue on the cornea – window of the eye – a small incision is made and the tissue pulled back. A laser is used to reshape the cornea and then the flap is folded back down.

In surface treatment the flap isn’t cut, instead a treatment is used to remove the epithelium (skin or surface cells) then a laser is used to go down through the stroma (deeper layer) to do the reshaping. The cells on the surface of the eye regenerate every five days. After treatment contact lenses are used to help cells heal correctly – rather like when you have grazed your skin and a bandage is used to stop exposure to the environment and allow healing.

The Outcome:

“Laser eye surgery has revolutionised cycling for me,” says Couch. “Now I feel safer out on the road, less concerned in the wet, and I have extra freedom on my bike. Generally the very short-sighted need small glasses, which means you can get wind rush around your eyes.”

“Surgery has allowed me to wear wraparound sports glasses, which made sporting life much more enjoyable. With prescription lenses you always need a second tinted pair of sunglasses, which means carrying them around in your kitbag, but now I can wear ordinary glasses.”

“After surgery there are no hassles or annoyances with vision, and there is the added benefit of increased safety. I think eye surgery can provide an extra edge for short-sighted competitive cyclists.”

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Cycling Week