“I Can See Clearly Now”

Published in the Daily Express

New techniques mean that thousands who previously could not have Laser Eye Surgery can now be safely treated. JULIE CARPENTER explains why she can throw away her hated glasses at last.

There is one reason why many people still shy away from having Laser Eye Surgery to correct short or long-sightedness and that is fear. I was the same. Despite the fact more than 30 million people worldwide have had LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis), the most common form of corrective eye surgery, I had never plucked up the courage.

Even after 20 years of wearing glasses and contact lenses I was wary of complications. Then I read about London based ophthalmic surgeon Professor Dan Reinstein.

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“In the last five years,” he says, “the safety of Laser Eye Surgery with the best expertise, the best equipment and the best aftercare has at least matched or even surpassed the safety of contact lenses.”

It got my attention, not least because last year I suffered a potentially serious eye infection called keratitis, which was almost certainly caught through use of my lenses.

I was told if not detected early (luckily mine was) it could lead to sight loss. Suddenly Laser Eye Surgery appeared more attractive, especially as I’ve never really got on with glasses. If you are considering laser surgery it pays to do your research. When I went for some initial consultations to determine the suitability of my eyes I was given conflicting information.

One thing seemed to be constant, though, the surface of my cornea, the transparent window of the eye, was quite irregular and appeared to mimic a disorder called keratoconus, in which the cornea bulges forward. Having this condition would have jeopardised my chances of treatment as performing laser surgery on an eye with keratoconus can have devastating consequences.

Luckily for me there is now a piece of new technology called the Artemis ultrasound scanner, which has been pioneered by Professor Reinstein. It is the only instrument capable of making a 3D-map of the individual layers of corneal tissue, measuring them to within one-thousandth of a millimetre.

Professor Reinstein’s clinic, the London Vision Clinic, is one of a handful in the world to have this piece of equipment, which enables more patients to be safely treated.

Having the Artemis scan is a surreal experience because your eye is flooded with a warm sterile saline solution but it is quick and painless.

The result was what I had hoped for. I didn’t have keratoconus and my chance of post-surgery complications was the same as for anyone else treated at the clinic. I had a 0.1 per cent chance of having a minor complication which could most likely be corrected. I decided it was worth the risk.

The London Vision Clinic claims to be the safest Laser Eye Surgery clinic in the country, with the highest success rate. Its technology includes an advanced version of wavefront-guided treatment which uses a highly accurate scan of the surface of the eye to guide the laser during surgery. Called Power Wavefront Treatment it enables much higher prescriptions to be safely treated.

It is also the only clinic in the UK to use the Carl Zeiss VisuMax blade free laser, which is reputedly not only the most accurate device but also the most comfortable for patients.

Having Laser Eye Surgery is not, stresses Professor Reinstein, a case of popping in, having the surgery and never returning again. He regularly sees patients for a year after.

As for the surgery itself LASIK treatment involves creating a thin flap of superficial tissue in the cornea using one type of laser, revealing the interior of the cornea and then reshaping the exposed tissue to each patient’s exacts needs. The flap is then replaced.

My problem was short-sightedness (a minus 5 prescription) as well as astigmatism, which meant I couldn’t really do anything without glasses or lenses.

Yet no matter how keen I was to be free of them it was impossible not to get nervous before the operation.

On the day I was given a bagful of eye drops which I would need for up to a month following surgery, as well as two plastic eye shields to be worn at night for a week.

My eyes were completely anaesthetised so I didn’t feel any pain, nothing ever “went dark” and it took seven minutes.

As soon as I got up from the surgery bed I could tell my vision was improved, if very cloudy. I could even read a clock on the wall. I was then told to sit for several hours in a dark room at home, only opening my eyes to put in drops every 15 minutes.

The first hour was uncomfortable. I felt as though I’d spent all day chopping onions but the discomfort soon subsided.

The next day I woke up and could clearly see my boyfriend’s face and when I went for my 24-hour check-up I was told that my corneal flap had already healed: fast by anyone’s standards.

My vision did take time to adjust, however. For a few days my far vision seemed incredible, better than it had been with my contact lenses, but my near-sight was quite blurry. I had been told that it would take at least a month to adjust so I didn’t panic.

Three months on and after using the eye drops I have 20/20 vision and it seems as if a miracle has taken place. Best of all I can finally throw my glasses away.

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Daily Express (I Can See Clearly Now)