I was 47 years old with a -33 prescription…

We sat down with our patient Inge to talk about her journey with her vision, and how she has gone from a prescription of -33 to 0…

As a baby, I was born with a prescription of approximately -5 and with each year that passed, it increased by one or two dioptres. By the time I was 18 years old, my prescription was at -20 which continued to grow until I decided to do something about it, back in 2010, when I was 47, and my prescription has reached -33. To make things worse, I had astigmatism of -5! By this point, I had resigned myself to accepting that this was the ‘norm’ for me and nothing could be done. As a window dresser for some of the most prestigious department stores in Germany, my job entails a great amount of time spent in shop windows restyling and moving props around – often producing material fibres and dust, and at Christmas time, artificial snow. Today, 9 years later, I still have no prescription glasses whatsoever to see distance or near, and it is truly liberating.

My glasses had always been a problem; they were extremely heavy and thick, not too dissimilar from coke bottle bottoms! I really didn’t like the way they made me look, and of course, I tried various styles of frames, but with my extremely high prescription, I was very limited for choice. In addition to this, the thick lenses made my eyes appear very small behind them.

When I was about 14 years old, I had begun to feel very self-conscious of my appearance in glasses so I had a conversation with my optician and he told me I was able to start with contact lenses. The first hurdle was learning how to put them in my eyes successfully, which any newbie to wearing contact lenses knows isn’t easy! Of course, at this time the lenses weren’t great; they were rigid hard plastic lenses which starved your eyes of oxygen. It wasn’t long before I started to suffer with red, aggravated eyes and reacted terribly to any contact with dust. It felt as though every single speck of dust possible was attracted to my eyes, and would get under my contact lenses. It really made my life hell…

Thankfully, a new generation of lenses came out. They were an improvement on their predecessors but still, hard lenses are hard plastic on your eye, and not as forgiving as soft lenses.

Walking out into the street was really difficult when it was windy or stormy, I would get so much in my eyes. If I was to go to the beach on my holiday, it was terrible. No water available to wash the lenses in and everything is covered in sand.

The convenience was another big limitation for me. I would always have to remember to bring my cleaning liquids if I was staying overnight somewhere or wanted to be spontaneous. Sometimes I would put them in cups with tap water, because I needed to stay there and couldn’t always get home – very frustrating.

Something which most people take for granted is the freedom to take a nap! I could never do this. If I wanted to take a 10-minute nap, I would have to go through the process of taking out my contact lenses and as you’re not supposed to leave them in. So I could never be spontaneous, I always had to wipe and rinse them, put them away, secure them. I had worn contact lenses for 33 years, so I had come to accept this tedious process as normal for me.

Towards the end, my eyes were constantly irritated and red due to the thick lenses being so heavy and pressurising my eyes. The optician advised me to take them off for a couple of hours a day to relieve my eyes, but the problem is that I would not be able to see or do a thing! I was really helpless. To add to all of this, I noticed that my reading vision began to deteriorate when I turned 42 years old.

Luckily, it was around this time that my old school friend suggested I went to see her husband; Professor Dan Reinstein. After speaking with him, I was asked to come into the clinic and underwent many, many tests and scans. I remember it was the very first model of the Artemis Insight VHF-Ultrasound Scanner which played a key part in identifying a viable treatment plan for me. In fact, I was one of the first patients seen at London Vision Clinic with this technology, which precisely mapped my corneas to show what was possible for my eyes. I also have very thin corneas, so this sort of treatment at clinics which do not have the Artemis technology would have found me unsuitable. I had been told in the past that my eyes were too far short-sighted for the intraocular lens surgery known as clear lens exchange or permanent lens replacement because of the significant risk of producing a retinal detachment with this surgery. I had also been told that even the highest powered Implantable Collamer Lens (known also as the ICL or implantable contact lens) would still leave me with too much myopia to correct on my cornea because they were too thin.

But after all the extensive testing, Professor Reinstein calculated that it might be just possible to correct my vision fully! He concluded that by using a combination of the maximum power ICL combined with a specialised laser technique he developed to treat very high prescriptions even in thin corneas, he could get me fully corrected by subsequent LASIK. Professor Reinstein’s research in ultrasound made him one of the worlds top experts in thin flap creation and handling. Then, together with the Carl Zeiss Visumax femtosecond laser, he developed a way of making flaps that were thinner than the width of a human hair. He also developed specialised manually programmed customised wavefront guided laser profile settings on the Zeiss MEL90 excimer laser for very high prescriptions which protected against the night vision problems of halo and starbursts.

So I decided to go ahead. I had the highest power possible ICL lenses inserted into my eyes, and the remaining prescription was addressed through super thin flap PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision LASIK treatment or as Professor Reinstein calls it: “leptoLASIK”. It was all done so quickly and I truly didn’t feel a thing.

I hadn’t looked elsewhere at the time, as I had simply written off the possibility of vision correction after my struggles, especially laser eye surgery. When I was introduced to Professor Reinstein, it was incredible that I was able to even contemplate life without needing my contact lenses.

Professor Reinstein believes that in his 28,000 eyes experience, my case is the most extreme prescription that he has treated given the constraints of my corneal thickness and initial prescription. It is simply amazing that his research in ultrasound which he started at the beginning of his eye surgery career in New York in the early 1990s led him to not only be able to implant the correct size of ICL with the maximum safety possible, but also perform very high myopia LASIK on my thin corneas safely. I truly believe that he may well have been the only eye surgeon in the world who could have got my eyes from -33 to zero.

I would encourage any person feeling like they are ‘probably unsuitable’ to just get in touch, as I didn’t know it was possible. So if it was possible for me, it may well be possible for you! It was over 9 years ago, and everything has been stable and still is. Most of my friends now require reading glasses, and I don’t! It remains liberating, and I feel very lucky every day.