Milk-Bottle Specs? Now You Can Have Laser Surgery, Too.

Up to half a million Britons can’t have Laser Eye Surgery because their prescription is too high or their corneas are too thin.

Mother-of-two Kal Chauhan, 45, from Preston, Lancashire, was the first person in Britain to undergo a new procedure suitable for this group.

The Patient

‘Now, I just open my eyes and see – it’s glorious,’ said Kal Chauhun

Poor eyesight runs in my family. I started wearing glasses when I was nine and during secondary school my vision continued to deteriorate.

I needed a minus 11.5 prescription, so I had to wear thick lenses — not ideal for a fashion- conscious teenager.

When I was about 16, I made the transition to contact lenses.

They worked fine at first, but during my 30s, they started to irritate my eyes, making them red and bloodshot.

I tried all types — hard, soft, dailies, monthlies — but still had problems.

So three years ago I went to a clinic to find out about Laser Eye Surgery.

But after tests the surgeon told me I wouldn’t be suitable because my corneas — the clear, front part of the eye — were too thin.

He said the cornea helps you focus, and with Laser Eye Surgery they sometimes need to remove quite a lot of tissue from it.

So while I wouldn’t have to wear such thick lenses any more, he couldn’t guarantee that I could ditch the glasses altogether after the op.

My husband Raj and I decided it wasn’t worth going through with the surgery and paying money only to have to wear glasses, so I gave up on the idea. It was pretty depressing.

Then, this year, a friend said she’d heard about a surgeon called Professor Dan Reinstein, who was doing a new procedure that might work for my eyes.

When I went to see him he said the new procedure didn’t cut into the cornea, so he could correct vision even in people with a thin corneas like me. Professor Reinstein said he’d done this operation on countless people overseas, but I was to be the first to have it in Britain.

I had a three-hour assessment to test the quality of my vision, the shape of the cornea and the general health of my eyes. I had the first eye done in April, and the second in May.

My eye was held open by a metal device and I was told to remain still. When I was lying down and the laser was coming towards me, for a split second I thought, what if it all goes wrong?

But when they said it was over after only a few minutes I couldn’t believe it; I didn’t feel anything. My brother collected me and I had to keep my eyes closed for 30 minutes until I got to his house.

I was given a recovery kit, which included antibiotics in case I got an infection. I had to put drops in my eyes every 15 minutes to stop them from getting dry.

My vision was a little blurry at first, but just a day after the treatment my eyesight was good enough not to need glasses. By about the third day I could drive without my glasses and my eyesight is now better than 20/20.

For my whole adult life, the first thing I did every morning was feel around for my glasses on the bedside table. Now, I just open my eyes and see — it’s glorious.

Both my son Shamil, 19, and daughter, Dayna, 14, wear glasses, but after seeing me, they want Laser Eye Surgery sooner rather than later!

The surgeon

Professor Dan Reinstein  is an ophthalmic surgeon at the London Vision Clinic, Harley Street. He says:

There are probably upwards of half a million people in the UK who previously were not candidates for Laser Eye Surgery who can benefit from this new laser treatment.

In a normal eye, light rays are focused onto an area at the back of the eye, the retina. The image on the retina is then interpreted by the brain.

With long or short-sight, the cornea is misshapen, so the image is focused either behind or in front of the retina. Laser Eye Surgery changes the shape of the cornea, helping the patient see without the need for glasses or lenses.

In traditional procedures, a circular flap of tissue is cut from the surface of the cornea with a very fine blade or laser, allowing the surgeon to evaporate the tissue of the cornea underneath, changing its shape.

However, the cornea must be thick enough to allow the removal of the right amount of tissue to correct the vision.

Generally speaking, conventional Laser Eye Surgery can only correct prescriptions between minus 8 and minus 10.

With ReLEx laser treatment, people with thin corneas and even high prescriptions of higher than minus 10 can be treated because we don’t make a flap from the corneal surface.

Instead, we remove the tissue from the centre of the cornea through a tiny tunnel, leaving the front of the cornea intact.

What’s more, the technique almost completely eliminates the common side-effect dry eye, which can linger for  several months after conventional Laser Eye Surgery.

This is because, in creating a flap, the surgery cuts the nerves within the cornea, which upsets the production of tears.

ReLex uses a new, more precise laser to create micro-pulses beneath the cornea surface. The patient feels virtually nothing during the surgery because any contact with the eye is very gentle and the eye is numb from anaesthetic drops.

First, we assess the patient and determine the geometry of the cornea in detail and compute the exact amount of tissue that needs removing.

During the procedure, an  eyelid holder holds the eye open.

Then a contact lens is attached to the anaesthetised cornea to protect the eye, and the micro-pulses of laser are delivered which takes about 30 seconds — this creates an  incision in the cornea.

We then use pulses to cut away the right amount of  tissue to change the shape of the cornea and draw the tissue out with tiny tweezers.

The patient rests for a short time and by that evening their vision is much clearer. By the next morning their vision is anything from 90 to 100 per cent perfect.

There may be temporary side-effects for the first few weeks including seeing haloes around lights, but these usually settle within four to six weeks.

I have performed close to 19,000 conventional laser eye procedures, but I am convinced that this procedure is the wave of the future: it’s a marvel.