Quick Guide: Anxiety and Laser Eye Surgery

Mr Glenn Carp at London Vision Clinic

What’s a normal, healthy level of anxiety?

Everyone gets a bout of the jitters before an event or blows their top over the most trivial thing every now and again. But what constitutes too much and when does a nervous or somewhat cautious demeanour become considered a full-blown anxiety disorder?

In today’s fast-paced world where we can’t even step out our doors without hearing about political unrest, and natural disasters — add to that the traffic and construction work up the street — this question is becoming ever more difficult to answer.

In the UK, more than 10 percent of the population suffer from anxiety. And that’s just the documented cases. In the US, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting nearly 20 percent of the population — over 40 million people.

Experts define the difference between having an anxiety disorder and normal anxiety as whether your emotions are causing you a lot of suffering and dysfunction. In other words, it’s a problem when it interferes with and disrupts your life.

This can manifest in a number of ways, for example, trouble sleeping, muscle tension, chronic indigestion, self-consciousness, and over worrying.

If you live in the 21st century and in the Western world, it’s likely you’re familiar with most if not all of these.

But there’s also another type of anxiety that, rather than being more general and affecting many areas of your life, is attached to one specific situation or thing. Most people know when they have a phobia — they know that needles, spiders, or small spaces terrify them. But with irrational fears, someone can have one and be none the wiser. Their ideas can be masked by layers of false guises like ignorance or faulty knowledge.

Anxiety is the most common reason people decide not to have Laser Eye Surgery. And nine times out of ten this is due to an irrational fear of the procedure. You may think it seems perfectly rational to be a little nervous about having surgery on your eyes, and of course, you’re right. But when your nerves are so extreme they prevent you from undergoing what is an incredibly short, safe, and effective procedure to achieve greater vision and significantly improve your life, that’s when you know there may be a problem.

Luckily there’s a simple solution. Rather than needing to undergo hours of therapy, most people just need to reassess the ideas they have about Laser Eye Surgery.

In this brief guide, we’re going to dispell any irrational fears or anxieties by simply stating the facts. We’ll also show how a bit of nerves are your best friend and what we do to help manage them on the day.

Understand the risks and dispell the fears

Watch Phillip Schofield’s journey to better than 20/20 vision

Most irrational fears, for instance, the fear of clowns, tend to form in early childhood after a particularly stressful event or experience (i.e., watching Chucky), or as a reflection of the fears of a parent or family member.

But others, like the fear of flying, can develop later in life. When this happens, they can often be dispelled by simply gaining a bit more knowledge and understanding. For example, some people go their whole life without flying, thinking it’s too dangerous, but jump in a car and hurtle down the motorway every morning. If only they knew the odds of having a fatal accident on the road is incredibly higher than that in the skies.

Of course, it’s often what will happen if something goes wrong rather than the actual chances of a problem that are worrying. And it doesn’t help when you switch on the news and see another plane crash. This is why it’s important to know the figures and be critical of where you source your information.

Find out the facts behind some of the most common Laser Eye Surgery fears and ensure they don’t stand in your way of a life of greater vision.

Fear of pain

In the short video above, Prof Dan Reinstein explains how Laser Eye Surgery is a completely pain-free procedure.

As it involves lasers and you’re fully awake for it, you may expect to experience pain during Laser Eye Surgery.

But the lasers used are what’s known as ‘cool lasers’ (not like those in the movies), and their very use is what makes the treatment so minimally-invasive and quick. And thanks to anaesthetic eye drops, you won’t feel a thing during the procedure and even for a good 5-10 minutes afterwards.

Fear of complications

Okay, so there’s no need to worry about pain, but what about things going wrong? What if you need to sneeze or the surgeon suddenly gets the shakes?

Over the last two decades, Laser Eye Surgery has evolved from being a manual, scalpal-based procedure to a nearly fully automated laser procedure. Today, it involves safety systems such as eye-tracking and relies more on technology than the surgeon’s hands, significantly reducing the chances of complications. And as technology continues to advance, it’s only making the likeliness of complications drop even further.

The chance of a laser eye surgeon facing a situation which they cannot satisfactorily correct is around 1 in 30,000. Although for this to happen, it would take a series of unlikely events to occur one after the other.

Fear of being awake during surgery

When you think of surgery, you think of rolling down to theatre, the world hazy and fading out due to the anaesthetics, and coming round hours later in the hospital ward. But this is only the case when it’s considered safer and more comfortable for the patient to be unconscious while the procedure is being carried out.

As Laser Eye Surgery is safe, pain-free, and incredibly quick, being fully conscious and aware during the procedure does not put the patient at any risk.

You may think you’d rather be unconscious for it as you don’t trust yourself to stay still or not blink. But for the short few moments, there is a light for you to focus on and your eyes are kept well lubricated with eye drops. Even if you blink, cough, sneeze, or move your eyes by even just a fraction of a millimetre, the eye-tracking system will compensate accordingly.

Fear of going blind

You don’t have to spend two minutes online researching Laser Eye Surgery to find something that supports the idea that Laser Eye Surgery can cause you to lose your sight.

In the few cases that aren’t scaremongering, they’re either freak events that occurred long ago in some obscure location halfway around the world, or treatments performed by unskilled surgeons and outdated technology.

Essentially, no. Technically there is an exceedingly small risk of blindness with laser eye surgery but it is lower than the risk of wearing monthly contact lenses for one year, so a risk that everyone seems to accept as perfectly reasonable.

Why a little anxiety is nothing to stress about

Even after learning the facts and seeing the risks are low, when it comes to the day of your treatment, sometimes you can’t help but be a little nervous.

The increased heart rate, dilated pupils, sweaty palms, and butterflies in the stomach; this is our body experiencing a physiological response to stress. Without it, we’d fail at spotting danger and opportunities and would likely not have made it this far as a species.

But although nerves are vital to our survival, they often appear when we don’t need them and spiral out of control. Luckily, though, our stress response can be influenced. One of the best ways to do this is, as we’ve mentioned, increase your knowledge and understanding of a subject. But another great way to ease your nerves is to look for reassurance in the experiences of others.

Reading reviews of past patients can help to quell the fear of the unknown and get answers to any little niggling worries you have. And if that fails to help, you can always speak with someone who’s been treated directly.

How we manage nerves

As it’s normal for patients to be a little nervous before Laser Eye Surgery, some clinics go beyond providing treatments and make the environment and experience as calming and relaxing as possible.

This could be as simple as complimentary chocolates (scientifically proven to ease anxiety), to having your own dedicated team of staff, there from day one to guide you through your journey. Go to the right place, and you may even get an Indian head massage too!

So there are many ways to help ease your nerves before Laser Eye Surgery: swatting up on the facts, reading reviews, picking a good clinic, keeping busy, and only drawing information from unbias and reputable sources you trust. But remember, a few nerves are perfectly natural. And anyway, before you know it, they’re sure to transform from butterflies in the stomach to waves of anticipation to test drive your new improved clarity of vision.

Have a question about anxiety and Laser Eye Surgery? Ask us in the comments below! Or, if you’d like to book a consultation, contact one of our Patient Care Coordinators. 


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