Although laser eye surgery is a simple procedure, it feels like a huge decision. We're sharing Laura's journey to better vision for anyone else thinking about undergoing refractive surgery.

 

Getting started

Most of us know someone who’s ‘had their eyes done’, and swear it’s the best decision they’ve ever made. Having worn glasses since the age of eight, laser eye surgery is something I’ve dreamed of having too, but had never given it any serious thought until recently.

I’d always thought it a reserve for the extremely rich (not true, if you can’t afford a lump sum, payment plans are available) or the downright brave (also not true, despite the internet horror stories—in the right hands, the procedure is extremely safe). I wanted to know I was in good hands—the best—so I booked an initial consultation at London Vision Clinic, headed up by one of the world’s leading refractive surgeons, and whose reputation precedes.

 

Life with bad eyesight

Laura without glasses
The lesser-spotted Laura with glasses

Being short sighted and wearing glasses has provided its fair share of sit-com type moments over the years. Forget your specs and you’re waving to a fence-post thinking it’s a friend (true story). Open a hot oven with them on and you’re guaranteed laughs from anyone watching—even if they’ve seen it a thousand times before. But there have been some not-so-funny times, too.

I hated wearing glasses as a kid, so I spent most of the time with the edges of my world softened. I got contact lenses at 16 and wore them so much that I eventually got a potentially sight-threatening eye ulcer.

Over the course of the next 16 years, I found myself back at Moorfields eye hospital A&E department at all sorts of hours, with contact lens-related infections or problems. The last few years, my eyes have become dry, itchy and are often pink, so I wear my wear my lenses sparingly (for cycling or running, which I do daily) and spend the rest of the time pushing my glasses back up my nose and living in fear of another infection. In short: it’s all a bit annoying.

 

The initial consultation

eye test

I was at the clinic for just over two hours and had a series of easy, pain-free tests and scans. These measured everything from the thickness of my cornea to the way my eye focuses light, and will help put a picture together of my exact requirements. I then spent over an hour with Vim, an experienced optometrist who assessed my eye health and ultimately, my suitability for laser eye surgery.

Though I’d been told in passing before that I had a condition that dries my eyes out, today it was explained in detail, and after all these years I finally have an explanation for the continuous infections—the condition, Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), combined with contact lens wearing, just wasn’t working for me.

More than that, I was shown images of how my eyes are failing to create enough moisture. Where before I’d been thrust a leaflet by a rushed consultant and left to my own devices, today I learned how I can really go about making a difference to the health of my eyes and how they feel. Just this part of the consultation has been invaluable.

 

How laser surgery works

ReLEx vs Lasik
The left image shows the ReLEx procedure, the right shows LASIK procedure.

In very simple terms, refractive surgery uses a beam of ultraviolet light to reshape the cornea. By adjusting the curve of the cornea, light can be focused correctly on the retina at the back—therefore correcting your vision. London Vision Clinic offers two procedures to do this: Lasik and the newer, less invasive, ReLEx SMILE.

Vim did an amazing job of explaining the procedures and we spent a while discussing the potential benefits as well as the risks.

 

ReLEx SMILE

With Lasik, a miniscule ‘flap’ is created under which the reshaping can be done. The flap is then replaced and the healing begins.

SMILE ReLEx, also just known as SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) removes the need for the ‘flap’, and instead uses a ‘key hole’ technique.

Its less invasive nature means a reduced risk of infection and faster healing time. It’s also more suitable for people with dry eyes, so given my eye condition and history, SMILE is probably the best option for me. Vim will be reviewing my case with Professor Reinstein, who will carry out the procedure, and they’ll decide how best to proceed.

Vim explained that, theoretically I’m suitable for the surgery and that my vision could be completely corrected, which is beyond exciting. First of all, though, I’ll have to fix my very dry eyes.

It’ll take a couple of months of eye drops, eyelid washing, hot compresses and nighttime ointment, but that’s a far better option than risking complications. I feel completely confident in his assessment, and really can’t imagine wanting to go ahead with this sort of procedure feeling anything less than happy.

So, off I go with a bag full of drops and ointments and an appointment to have my dry eyes reviewed in a six weeks’ time. Once my eyes are looking and feeling better, I’ll be one step closer to better vision.
 

Read the next installment of Laura's journey to 20/20 vision

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