Wednesday, 8 July 2015
Piece for the Huff Post on Laser Eye Surgery
Here's something I wrote for the Huffington Post about my laser eye surgery. It's not on the Huff yet, I'm going to post it there tonight so it'll probably be visible tomorrow. I have to find a picture to go with it and the kids are home now so I'll leave it until later. But anyway, here's the piece - it summarises my experiences since I had the surgery, which I think was about five months ago.
I Had Laser Eye Surgery to Correct My Vision – Should You?
I have been short-sighted for as long as I can remember. I was thirteen before I or anybody else realised it - a teacher noticed me squinting at the blackboard, my mother took me off to the optician and I found out what I had been missing all those years (just about everything). Still, with unfathomable vanity, I refused to wear the National Health glasses I was given, so I only had the benefit of corrected vision when I got contact lenses several years later. I wore them pretty much every waking hour for the next thirty years.
I became gradually more short-sighted over the years and as middle age encroached I became long-sighted too - I struggled to see things close to me as well as further away. When the optician suggested either bifocals, or reading glasses to be worn on top of my contact lenses, I realised I had to take action.
I had considered laser eye surgery in the past but not gone ahead with it because of a combination of cowardice and prohibitive cost. But about five months ago, I had Lasik Wavefront surgery to correct my vision. The procedure took less than one minute per eye. I went home to rest and the next morning I could already see well enough to drive. My vision improved further over the following weeks.
The operation was a bargain - it cost just under £2000, although I did haggle a bit to get this price. I paid a small deposit on the day and I will pay the rest on interest-free credit – just one hundred pounds a month for eighteen months. My husband has calculated that after four years, based on the cost of contact lenses and glasses, the operation will have paid for itself. Everyone should do this, surely? It’s a no-brainer, yes?
Not exactly. I am a bargain hunter, but even I wouldn’t have laser eye surgery because it was cheap. In this case, the surgeon who carried out my procedure had been personally recommended by a girl who worked at my optician and that was why I put my trust in him.
I am grateful to be able to see so clearly and I don’t regret undergoing the procedure but I am not sure that I could, or would, undergo it again. I was so scared in the operating theatre that I had a panic attack which was terrifying as well as embarrassing. You are not supposed to have laser eye surgery if you suffer from anxiety (I fibbed on the pre-op form). I would advise anyone else who decides to push through the procedure despite their nerves that they should at the very least visit their doctor and ask for a tranquiliser to take on the morning of the operation. Generally, I am anti-medication, but in this case I wish I had made an exception.
I had to take a lot of eye drops (anti-inflammatories, artificial tears and antibiotic drops) in the days and weeks after the operation, and for the first week I had to sleep wearing eye shields. This didn’t bother me much and nor did not being able to wear make-up for a fortnight but I know some people might find this hard to cope with. The operation itself was unnerving but not actually painful, but there were vivid, unsightly red marks on the whites of my eyes for several weeks afterwards. My eyes were quite sensitive to light at first but that has also stopped now. And I did still need eye drops to lubricate my eyes for a while after the operation but I don’t use these any more. What did take me by surprise was that I felt sick and dizzy on occasions for a week or two after the operation. I came to the conclusion that this was to do with the change to my vision, and like the other symptoms it soon subsided but it was unsettling and unpleasant while it lasted.
Surprisingly, just a few months on, I don’t often think about my vision. Occasionally it dawns on me that it really is something of a miracle. The first time that I went swimming was rather wonderful. Another benefit is that I had a much greater risk of problems or infections in my eye from wearing contact lenses than I do now, having had the surgery. In fact, the potential risks and side effects from the surgery were minimal statistically compared to the danger of wearing lenses (I only ever had a few minor eye infections due to my contacts but some people do suffer serious complications).
I was told that I would need reading glasses after the operation, but actually I don’t yet. I do have a small book light to help me read in the evenings but in the daytime, in good light, I can see to read very well. In any case, I won’t mind wearing glasses just for reading. That’s normal, after all.
So, the operation really has been a revelation. Sometimes I feel like the bionic woman. But would I go through it again? I honestly don’t know. Should you? Sorry, can’t help. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s eyesight-related decisions. Which is why I don’t like the fact that the clinic (which will remain unnamed) has given me money off vouchers to hand out to those who are considering the option. If you want to go ahead, haggle over the price because it is flexible. (I was originally quoted £3400).
Good luck, whatever you decide!