29.01.2009

The lowdown on laser eye surgery

The lowdown on laser eye surgery

Everyone would prefer to have perfect vision rather than to be short or far-sighted or astigmatic. If you do have imperfect vision but are fortunate enough to have problems that are correctable, a number of options are available to you. You might wear spectacles, or contact lenses. However, for many people, the dream is to see clearly at all times, from waking up to swimming to being in the shower.

It is a possibility nowadays with laser eye surgery. James Ellis has given an account in the Metro of what sorts of laser eye services are now available and how they work.

Mr Ellis, nearing 41, has severe astigmatism and needs corrective lenses in order to see properly. He began with glasses and moved on to contact lenses, but is now considering surgery in order to make his vision perfect by itself.

In his report, he explained the difference between Lasik (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) and Lasek (laser-assisted sub-epithelial keratectomy) surgery. The procedure for the former is to have a flap cut in the cornea to allow the laser access and to be replaced afterwards. With Lasek, the cornea"s top layer is taken off chemically.

Lasik patients heal quickly, with their sight being better after just 24 hours, but people with thin corneas or those who are likely to take blows to the eye (if they play certain sports) should not have it done. Lasek is a better option for them, though the period of recovery can last a week and it takes longer for vision to improve.

One famous laser surgery patient is television personality and stage performer Denise Van Outen.

She told the Daily Mail of the problems her short-sightedness has posed to her throughout her showbusiness career. At 12, appearing in Les Miserables, she could not see the audience members who were seated furthest away and, when working as a television presenter, had difficulty reading her autocue.

This happened even when she had contact lenses in her eyes.

And her contact lenses, which she came to wear more and more, were not quite the perfect solution she was seeking. She wore disposable lenses but sometimes dirt would enter her eye, irritating her, while she was carrying out live broadcasts or was on stage. It became necessary to have emergency backups whenever she did a job.

To add to this, she blames hard working hours and bright studio lights for making the situation worse.

Ms Van Outen expressed the fear she had had over the concept of laser surgery. "I was terrified something would go wrong," she said.

But having had it successfully, she describes it as "one of the best things I"ve ever done".

She was treated by Dr David Allamby, who used the Blade-free Wavefront Lasik procedure, cutting a flap into her cornea.

This, the paper explained, makes use of what is known as a Femtosecond laser, which means the flap that is cut is much thinner than with previous technology.

As a result, there is less discomfort and patients can recover more quickly.

Ms Van Outen had perfect sight within thirty minutes and was watching television within hours.

"I only wish I"d done it sooner," she said.

Earlier this month, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) warned people considering laser eye surgery to make sure their practitioners are properly qualified and said that the industry is not regulated.

Legal & Medical reported the warning, with APIL chief executive Denise Kitchener saying that there is a wide variance in the quality of treatment and calling it "shocking" that there is no regulation.

by Alexa Kaczka


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