Many people long to be freed from the debilitating experience of waking up to blurred vision and the inconveniences of wearing contact lenses and spectacles. One booming surgical eye procedure now is called LASIK eye surgery. Advertisements say that there's little to be feared for undergoing LASIK. But as in anything, we need to be informed about its risks, results and complications before finally deciding to go for it.
Here are some of the common patient concerns and answers as explained by Dr Lee Sao Bing, Clinical Director and Consultant Eye Specialist at Shinagawa LASIK Center:
Q: What are the risks of going blind?
Q: What are the risks of going blind?
A: With sight being so precious, it is natural to be concerned about the loss of vision after a LASIK procedure. For ideal candidates, LASIK is a very safe and effective procedure.
Q: Will it hurt?
A: Performed while the patient is fully conscious, a mild sedative is given to patients to ensure that they remain comfortable and they are given a topical anesthetic (eye drops) to numb the eye, so they experience no pain or discomfort during the procedure.
A sensation of pressure will be felt as the surgeon applies a vacuum ring just before his or her vision fades for a few seconds. Some patients may experience mild sensations similar to that of opening the eyes while swimming in chlorinated water, which diminishes after a few hours.
Q: How soon will I see the results?
A: The visual results of LASIK are usually very rapid and within hours of the surgery, most patients have functional vision. Immediately after the eye surgery vision will be a little blurry, but most patients achieve good vision the day of surgery and find that their eyes feel fairly normal within a day.
By the next day, most will see well enough to drive and go back to work; however immediate results can depend on a number of factors including age, amount of correction and individual healing characteristics. Usually it will take around a few weeks for full healing to take place and your new improved vision to take hold completely.
Q: What if I move my eye during the procedure?
A: Advanced computerized tracking systems that monitor eye movements, added to the experience and skill of your doctor will ensure that the surgical procedure is very precise.
As you will be awake throughout the procedure, your doctor will also talk to you during surgery so that you know what is happening and what to expect next.
Q: What are the post-operation complications?
A: With the advance of LASIK technology and medical processes, the documented risk of complications occurring in LASIK surgery is less than 1%.
These complications are generally temporary and treatable and include dry eyes and night visual disturbances (glare and haloes). Infection is very rare and if it does occur, there are good antibiotics to treat the condition. While in certain scenarios, your vision might be over or under corrected, this can easily be rectified through an enhancement operation 3 months later. Additionally, one of the other common complications to expect after an operation is having dry eyes but this is easily treatable.
Q: What about dry eyes?
A: Dry eyes may be caused by having LASIK, but they may also occur both before and after LASIK surgery, especially if you have a tendency for dry eyes. This is because during the LASIK procedure, a thin layer of tissue is created, called a flap, under which the actual laser energy is applied to reshape the cornea. But, when the flap is created, very fine cornea nerves may be severed.
This is a normal part of the procedure. However, these nerves are required in order to "signal" your lacrimal gland to produce tears. So, sometimes, this temporary interruption of corneal nerve impulses can actually cause a lesser amount of tears to be produced, resulting in dry eyes after LASIK.
Hence, all LASIK patients need to use artificial tears or lubricating drops as a matter of course, as they help the tear film reestablish itself after the LASIK procedure.