I’m not one to suffer in silence. Indeed, it’s rumoured that I am largely responsible for legitimising the phrase ‘man flu’ through my inability to resist the urge to dial 999 whenever the winter sniffles arrive. To add to my list of flaws, I’ll also confess to being ever so particular about, well, pretty much everything – from the length of time I like my tea to brew (three and a half minutes for the record), to the conformity of my underwear drawer: socks on the left… you get the picture.
So it was something of a surprise, not least to myself, that I would entertain the prospect of having laser eye surgery to correct my short sightedness, or myopia to give it the proper term. I was seven years old (37 years ago in case you were wondering) when my myopia first arrived on the scene rendering me unable to read the chalkboard at school. Typically, myopia progresses throughout childhood and in my case it galloped along at an alarming rate, perilously stretching my retina in the process. In fact, being myopic was about the only thing I seemed to excel at during childhood, and I managed to tot up a staggering nine dioptres by the end of my teenage years, akin perhaps to someone having size 16 feet.
Being an optometrist, it may seem a little incongruous to seek a solution outside of the more familiar methods of vision correction. For instance, contact lenses are often the recommendation of choice for many of my patients. However, despite having tried every type under the sun, from soft lenses right through to oversized rigid designs, I failed to find a satisfactory option for myself in this regard. So, I faced a dilemma: endure the limitations of glasses, which were a real nuisance when it came to various leisure pursuits; or take the plunge and opt for surgery.
Of course, being in the profession I had noted the advancement of surgical techniques over the past couple of decades, particularly for treatment of high myopia. Nevertheless, I’ll admit to almost breaking Google as I scrutinised the risk/benefit profile, scoured Trustpilot reviews and grilled colleagues to identify my surgeon of choice. In the end, despite the six-hour round commute, I ‘handed over’ my corneas to a well-respected London-based consultant.
When it came to the procedure itself, despite being a self-confessed drama queen, I actually found the whole process quite fascinating. In and out within ten minutes, with levels of discomfort comparable to a routine dental hygienist visit. My vision, immediately after the procedure, was a bit like being underwater but the following day I was overwhelmed by how incredibly clear everything was. In line with expectation I had to be fastidious about managing postoperative dry eye symptoms but six weeks on and the slightly gritty feeling I experienced in the early days is beginning to abate.
Notwithstanding my positive experience following laser eye surgery I would still be selective about which of my patients I would recommend the procedure to on a strictly case-by-case basis. My final comments to those considering the surgical route would be: visit your local optometrist first to discuss a full range of vision correction options, some of which you might not even be aware existed; do your research; do more research; and lastly, if I managed to survive the ‘ordeal’ then anyone can.
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Optometrist, Dr Ian Beasley, is Clinical Editor for Optometry Today, Head of Education for the Association of Optometrists and postgraduate researcher at Aston University