Laser eye surgery: what you need to know

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If you’ve got a bit of a keen eye you may have noticed over the last few years that a) I couldn’t go anywhere without my glasses/contact lenses, and b) I have since mentioned that I’ve had laser eye surgery.

Yep, I took the plunge and had my eyesight fixed and can happily say that it was the BEST decision I have ever made. And if you’re thinking about having laser eye surgery too, I thought you might want to hear what I went through.

I’ve had some kind of vision problems since I was about eight. It started off as reading glasses and progressed into needing glasses full-time for shortsightedness by the time I was 14. I made the move to contact lenses when I was 16 and have been wearing them almost every day since then.

Then last year I decided I’d had enough of relying on glasses and contact lenses and went to the Sebban Eye Centre in Darlinghurst to see if I was an eligible candidate for laser eye surgery. Thankfully I was and I was scheduled in to have the surgery. Leading up to the big day I had to take vitamin C tablets and flaxseed oil daily and was banned from wearing contact lenses for two weeks before the procedure (shaving in the shower without being able to see? Not fun at all).

So what was the procedure itself like? Short (I was in the room for no longer than 10 minutes) and pain-free. The type of laser eye surgery eye centre performs is called Advanced Surface Laser (as opposed to LASIK), meaning that there are absolutely no incisions made on the eye. But with a non-invasive procedure came a longer recovery period. My vision at first was blurry (which I was told would happen), and as the days passed it got better and better, thanks to a regimented schedule of putting in eye drops and ointments. After four days, I went back for a check-up and  they removed a contact-lens-like bandage from each eye. Being able to see almost-perfectly at that moment felt bizarre and thrilling.

From then on, my vision improved as each day passed (again, with the help of eye drops and some eye exercises). Coming back to work was admittedly a bit difficult. While I could see to drive, using a computer was another story and everything had to be enlarged to a ridiculous size so I didn’t strain my eyes. But this was only temporary. After about three months, my eyes were completely healed and I could (and still can) see even better and clearer than when I wore contacts or glasses.

So what about my side effects? Though not permanent or drastic, there were some. In the first few days of recovery, I experienced some discomfort and my eyes were drier than normal (Tranquileyes Chronic Dry Eye Kitworked wonders to help lubricate my eyes!) – both things I was told to expect and could easily manage with some pain medication and lubricating eye drops. I was also quite sensitive to light and had to wear sunglasses almost everywhere.

As for the Sebban Eye Centre, the service was exceptional. From the moment of testing my eligibility right through to my final check-up, the specialists there were nothing but helpful and informative.

So that’s my tale. But just to make sure you’re a bit more informed about laser eye surgery, I had the Sebban Eye Centre answer a few questions:

What is Advanced Surface Laser? How does it work?

Advanced Surface Laser can permanently reshape the corneal curvature of the eye, thereby correcting refractive errors (like shortsighted, longsighted and astigmatism) and alleviating the need for prescription glasses or contact lenses.

The Advanced Surface Laser technique we specialise in is called TransPRK – a new one-step, incision- and flap-free procedure. Using our state-of-the-art Schwind Amaris Laser, the epithelium (the regenerative outer surface skin of the eye) is gently removed along with a microscopic amount of stromal tissue from the cornea. This procedure enables the cornea to be precisely reshaped in less than one minute.

How is it different to LASIK ?

The fundamental difference between LASIK and Advanced Surface Laser is that LASIK requires an incision into the eye, creating a permanent flap in the cornea, which is lifted to expose the stromal tissue for laser treatment. The Advanced Surface Laser procedure, however, is a non-invasive laser vision correction technique, which involves the gentle removal of the outermost layer of the cornea, the epithelium. After the epithelium has been removed and the procedure has taken place, the epithelial cells regenerate and the structure of the cornea remains uncompromised. The advantage of Advanced Surface Laser is that because no incision is made into the surface of the eye, the strength and endurance of the stromal tissue remains uncompromised.

What sort of criteria do you need to meet to be eligible for the surgery? Do things like astigmatism, a low prescription or your age factor in?

To determine whether or not you are a suitable candidate for Advanced Surface Laser, the general health, strength and corneal thickness of your eye will be thoroughly assessed at your complimentary consultation.

To be eligible for the procedure you must:

1.    Be over the age of 18
2.    Have not had a significant change in your prescription in the last 12 months
3.    Have the necessary corneal thickness required
4.    Not be pregnant or breast-feeding
5.    Not have an autoimmune disease (i.e. Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis), uncontrolled diabetes or vascular disease
6.    Not have a residual, recurrent or active eye disease (inflammation or infection);
7.    Not have severe dry eyes
8.    Not have a corneal disease (i.e. keratoconus) or excessive corneal scarring
9.    Have good general health

How much does it generally cost? Is it covered at all by Medicare/private health funds?

The Sebban Eye Centre believes that laser eye surgery should be made accessible to those who need it. As such, we aim to be the most competitively priced laser vision correction centre in Australia. We offer laser vision correction for $1,288 per eye.

Laser vision correction is an elective procedure so Medicare and most health funds do not provide a rebate for the cost of the procedure.

What are the chances of it going wrong?

Advanced Surface Laser is a safe and effective procedure, however, as with all types of surgery there are risks involved and complications that can occur. Fortunately, with Dr Ilan Sebban of Sebban Eye Centre’s 16 years of experience, advancement of technology in the past 20 years, together with thorough patient assessment required pre-operatively, the risk of laser eye surgery going wrong is rare. It has been estimated that the chance of blindness is one in 5,000,000.

What kind of downtime can you expect after it’s done? (i.e. can you drive home? Can you go back to work the next day?) Is it painful/uncomfortable?

You will require someone to drive you home after the procedure and it is advised to take at least four days off work to rest at home.  The Sebban Eye Centre is able to provide the necessary medication to minimise any discomfort during your recovery. Most people can return to work a week after the procedure.

Are there any possible side affects to be aware of? If so, what are they?

Some of the temporary side effects may include dry eyes, light sensitivity and fluctuation in vision. These side affects are normal and they usually resolve within the first few weeks following the procedure.

What are the chances of your eyes deteriorating again afterwards?

Regression can occur in less than two per cent of cases. Of the two per cent, it is usually safe to perform further laser treatment if necessary. Some people have a higher chance of vision deterioration depending on their age and prescription. It is important to be aware that age-related lens changes will naturally occur after the age of 40. This is called Presbyopia and reading glasses will be required.  
The likely outcome of your individual surgery will normally be discussed at the preoperative assessment.

For more information, visit the Sebban Eye Centre website.

Do you rely heavily on glasses and/or contacts? Would you ever consider having laser eye surgery?

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Comments 3

  1. Still sounds scary to me and uncomfortable, so easy just to put on glasses when I go out, lucky I can see okay around the house and only time for TV is if I have to read something on the screen, so I think I might save my money but interestig to read the experiences of others. Might have done it when I was a lot younger.

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