It has been over 3 decades that laser eye surgery was introduced to the field of corrective vision. Many successful experiences have been shared by patients who have undergone an eye surgery. And several key developments have happened in laser eye surgery mainly due to the path breaking technology adopted in improving the aspects of surgery.
That refractive eye surgery can cure myopia and astigmatism and thereby free people who have these sight errors from dependency on spectacles and lens has been proven several times over beyond doubt. Yet there is a reluctance among many who would rather live with spectacles or contacts than resort to a lasting cure to their vision.
The reason could be due to the several myths and false reports on vision correction surgery shared by people who have not experienced the surgery but have formed opinions based on hearsay and presumption. The classic case of Chinese whispers doing its rounds causing miscommunication about eye surgery!
Let’s look at a 5 such myths around Vision Correction Surgery
We call opinions and reports that cast a shadow on vision correction surgery as mere myths because facts and data prove such theories wrong.
1) Laser eye surgery is only a recent development and needs to be validated
The introduction of refractive eye surgery dates back tomid-1940s when ophthalmologist Jose Ignacio Barraquer also known as the father of refractive surgery invented small handheld keratome, which he used to reset layers of corneal tissue in his patients.
Since then the field of Ophthalmology has been making steady progress; progress in a very robust manner, based on tried and tested technology. In 1995,FDA approved the first excimer laser for PRK, the first generation refractive eye surgery.
Soon after, an improvised, in terms of safety and efficacy, second generation laser eye procedure LASIK got FDA approved too. Even the relatively new Small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE) has been in vogue since 2011.
This third-generation eye procedure is widely used as its post-operative outcomes are excellent.
Vision correction surgery has been adopted for several decades and the very early adopters of laser eye surgery are now in their 60s. Therefore refractive surgery has traveled very far and very successfully from its nascent stage. It is a much tested and validated procedure which is known to have corrected vision for over 50 million patients across the world.
2) Any vision correction surgery is painful
The cornea is a very sensitive part of the human eye. The surface of the cornea is barely touched and hence people who though are keen on vision correction hesitate to opt for laser eye surgery presuming it will cause pain.
Laser eye surgery does not hurt during the procedure or even post operation. However as a pre-emptive measure, numbing eye drops are used to alleviate any pain or discomfort to the eye during the procedure. Medication to help relax is also prescribed for some high stress patients prior to surgery.
There are experiences recorded by patients who have undergone refractive eye surgery where they have stated very clearly that they did not feel even a trace of pain during the procedure. There could be mild pressure felt in the eye, but no pain at any point of time during the surgery or after.
3) Vision correction surgery causes dry eyes
There have been instances of dry eyes quoted by people who have undergone LASIK, where corneal sensitivity to some degree is reduced temporarily. This is mostly the case for people who already have dry eyes.
However, studies and tests have been conducted for dry eye detection and treatment for patients opting for LASIK. They can solve their pre-existing dry eye issue by getting treatment prior to the surgery.
Patients who underwent SMILE, the latest in refractive eye surgery have known to be less prone to dry eye symptoms due to relatively quicker recovery of their tear-film function post surgery.
Largely, dry eye syndrome following a refractive eye surgery is usually mild and will disappear over time.
4) Vision correction procedures do not have a lasting effect
When a person undergoes a refractive eye procedure the shape of the cornea is altered in order to treat vision problems such as myopia and astigmatism. The effects of the surgery do not wear off.
However, with age, one’s vision tends to go through a slow and natural decline and the laser eye surgery does not cover preventive treatment for age related vision weakness. Further, in younger patients there is still scope for eyes to change shape. In course of time there might be a need for adjustments to correct possible vision errors.
One big benefit in refractive eye surgery is the ability to enhance the treatment many years later if there is change in refraction with time. Also, with age the need for reading glasses is common amongst all people and reading correction may be needed after the age of 40.
This in no way has any bearing to the surmise that the surgery done earlier did not last. Refractive surgery is done to treat patients with myopia and astigmatism and patients who undergo this surgery have experienced life-changing improvement in their vision.
5) Recovery time for refractive eye surgery is long and slow
Earlier version of refractive surgery like PRK took about a week for a patient to recover and a week or two was spent in walking around with sunglasses. Complete recovery took about 2-3 weeks. With LASIK, downtime got to a minimal where patients adhere to post-surgery instructions and resume day to day routine within 2-3 days.
Mild discomfort or irritation may occur for a day or two after surgery but can be reduced with prescribed eye drops.
With SMILE, the latest in refractive surgery, recovery is swift and complete. As a minimally invasive surgery, there is no flap but only a tiny incision and the cornea is left intact. More than 80% of patients experience enhanced vision just a few hours after the surgery. Recovery is quick and within 2-3 days the patient is back to driving, working, reading and even sports.
The success rate of refractive eye surgery across the world stands testimony to the fact that vision correction procedures are safe, smooth and quick. Patients have recorded their happy stories about the experience of refractive eye surgery and how the quality of their lifestyle has been improved greatly.
Myths are a matter of opinion and far removed from facts. When in doubt it is advisable to consult with an experienced ophthalmologist and seek guidance with respect to the best suitable vision correction procedure.