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Laser eye surgery has been around for twenty years, longer than you might think, but I had never met anyone who had had the treatment until I moved to Bermuda just over two years ago. For some reason, perhaps the outdoor lifestyle, it is incredibly popular there and in my admittedly small office a quarter of my colleagues had been treated. I still never seriously considered it until May this year when yet another colleague went under the laser and was so enthusiastic that I was finally inspired to look into it for myself. I have required glasses since the age of seven, at first I just needed them for distance but over the years my eyes got steadily worse and I have worn glasses or contact lenses full time for over twenty years and in some capacity for over 30 years. My prescription is -7 in one eye and -6 in the other, which is a strong prescription and certainly worse than the average person with glasses.
I am not going to go into the technicalities of the various types of treatments in this review, as I feel this should be left to those with medical knowledge and there are plenty of articles on the internet written by qualified people which I would only be regurgitating anyway. Rather, I am only going to cover my personal experience.
So my initial research was into the procedure generally. I used the internet to find out about the different types of procedures that are available, success rates particularly for strong prescriptions, recovery times and I read at least a hundred personal accounts. I was encouraged. I did not find a single example of somebody who ended up worse off than before treatment. Occasionally I came across an example of somebody with a longer recovery time than average or some disappointment with the results, but the overwhelming majority of accounts I read were glowing.
Next I needed to choose a service provider. I decided to find one in London and Accuvision in Fulham fared very well on the review sites and forums and also seemed competitively priced. I was certainly not looking for the cheapest option, but some London clinics had fees averaging £4,000 to £5,000 whereas Accuvision tended to be a more affordable £2,000, give or take a few hundred pounds.
I contacted Accuvision at the beginning of June and requested a free consultation for the end of July when I was due to move back to the UK. My email was answered very promptly as were a couple more I sent with some questions. I was so surprised by the excellent communication that for a fleeting moment I actually wondered if they were desperate for my business. However the review sites feedback indicated that this was not the case and I concluded that perhaps I was being cynical and too accustomed to bad service. I decided the reason they appeared so professional was simply because they were. As my appointment approached, I contacted Accuvision again to confirm that there would be an appointment for treatment available within a few days of my consultation and I also booked a consult for my husband on what would hopefully be my treatment day. Again communication was excellent, prompt and friendly.
I arrived at the Accuvision premises about twenty minutes early and was taken through for my tests more or less straight away. As well as a regular eye test, I was checked for astigmatism, glaucoma, cornea thickness and my retina and optical nerve were examined for general health I believe. Eye drops are given to numb the eye so that the cornea can be measured and further eye drops were given to dilate the pupils so that the retina can be looked at more easily. It was a sunny day and when I left I was very sensitive to the sunlight for a few hours due to my large pupils, otherwise the consultation was uneventful.
My consultant was happy with all the tests performed and advised that I was suitable for Wavefront LASIK treatment. He also took time to explain the process to me and he wanted to discuss my motivations and expectations. It was explained to me that whilst perfect vision was the goal, it might be that I would need a mild prescription for some activities, such as driving. Additionally, my eyes could continue to change after surgery just as they could without surgery and of course as I get older I could find myself needing reading glasses.
These factors were acceptable to me. With a prescription of -7 it is nigh on impossible to function without glasses and I felt that even being, say -1, would still be a vast improvement. Some people may be surprised at that statement, glasses are glasses after all aren't they? But I think it is difficult for even somebody with glasses to understand quite what the world looks like to me. Under no pressure from my consultant whatsoever, I booked my appointment and was told that my treatment would be £2,200.
On my treatment day, my husband went ahead with his consultation. His prescription is about -3 which is more like the average short sighted person, he was also deemed suitable for surgery and was quoted a fee of £1,800. He was happy with the answers to all his questions and was told that with treatment he had a 98% chance of perfect vision and I had a 95% chance.
You need to bring somebody with you on the day of lasering and you also should bring a pair of sunglasses, both these things will make the journey home afterwards more manageable. When we arrived at the clinic on treatment day, my husband was whisked off for his consultation more or less straight away. I was asked to settle the bill and then they were ready for me too. I was glad that I did not have much waiting around. I had read in some accounts that valium is given beforehand but there was no mention of this at Accuvision and I am glad, it isn't necessary.
There were four or five people in the operating room and some fairly large complex looking machinery. I was asked to lie down on a couch beneath this machinery. The eyes are treated one at a time. Eye drops are used for numbing and then my right eyelid was clamped open. I was asked to look at a light above whilst they cut a flap into the corneal tissue. This step took about eight seconds and for a couple of seconds my vision went but then the light above came back into view and I was asked to look at it again whilst the laser procedure was carried out. This step took about ten seconds, I could see lots of red and green flashing lights and could smell burning but there was no discomfort. When the laser was finished the surgeon rinsed my eyes with a cooling liquid, put on a clear contact lens as a bandage and told me to lie with my eyes gently closed. After a short break whilst the machine was re-calibrated, the process was repeated for my left eye.
And that was it. I am not sure how long I was in the room but it could not have been more than ten minutes and I did not feel any discomfort during the process. I had heard that there could be some pressure and discomfort with having the eyelids clamped open but this did not bother me. It is a bit scary though and beforehand I wondered what would happen if I made a sudden movement in panic, but in the event I don't think an earthquake would have persuaded me to flinch whilst my eyeball was being cut and lasered!
Immediately afterwards I could tell that my vision had improved drastically, but there was also a haze that made it seem like I was looking through water. I had read accounts of people who sat up after the treatment and became very emotional, but this was not the case with me because of the watery fog that I was looking through and I did not feel elated. Just slightly dazed I think.
Progress (based on notes I made at the time)
One hour later: My eyes feel heavy and I want to rub them to get more comfortable. But I can't of course as rubbing the eyes is strictly forbidden. A lot of the initial fogginess is gone but not all. I feel like I could function quite normally, we got two buses to the hotel we had booked for the night but I couldn't read the road or shop signs. I could see people reasonably clearly on the street but at a distance could not make out facial features and probably would not recognise people I knew.
Two hours later: My eyes feel irritated. The vision no longer seems watery but there is a haze around some things, e.g. a window with light coming through. My vision seems very good, but I can't read things properly from a distance yet.
Eight hours later: I haven't noticed much difference over the last few hours. My eyes are quite sore and the vision seems the same as it did earlier.
24 hours later: I have stayed overnight in London as patients are required to attend a follow up appointment the next day. I had to wear eye shields last night but I won't need to gain. At my appointment the contact lens bandage was removed, my eye was examined and my sight checked. I was told that my eyes were healing well. I did not do as well on the sight test as I would have liked but was told that it was early days and as my cornea recovered my vision would continue to improve. I had read many accounts of people having perfect vision after 24 hours so I was worried and a bit disappointed that it was not the case for me. Later on, I noticed whilst my husband was driving that my vision was not good enough to drive comfortably as I could not read road signs until virtually at them. By the end of the day my eyes felt slightly irritated and tired, similar to having worn my contact lenses for too long doing computer work. If I had lenses in and felt like this, I would definitely take them out to rest my eyes but don't have that option unfortunately.
48 hours later: When I woke up on day two, things felt a little bit clearer as I looked around and I was hopeful that there had been some progress with the distance vision. I had to take my husband to the train station and was reasonably happy driving a route I knew well when the roads were quiet, however my vision was not as good as it would have been prior to treatment when wearing glasses or lenses. My eyes feel slightly more comfortable but a bit scratchy and I still feel like I am wearing contact lenses and have had them in a bit too long.
72 hours later: My eyes feel a bit gritty today but not as tired and my vision seems to be getting gradually sharper. I am taking a few months off work at the moment so didn't have to worry about that, but I probably would have managed to go in today if I had needed to.
One week check up: Today I went back to Accuvision clinic where my eyes were examined and I was told they were healing well, but were not yet healed. This was good to hear, as I don't yet have vision as good as I did with my glasses or lenses and therefore hoped that there was still room for improvement. Today I was told the healing would take longer because of my prescription. The eye test indicated 20:20 vision, previously my lenses corrected vision was better than this. We discussed driving and the optician told me that I was perfectly safe (and legal) to drive but she would not recommend it at night just yet. Glare around headlights is a common problem with people who have just had the treatment, but due to the long days (and inactive social life just now) I had not needed to go out in the dark in the last week. However I had certainly noticed a glare around the lights of those people who drive with them on no matter what time of day it is. On my way home after the appointment I was very pleased to recall that the day after my treatment I had read the train departures board at Liverpool Street Station only with some difficulty. A week later and it was as clear as a bell.
UPDATE Five weeks later:
It is now five weeks since I had my surgery and this Friday I attended another appointment on the same day my husband had his surgery. Over the last few weeks, I definitely noticed that my eyes continued to improve and about a week ago, my husband and I realised that my sight was better than his (with his glasses) as I was able to read small writing on a menu that was some distance from us, whereas he could not. I still do not feel that my vision is quite as good as it was wearing contact lenses before, but I think my vision was exceptional then. Unfortunately, a couple of days before my appointment my eyes started to bother me a little bit, I thought it was excessive dryness and this did impact my sight a little bit. I was still 20:20 at my appointment but I had hoped to have bettered this and indeed I think I would of if my appointment had been the prior week. I was told that the irritation was a little bit of inflamation and given antibiotic drops. Hopefully this will clear the problem up soon.
As I mentioned, my husband had his surgery the same day as my follow up. It was a very busy day in the clinic and we waited around for quite a while, partly due to arrving early but they were also running late, which I mention as the extra wait does not help with anxiety levels. Afterwards, his eyes were extremely blood shot and looked sore but his vision was very good almost immediately. He was very troubled by the contact lens bandage they put on but the next day when that is taken off, he was a lot better and his eyesight was deemed good enough for driving that day. Indeed the next day, he felt his eyes were absolutely fine and his vision was virtually 20:20 straight away. This represents a much quicker recovery time than I experienced which we put down to the different prescriptions, him being much more the average.
Thoughts after Eight days (original conclusion)
Well it is only eight days later and I expect further improvements to my vision. I have not had any problems all week other than my eyes feeling tired from time to time, well actually quite a lot, but it has not stopped me from doing anything. Although I can function perfectly just now without glasses, I would like that extra bit of clarity for driving, particularly motorway driving and when I am going somewhere unfamiliar. Before my treatment I had reasoned that if I had to have glasses for some activities then it would be fine with me. However when I thought this might be the case after all, I was disappointed but I did manage to reconcile myself to the idea of keeping a pair of glasses in the car just for that purpose.
I still find it hard to believe that I am actually sat here and am not wearing contact lenses. Once or twice, when my eyes have felt a bit tired or gritty I have had to stop myself from reaching up to move my lens or take it out. I don't think it will really sink in that these are my own eyes until all these minor irritations go away completely. I must admit, I had thought full recovery and best vision would have come to me a little quicker, that is based upon the many accounts that I read beforehand. But I will put my slightly slower progress down to my above average prescription. In any case though we are only talking about a week and I have been fully operational for most of that time.
I have been very impressed with Accuvision throughout and am glad that I chose them. I feel that I have received exemplary service and treatment from the day I first made contact until now. Beyond describing my own experience such as I have here, I would hesitate to recommend laser surgery to anyone but only because I don't think it is my place to. However if somebody has decided to have the procedure, I would not hesitate to recommend Accuvision.
I didn't want to delete my conclusion written after eight days as I think it would be of interest to people considering surgery, so instead will add some additional thoughts. After five weeks, I still can hardly believe that these are my own eyes, I also think I am wearing contact lenses. I mentioned this to a friend this week and she asked if I ever reached to put my glasses on and I replied no, but I often try to take them off! I have and continue to experience some minor irritations, sometimes my eyes feel tired like I have been wearing lenses too long and the irritations to seem to affect my vision very slightly, but certainly not enough to stop me from doing anything, including driving. I am not concerned about these irritations though, I feel sure they will go away soon and in the meantime are not causing me any real problems. My night vision after five weeks still has a long way to go, car headlights being quite a problem and I would not attempt to drive on a busy road at night for the time being, I expect that it will be a couple more months before I can.
So my overall opinion is still very positive and it is particularly pleasing to see my husband's very rapid progress. We also continue to be very pleased with the service provided by Accuvision and feel no need to adjust the original opinion which was to recommend them.
TWO YEARS LATER
It is now more than two years since I had my eyes lasered, 2.5 years in fact. There are probably two negatives to report first of all, firstly, I have suffered from dry eyes quite a lot and I use eyedrops on a fairly regular basis. The other is that I don't believe my vision is as good as it was with contact lenses previously.
I have accepted the eye drops as a very reasonable trade off and most of the time I do not notice the change in vision; I can manage perfectly well, I just occasionally notice that I cannot read the number on a bus when said bus is a spec on the horizon as I used to. I can live with this. I can live with eyedrops. My eyes were far worse than the average person's and this seems like a good trade off to me. My husband has never needed eye drops and his eyes are perfect.
And quite simply, having laser surgery is the best decision I have EVER made.
Wow - that's commitment to update after 2.5 years. I've been lucky, and have only in the last few years needed reading glasses (since I turned 40), but I can't imagine having lasers burn into my eyes....glad it worked for you though!