LASIK: debunking the myths
Whilst chatting with some friends about LASIK I found, to my surprise, that many of them were not keen on the procedure. Citing bizarre reasons why it should be avoided, their concerns ranged from “it’s really painful” to “there is a good chance I could go blind!” Whilst putting them right it occurred to me that if they had so many concerns, others must too so I took to social media to find out what the most common LASIK myths are.
1. “I’m terrified of going blind” Rachel, London
The chances of losing your sight following LASIK are approximately 1 in 5,000,000.
An unlikely, and very unlucky, series of events would need to occur for this to happen. To put this in perspective, you are twice as likely to be killed falling out of bed than going blind following LASIK. In fact, research carried out by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found no reported cases of blindness caused by LASIK.
2. “I’ve heard that ophthalmologists don’t have LASIK done on their own eyes. They must not trust it, so why should I?” Ed, Merseyside
This is a myth that I’ve encountered on numerous occasions and I feel totally safe in debunking it once and for all.
A survey of the International Society of Refractive Surgery & American Academy of Ophthalmology discovered that 35% of surgeons have had the procedure themselves (a figure four times greater than the general population), 21% of their children have, 30% of their spouses and 40% of their siblings. The figures simply do not lie – if an ophthalmologist is happy for their own child to undergo the procedure you can be sure that they consider it to be totally safe!
3. Is it true that the LASIK flap never fully heals and, if so are there associated risks?”Naomi, Manchester
It is certainly true that you should avoid strenuous activity for a couple of weeks following LASIK, allowing time for the eye to fully heal.
You should also not play contact sports, such as rugby, for up to 12 weeks but once the flap has fully re-bonded there is very little chance of it detaching again. The only recorded instances of this happening have been following a direct injury to the eye. Furthermore the introduction of new technology like the IntraLase femtosecond laser has also dramatically reduced the incidence of flap complications.
4. “Is the laser hot and is it true you can smell your eye burning during LASIK?” Max, London
Although this may sound silly to some of us, it is a very real concern for those of a more squeamish disposition.
It is also an easy question to answer: NO – ‘cold’ lasers are used during LASIK which do not use heat to remove the tissue and therefore NO, you categorically cannot smell your eye burning.
5. “I’m 67 so I’m too old for LASIK” Julian, Devon
Contrary to popular belief, people over the age of 65 can be excellent candidates for LASIK.
The factors that might make you ineligible are often seen as age-related but in reality as long as your eye is in good ‘health’ and you have a relatively stable prescription you are likely to be accepted. From a practical perspective, the older you are the more likely it is that you will develop cataracts. In these cases patients would need to undergo cataract surgery first. However, after cataract surgery LASIK can be performed to fine tune the vision.
As we age we are also likely to develop Presbyopia, a condition that prevents us from focusing clearly at multiple distances, to combat this a procedure known as “monovision LASIK” was developed. This form of LASIK leaves the ‘weaker’ eye slightly near-sighted allowing the stronger, dominate eye to take over. Usually this allows the patient to stop wearing reading glasses altogether.
6. “Is LASIK painful?” Victoria, Manchester
There is no need to be concerned as you are unlikely to feel anything at all during the procedure as your ophthalmologist will apply anaesthetic eye drops which totally numb the area.
You will also be given some paid medication to take following the surgery but most patients report only very mild discomfort which normally goes completely within a few days.
7. “LASIK is such a new technology that we don’t know what the long-term outcomes might be.” Kara, London
LASIK was first developed in the early 1980s and approved in both the USA and Europe by the early 90s.
Since then more than 35 million procedures have been carried out. Studies have now demonstrated that LASIK is a safe and effective treatment for eyes with no unexpected long-term complications associated with it. So whilst the early recipients of LASIK where taking a slight risk not knowing what the future might hold for them, patients today can be assured that it is a safe procedure.
 Knorz M, Vossmerbaeumer U,” Comparison of flap adhesion strength using the Amadeus microkeratome and the IntraLase iFS™ Femtosecond laser.” J Refract Surg 2008 24; 875-878