About 18 years ago, I had laser eye surgery. It was quite honestly life changing – waking up being able to see clearly and properly was an absolute revelation and although the procedure itself isn’t exactly fun, it was more than worth it.
However, now, after all that time of perfect sight, I’ve got age-related sight imperfections – it’s completely natural and why most people get to a certain point when they’re scouring TKMaxx for posh ‘readers’. My eye lenses, where I had the laser, are still working perfectly but it’s other things going on that are causing my sight to be less good. I need glasses for TV and although I can struggle on without readers for books and phone, it’s better if I wear them. I fall directly into that age and category of women (and men) who suddenly don’t have the perfect sight they’ve been used to, mind that they can’t wear their designer sunglasses any more, can’t easily spot their favourite wine on a menu without holding it away from them and find less than perfect sight an irritation rather than a devastating health issue.
I wear contact lenses on an ad hoc basis and that works very well, but because lenses cannot tackle long and short sight at the same time, I use that option for days out, rather than working days when I’m on the computer all day.
Last year I went privately to a clinic to see about getting my eyes re-lasered to adjust them back to 20/20 vision. I was offered refractive lens exchange surgery (£8K) which I felt was too serious a move for the level of sight adjustment I need at the moment. So, I didn’t do it. Refractive lens exchange is basically having your natural eye lens replaced with an artificial one, whereas laser adjusts the shape of your natural lens to see better. Something made me uncomfortable at being offered something so serious (and not 100% foolproof either) so, after another year of procrastinating, I went to seek a second opinion at Centre of Sight. I paid for this myself and it was recommended to me by a health journalist whose opinion I completely trust.
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I saw Sheraz Daya, who is the Medical Director of Centre For Sight (who helped Katie Piper with her sight issues). It takes at least three hours to complete many, many eye tests – you go around a circuit of machines in different rooms.. in the end I felt it was like trying to find the Wizard of Oz! You get moved about and finally make up it the stairs where Mr Daya is. Because I can compare two clinics, I know I had absolutely top of the range treatment here – comparatively, the staff I saw were so kind and so friendly as well as being efficient and professional. In short, I felt in safe hands. Previously, I’d felt I was in indifferent hands. None of the tests hurt exactly, but there are certain points where you get very bright lights in your eye and have to have your pupils numbed and dilated which made me feel pre-migraine – in fact, when I got home, I went to sleep for a couple of hours.
When I finally got to see Mr Daya (or, Oz), he was a no-nonsense, straight to the point man who easily confirmed that what I have is indeed a #waitrose problem! The upshot is, pretty much, that I don’t really have anything to complain about because my eyesight is in fact, very good for my age, and that I am not even nearly a candidate for refractive lens exchange surgery. It turns out that the younger you have lens replacement, the higher the chance is for a retinal detachment, so in Mr Daya’s opinion, I would fall into a risk category he isn’t prepared to work on.
He suggested lasering my right eye, but not my left, but first, trial wearing a lens (slightly different to my current prescription) in the right eye only, so that my left eye, which isn’t as good for distance, does the reading work, and my right is made stronger for distance. Mr Daya said that most people, once they’ve tried this out, don’t even bother to come back for the laser and he is more than happy with that.
So, I’ve spent a week wearing only one contact lense – it took a couple of days adjustment and a slight headache over my left eye for a while but it’s really suiting me. I’ve ordered more lenses – 3 months supply – to give it a bit longer before I’ve finally made a decision about whether to go for the laser which would give me the same effect that I’m having now with the contact. One of the big joys is that I can wear my lovely Chanel sunglasses again!
The only difference would be that I don’t have to worry about putting them in – or, as is my fear, forgetting to take the contact out. One contact, for some reason, isn’t nearly as onerous as two – I forget it’s there; I can drive safely, see perfectly well into the distance and don’t have to do the ‘holding the menu an arm’s length away’ thing. The only drawback is that it doesn’t work quite as well for computer work – I start to get a headache over my left eye unless I take the right eye contact out. If I had the laser, I wouldn’t be able to make that change, although, I suspect over time my left eye would adjust to work better for doing the close work.
I do get queries from time to time about laser eye – if your sight issues aren’t age related, I’d highly, highly recommend it; I’ve had almost two decades of perfect sight and loved every moment of it. But, your options are different if it’s an age-related, menu reading problem! It’s not without risk, obviously, but it’s on the whole very reliable.
I feel very relieved that I followed my instincts and got a second opinion before diving into lens replacement. The thing is, I can go back, when my sight has degenerated into less of a #waitrose problem and more of a serious problem and re-look at lens exchange, by which time my risk of retinal detachment will have dropped.
Centre for Sight is HERE.
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