Eye surgery – clear vision in sight!
This week I have made a huge decision – I’ve decided to have corrective eye surgery. With vision being one of the key senses, this is not a decision I have taken lightly or arrived at easily. I’m a few months off having the surgery, but I wanted to share my story so far.
My eyes-sight is poor – very poor actually. I’ve met relatively few people whose prescription rivals mine, including my Dad! I’ve used contacts lenses for over 25 years and these serve me really well. My glasses, alas, not so well. But, what if I can’t wear contact lenses for any reason? I thought it was about time to check out my options…
Living with poor eye-sight
Many people don’t know I have poor eyesight. I almost exclusively wear contact lenses and I have done since I was 17. I wear soft daily lenses if anyone is interested.
Contact lenses serve me extremely well. My sight is very good with them in. It’s often better than people around me, whether looking at a presentation in meetings or seeing something on the horizon. For such a short-sighted person I also have the most amazing beady eyes, which are useful for finding coins out and about, or for locating lost contact lenses and earring backs etc at home. My peripheral vision is also great.
With my lenses in, I have been able to play a variety of sports, although occasionally I’ve worried about losing a lens when swimming and diving, as well as when running and cycling in windy weather. I’ve had the occasional eye infection, and a number of lost and split lenses (sometimes in my eye). But overall my experience of wearing contact lenses has been a very positive and liberating one.
But contact lenses aren’t permanent – well, mine aren’t anyway. I still wear glasses at the start and end of each day, and on occasions when my eyes are too tired, dry or irritated.
I know many people successful wear glasses for everything. I don’t mind wearing them for short periods and at home. I’m less keen wearing them outside for a number of reasons:
– With my high prescription, even with the ‘thinnest’ glass available, my glasses are still quite thick and heavy. This sometimes gives me a headache.
– I feel vulnerable. As I am very short-sighted, I’m generally advised to get small glasses to keep the lenses as thin as possible. This helps (somewhat) from an aesthetics perspective but means that the window that I get to peer through is limited (imagine peering through a letter box). This means my peripheral vision isn’t great. I can see to drive, but I don’t feel at my safest (especially at night with glare) and supermarkets can be a nightmare with lights and colours all around
– I feel really self-conscious. I may be being paranoid, but as people aren’t used to seeing me in glasses, I feel that they are staring as me. Especially as my glasses look thick.
– If I’m out and about in my glasses, just don’t expect me to notice you, especially from afar!
In short, I’m much happier using contact lenses than glasses. So, if contacts work well, why the desire for change? Isn’t surgery extreme? I’m starting to consider what if I can’t wear contacts for any reason? Would I turn into a recluse? In all honesty, I’m pretty resilient so I’m sure I’d find a way to adapt, but in the meantime, I thought it was worth checking out my options….
In 2013, I went for my first assessment for corrective eye surgery. To cut a long story short, the “computer said no” and I decided not to proceed, even after the surgeon called to try and convince me otherwise. If the risks were high, I’d prefer to stick with my current situation, thank you very much. He suggested I try again in 5 years. Partly regarding my personal situation and partly for the technology to evolve.
I’d not even remotely considered it again until recently. I can’t recall exactly what made me think of it, but I decided to give it another shot.
– From an ageing perspective, by the law of averages, I’m probably about half-way through my life:
- sometimes my eyes are not keen to accept my lenses
- sometimes my hand eye coordination isn’t great…
– The many success stories I’ve heard from others about corrective surgery
– The amount of waste generated by daily contact lenses
I bit the bullet and booked another assessment with the same provider, a national brand with a local brand. Feeling confident at first, I became strangely nervous as the date approached. I had to avoid wearing my contact lenses 48 hours before the appointment, so that probably didn’t help my state of mind.
First, they did some initial checks using various different machines – similar to many modern eye tests. Then I had an appointment with an optometrist who further validated my prescription and talked through different options with me. This discussion was much more open and encouraging than 5 years ago.
Identifying the appropriate treatment
Due to my high prescription, the variations of laser treatment aren’t suitable – it literally wouldn’t even scratch the surface! But I am suitable for an alternative, lens replacement surgery.
There are 2 types, Implantable contact lenses (ICL) and Refractive lens exchange (RLE), with RLE being suitable for those above 40 whose eyes have started to age! It’s actually similar to cataract surgery in that my natural lens is removed and replaced with a synthetic one. The idea is that my sight will effectively be frozen at a point in time.
Furthermore, as many of us already know or are starting to find out, there is often a need for reading glasses as we get older. This has never been so necessary as in today’s world of screens – phones, tablets etc. I could have my eyes corrected to ‘zero-zero’ in both eyes and wear reading glasses or have one eye corrected to zero-zero and the other a little less. This in-balance across my eyes could actually prevent me from needing reading glasses. To test if this works for me, I’ll be trying odd contact lenses to see how I find this. I’ll let you know how I get on…
Hey, wait a minute! Aren’t there a few more things to consider? Surely, it’s not that simple?
Eye surgery isn’t cheap. However, my eyes currently cost me approx. £270 per year on contact lenses + £400 on glasses every couple of years so, £470 per year. The cost of surgery & aftercare will take a little over 10 years to ‘pay back’ or make it worth the investment. As I’m planning on living at least another 10 years, this definitely makes financial sense!
There are of course risks involved with any surgery. There are three specific risks associated with the surgery I’m suitable for, but I’ll spare you the details. I received a full briefing during my assessment and I’ve followed this up with some internet research of my own.
So, as you know, I’ve signed up for the surgery. My consultation with the surgeon is at the end of July, with the surgery provisionally planned for the autumn in Harley Street, of all places!
The plan is to correct one eye on one Friday and the next the following Friday. I’ll be nipping down to London on the train for the after-care consultations too, so a busy couple of weeks planned then.
In the meantime, I just need to remain calm and not think too much about it. The only thing I’m allowing myself to contemplate is exactly how many daily contact lenses I’ll need until then…as they’ll be useless to me afterwards ?
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.