As with any medical procedure, laser eye surgery can seem quite daunting and scary. There’s a lot of information available online, but it can be hard to know the difference between fact and myth, especially when a lot of this content isn’t written by qualified people. You might be left asking: is laser eye surgery safe? Will it be painful? Is laser eye surgery the best option for me? This is your opportunity to have your questions answered by the experts!
Without further ado, here are nine of the most common laser eye myths we’d like to debunk.
Myth #1: Laser Eye Surgery Is Painful
“Does laser eye surgery hurt?” is one of our most frequently asked questions on laser eye surgery. Short answer: no, laser eye surgery is not painful.
Prior to surgery, Dr. Logan applies topical anaesthetic drops to the eyes, which completely numbs them. You will only feel a slight pressure during the surgery. Typically, you will be in the theatre for about 15-20 minutes, but the laser eye surgery itself only takes place for around 2-3 minutes, depending on the type of procedure.
After the surgery, we prescribe medication to make recovery as pain-free as possible. Patients can experience some discomfort post-surgery – in most cases for about 8 hours, which is completely normal. The medication should help alleviate this. We will explain the different types of medication prescribed, and provide pointers on how to manage your recovery.
We will see you the day after surgery and then again a week after surgery to monitor your recovery. As part of your post operative care, we’re on hand to talk to you over the phone, or see you as frequently as necessary during your recovery period. These visits are covered in the surgery cost.
Myth #2: The Laser Used In Eye Surgeries Is Hot
The lasers used in laser eye surgery are cold – and totally different to the lasers you see in science fiction films! Sometimes people say there’s a burning smell during the procedure. This can be the case in PRK and LASIK eye surgery but it’s not a cause for concern! The smell is actually a result of the laser releasing carbon atoms into the air. We promise nothing is actually burning!
Myth #3: Laser Eye Surgery Isn’t Permanent
Laser eye surgery changes the shape of the cornea to correct eyesight. This correction is permanent and majority of patients will not require glasses or contact lenses post-surgery. However, those over the age of 50 may still require occasional reading glasses.
Your eye is a living organ and therefore can change over time, just as the rest of your body will. Laser eye surgery doesn’t prevent age-related eyesight changes, like cataracts or presbyopia. Presbyopia is an age-related eye problem that occurs when, with age, the lens of the eye becomes more stiff and less elastic and the muscles around it can no longer change its shape, resulting in a loss of focus on close-up objects.
In our opinion, laser eye surgery is definitely worthwhile. Getting independence from your glasses and contact lenses is generally enough to encourage people to get the surgery. Our own laser eye surgeon, Dr Andrew Logan, had laser eye surgery himself in 1996 and still doesn’t need glasses – that’s over 20 years free from glasses! If you’re not sure if laser eye surgery is the best option for you, we wrote an interesting article discussing whether or not laser eye surgery could save you money.
Myth #4: Laser Eye Surgery Only Works For Short Sighted People
This is also untrue – laser eye surgery can be used to correct a variety of eyesight problems, not just short sightedness.
At Wellington Eye Centre, we offer three different types of laser eye surgery (the only ones currently available in New Zealand) – SMILE ® , LASIK and PRK. Of these three procedures, SMILE eye surgery is only suited to short sightedness, but LASIK surgery is able to correct presbyopia (age-related long sight), hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (short sightedness) and astigmatism (unevenly curved cornea).
Myth #5: You Have To Be Young To Get Laser Eye Surgery
Usually, being over 40 means it’s more likely a person will develop presbyopia (age-related long sight) as they age. Some people still think that laser eye surgery can only correct short sight and therefore, the age related change in vision cannot be corrected.
So, what are the laser eye surgery options for people older than 40 years old?
We are the first laser eye surgery clinic in New Zealand to offer the sophisticated laser blended vision technology. This gives people over 40 the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of laser eye surgery. In this procedure, the dominant eye is corrected mainly for distance vision and the non-dominant eye for near vision, while also increasing each eye’s range of focus. This procedure enables patients to see at near, intermediate and far distances without glasses or contact lenses.
And how young is too young for laser eye surgery? In order for someone to receive laser eye surgery, their eyes need to be stable so their prescription won’t change. This usually happens at the age of 20, although we have done laser surgery on younger patients before.
Myth #6: Laser Eye Surgery Is A New Procedure & Untested
As with any medical procedure, everything about laser eye surgery has been tested extensively and proven. From the technology used, to the ophthalmologists performing the surgeries, it is a fully tried-and-tested medical procedure. A lot of research and development has gone into laser eye surgery since it was first invented, which has led to the advanced technology we have access to today.
The technology we use at Wellington Eye Centre is the VisuMax ® femtosecond laser and the MEL90 excimer laser. We are the first clinic in New Zealand to install the VisuMax femtosecond laser, which is at the forefront of the world’s laser technology. This laser technology is more accurate and faster than other lasers on the market. They also have settings such as flap diameters, which are able to be more precisely set.
Wellington Eye Centre was also the first to introduce almost all of the modern laser eye surgery procedures to New Zealand. Since Dr. Andrew Logan opened the clinic in 2004, he has performed many thousands of laser eye surgeries. We pride ourselves on staying ahead of the game, constantly researching new technologies and keeping up with global developments.
Myth #7: If Laser Eye Surgery Goes Wrong, Nothing Can Be Done To Correct It
In the unlikely situation that the results are not as expected, Dr. Logan may be able to perform further corrective treatments. We strive to set realistic expectations in our patient’s consultations prior to surgery and will only recommend a procedure if it is best suited to that person’s eyes.
Myth #8: You Can’t Get Laser Eye Surgery After Cataract Surgery
In cataract surgery, the surgeon removes the cloudy lens from the eye and replaces it with an intraocular lens implant (IOL). The IOL is a transparent disc which is a similar shape to your lens. Nowadays, the surgeon can also correct other eyesight issues such as short sightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism with this IOL. The lens implant can be customised to correct these refractive errors, removing the patient’s need for glasses or contact lenses post-surgery.
Depending on age, if the lens implant hasn’t corrected your eyesight condition, laser eye surgery may still be an option for you.
Myth #9: Laser Eye Surgery Is Exactly The Same At Different Clinics
Laser eye surgery in New Zealand is becoming increasingly popular. There are a number of qualified eye surgeons to pick from, but the technology used to perform the surgery may differ.
The newer lasers available are generally more precise, can complete the procedure more quickly and cause less discomfort during the procedure. As mentioned, The Wellington Eye Centre is the first clinic in New Zealand to install the VisuMax femtosecond laser – a leading piece of technology developed in Germany. This laser is currently the only one that is accurate enough to perform SMILE surgery. This type of technology has revolutionised laser eye surgery and we are very proud to be the first using it in New Zealand!
Although ophthalmologists receive similar training, it’s important to do some research before you choose a surgeon and clinic. There is a lot of skill and precision required in laser eye surgery, so choosing someone you can trust is a must! We’ve written an article on our ophthalmologist, Dr. Andrew Logan, who happens to be New Zealand’s first LASIK and SMILE eye surgeon with over 20 years experience. Have a read if you would like to learn more about Dr. Logan and his experience.
And finally, the service a patient receives can vary between clinics. Choosing a clinic that prioritises patient satisfaction is a must. Laser eye surgery can seem quite daunting, which is why we ensure our patients are guided through the process and feel comfortable and supported every step of the way.
There you have it – laser eye myths dispelled!
Hopefully we have set the record straight with these laser eye surgery facts. If you have any other questions, get in touch – the team would love to help. You can also come in for a free laser suitability assessment, where our technician can talk you through any concerns. Our Wellington laser eye surgery clinic isn’t our only location, we have clinics in Hawkes Bay and Nelson and we operate on patients from all over New Zealand.
SMILE ® and VisuMax ® are registered trademarks of Carl Zeiss Meditec.