In our 20s, we reach a crossroads. Pathways to ‘real adulthood’ start to come into focus. The paths we choose — career, relationships, lifestyle, identity — will shape our life. By the time we reach 30, we can see the direction we want to go in more clearly. As we journey through our 30s, we pave the way to our future. Sometimes that future isn’t what we imagined; other times it’s better than we envisioned.
Today we’d like to celebrate with you a vision that’s turned out very well: laser vision correction has not only become a well-established treatment for people who want to reduce their dependence on glasses, but it is also considered safe and effective, and has a short recovery time. A 2016 review article in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery that analysed the results of 97 LASIK studies found that:1
We now have access to 30 years of patient data, making us confident that laser eye surgery is a safe procedure. Around 20% of people experience minor side effects that resolve in the short term. For instance, some people experience dry eye, which can be managed with lubricating eye drops (artificial tears) after their procedure – these are usually required for a few weeks to a few months.
The chance of having a serious, vision-threatening complication is very much less than 1%. Between 1% and 2% of patients may require a second (‘enhancement’) procedure to achieve their desired result after surgery. Vision Eye Institute provides this second procedure at no extra charge to our patients for up to two years after their initial surgery and the desired result is usually achieved after the enhancement.
While some patients may experience a loss of sharpness of their vision lasting up to 6 months, the 2016 study referenced above showed that less than 1% of patients lost significant clarity of vision.1
However, no-one has ever become blind from laser eye surgery in Australia. Blindness is usually caused by an infection within the deeper parts of the eye, which are not usually affected by laser eye surgery. Infection is extremely uncommon when the procedure is carried out by a skilled and experienced surgeon who adheres to strict sterility and surgical processes.
In all cases, at Vision Eye Institute patients are discharged with the appropriate postoperative medication, which may include antibiotic drops and pain relief.
Depending on the type of laser eye surgery, recovery may take from a few days to two weeks. Most LASIK patients can return to their normal activities the very next day, while SMILE patients take just a few days longer. In some cases, people are surprised they can see distant objects like a clock on the wall as soon as two hours after surgery.
When it comes to driving, you can legally drive without glasses or contact lenses within one to two days after both LASIK and SMILE. However, you will need to have your eyes retested by the appropriate state licence authority first.
In the case of the ASLA/PRK procedure, recovery time takes a bit longer. You may be able to start driving and go back to work within one to two weeks, but your vision can fluctuate for up to six weeks before it fully settles.
Contact sport and swimming enthusiasts can get back to it up to one week after SMILE, and between one and four weeks after LASIK and ASLA/PRK.
Vision Eye Institute surgeons have been there right from the beginning. In 1991, Associate Professor Michael Lawless and his colleagues performed the first laser vision correction surgery (ASLA/PRK) in New South Wales. In the same year, Dr Joe Reich AM performed the first ASLA/PRK surgery in Victoria, and in Brisbane, Dr Lee Lenton was among the first to perform the surgery.
After the introduction of LASIK, A/Prof Lawless was the first to perform the surgery in NSW in 1995, and Professor Gerard Sutton was the first to perform LASIK with the femtosecond laser in 2004 (now the most common method). When the SMILE technique was developed, Prof Sutton was the first Sydney surgeon to perform the surgery. As you can see, all four of these surgeons bring a wealth of experience to their practice today.
From the surgical equipment point-of-view, our surgeons use advanced, state-of-the-art laser eye surgery technology. Whenever a new technology is introduced, Vision Eye Institute surgeons are typically among the first to trial it. For example, our surgeons are involved in clinical trials of the VISUMAX 800, a new femtosecond laser.
Thirty is a real turning point. We start to establish our own place in the world, which usually means deciding what’s important to us and then reaching for it. For our laser eye surgeons, what has always been important is maintaining a level of excellence: providing a safe and effective laser vision correction service that leaves everybody feeling confident.
It might be laser vision correction’s 30th birthday, but the gift is yours.