Laser eye surgery is billed today as the only real alternative to 20/20 vision without glasses or contact lenses. The idea of it is wonderful: a short surgical procedure after which your short sight has gone for ever! You can throw those glasses away. Your days of sticking contacts lenses in your eyes are over! Well, that is how it advertised anyway. But are there any problems with laser eye surgery? And if you are put off by surgery, what is the alternative?
How Does Laser Eye Surgery Work?
First up, I have to point out that laser eye surgery doesn’t actually solve the problem of short sightedness.
What?! I hear you say.
Yes, that’s right it doesn’t solve it. But what about all those people on the promotional videos diving into crystal blue waters without the need of their prescription goggles? And all the other stuff (playing volleyball without glasses, running without prescription sunglasses etc etc).
Well, It does not address the issue of axial elongation (the lengthening of the eye) that got your eyes in their myopic state in the first place. All it does is cut out a section of the cornea (the outer lens of your eye) and this acts like a permanent contact lens for your eye. Further down below (under the ‘what are the alternatives? heading) I will explain how to address dealing with the real issue of shortsightedness/myopia.
What Are The Potential Problems After Surgery?
As it is evasive surgery, it is not without its risks. No surgeon is going to guarantee that you will get 2020 vision and that there will not be any side effects. Even short term ones. However, having said that, statistics suggest that there is a low percentage of serious problems with laser eye surgery. See the results shown on the sciencedirect.com website. The problems that are more likely to occur post surgery are: dry eyes, star bursts, double vision and sensitivity to light.
These though are usually problems in the short term and should clear after a few weeks. In addition, the surgery might not have given you that 2020 vision you were looking for. You might then still require glasses or contact lenses but with a weaker prescription lens. If that is the case, so much for the diving into the crystal blue waters without prescription goggles.
If all goes well with the eye surgery that sounds fine for the short term. But what happens in the long term?
What Are the Long Term Problems?
I remember watching an episode of the Simpsons many years ago. I think it was Bart Simpson (or was it Homer?) who said a comment about no one thought about the long term effects of eye surgery. While it was framed as a (dark/sick) joke, there was a serious statement behind it.
As I said above, eye surgery doesn’t actually solve the fundamental issue of shortsightedness. All that has been adjusted is the outer lens so that the light that enters your eye converges at the back of the eye. It has done nothing, however, to change the shape of the eye. With axial myopia, the eye ball has lengthened.
So what does that mean for the long term future of your eyesight if you opt for laser eye surgery?
Well, your eyesight may get worse and then you will either have to start using glasses or contact lenses again or the eye surgeon may suggest further surgery; further cuts to the cornea.
Mmm, doesn’t sound such a ‘perfect solution’ as it is made out to be, does it?
What Is The Alternative?
The alternative method doesn’t involve surgery.
It is a natural method whereby you train your eyes to respond to their environment. It is called Reduced Lens Therapy. By this way, you also address the fundamental core of the problem: the axial elongation of the eye. So how does it work? Well, it works like this: you use weaker lenses to stimulate your eye muscles. By putting weaker lenses in front of your eyes, they are made to work to focus. The muscles react to the environment they are in.
For example, for working at the computer you don’t want to wear the lenses that you use for when you are outside looking into the distance. This is where the problem has arisen in the first place. We have been advised to use our full strength prescription glasses for everything. Our eyes didn’t need this. As a result our eyes have given up on the focusing work and relied on the lenses. No wonder those eye prescriptions have become steadily worse over time. Our eyes have become lazy and stuck in a close up mode!
Obviously you want to continue to wear your full strength prescription lenses for situations where safety is concerned such as driving. However, less powerful lenses could be used when out walking (provided there are no hazards to avoid) and inside when on the computer.
So, you need to work out what strength those prescription glasses for non-hazardous situations should be. I think you don’t want to go too drastic on this. You don’t want the screen to become a blur and then end up with eye strain. This will make your eyes worse. However, by bringing the lens strength down by say, a diopter, for each lens should give you that situation where you are pushing your eyes a little bit to focus rather than letting them becoming totally reliant on the lenses to see.
If you live in countries where you can’t get glasses without your eye doctor/optician providing the prescription (like in the UK where I am) where do you go? Well, you could try web sites such as Eyebuydirect where you can order glasses without providing a prescription. As your eyes improve you will want to be about to chart your progress. See my post here on how to measure your eyesight accurately from the comfort of your home.
Take a look at this video by Brendan Chou who explains the process in more detail.
The Alternative Way Deserves Serious Consideration
Laser eye surgery is generally seen as low risk for now. Occasionally there are some nasty side effects. In the long term, it may not be a permanent solution as it is widely made out to be. There is an alternative out there. Reduced Lens therapy is a bit fiddly. You have to keep buying glasses with reduced strength lenses every time your vision improves and you have to work out what strength lens to use. A bit of trial and error is involved. However, if it means that the core of the problem is finally resolved and it can be done without surgery, I think it is well worth it.
If you have any comments about this, feel free to leave them below. Thanks.