SINGAPORE - Here in Singapore, where a large number of people are encumbered with spectacles or struggle daily with contact lenses, a Lasik operation is an increasingly popular option to correct poor vision and other eye problems. Experts tell us more about the latest technology available and address the myths surrounding Lasik procedures in this eye-care special.
Fact or fiction: Getting a Lasik operation may result in night-vision problems, such as glares or halos from light.
The truth is, said Dr Lee Sao Bing, these glares and halos may worsen initially, but they will plateau and improve over a few months.
Said the medical director and principal surgeon of Shinagawa Lasik & Eye Centre: "While glares and halos may be seen up to a few months (after Lasik), most patients' functional vision will not be affected."
He said that, for example, Lasik patients may find it difficult to drive at night for the first one to two weeks, but that gets better thereafter.
For some people, Lasik - a laser procedure that removes cornea tissue and improves the cornea's focusing power by reshaping it - remains befogged in such misconceptions.
For instance, contrary to popular belief, the recovery period after having a Lasik operation is hardly long and extensive, said Dr Lee.
"Half of my patients are able to drive in to see me the next day and most go back to work after one or two days of rest," said the eye specialist.
One of his patients, Mr Raymond Ong, resumed jogging easily, just a week after undergoing a Lasik operation. In a month's time, the 29-year-old civil servant will be rejoining his football teammates for their weekend games.
He said: "It feels great to be able to go back so quickly to a sport I love, without the hassle of having to put on my contact lenses or feel my glasses slip down my nose."
Dr Lee - who has, to date, carried out about 14,000 Lasik procedures treating short-sightedness, long-sightedness and other eye problems - said: "Compared to Caucasians, Asians tend to have thinner corneas and higher myopia, so some of them may not be suitable for Lasik."
However, he said that people may not be aware that with newer and more advanced technology, even people with thin corneas may go for the Lasik procedure with less risk. With Lasik Xtra, a surgical procedure used to strengthen a weakened cornea that was introduced at the centre last year, a patient can undergo vision correction with reduced risk.
Still, "the first step (for anyone considering Lasik) is to go for an eye check-up," said Dr Lee. At his clinic, patients sometimes come in with dry eyes, which puts off the possibility of undergoing Lasik treatment, until their eyes are lubricated enough.
This process may, however, take up to two years.
Other times, Dr Lee has to reject patients who have developed problems from overusing contact lenses over the years.
He said: "By the time they come to us, a thick scar tissue has formed, which makes it impossible for a Lasik procedure to be done.
"A check-up serves to see if the patient is eligible for a Lasik procedure, but it doesn't mean that the patient must go for it afterwards.
"Just don't wait until it's too late."
Seven common misconceptions
Lasik correction is painful
There is a mild stretching discomfort experienced during surgery. No pain is felt as anaesthetic eye drops are used to numb the eyes.
After 45 minutes to an hour, the anaesthetic effect will wear off, and the discomfort felt is akin to that of swimming without goggles.
I have to keep my eyes still during surgery
While it is good to keep the eye extremely still, the advanced laser systems now have very good eye trackers, which follow the eye when it moves.
For example, the AMARIS laser has six-dimensional eye tracking and can track the eye at 1,050 times per second.
My eyesight is too poor to be corrected by Lasik
It is true that more cornea tissue will need to be removed for those with high myopia.
Your doctor will be able to tell you after a pre-Lasik assessment whether your cornea is thick enough for your vision to be corrected entirely.
Lasik is not for people with astigmatism
Lasik can treat up to 600 degrees (six diopters) of astigmatism.
Lasik causes night-vision problems
Glares and halos in one's vision will get worse initially, then plateau and get better over a few months.
Seeing glares and halos does not affect functional vision for most people. For the minority that is affected, they say that while it is a little difficult to drive at night during the first week or so, it gets better thereafter.
Going for Lasik eliminates any need for glasses or contact lenses afterwards
Lasik cannot promise perfect vision. But, while its accuracy is lower for those with higher myopia and/or astigmatism, only 2 or 3 per cent of such patients are affected.
For the first three months after surgery, a patient may experience a slight regression in vision, due to dry eyes, but this is reversible if he takes care to lubricate the eyes.
In the long run, a person who does not practise good eye care after the procedure may experience myopia progression.
People over 40 usually develop long-sightedness, regardless of the procedure.
There is no point in having Lasik if I still have to wear glasses afterwards
After Lasik, the patient's vision will definitely improve.
For example, from not being able to cross a street or go jogging without glasses before Lasik, the person will be able to do these activities without glasses after Lasik.
He may require visual aids, in the form of spectacles or contact lenses, to provide a small amount of correction in order to drive, to do archery or to look at PowerPoint slides from the back of a lecture theatre.
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