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     Volume 6 Issue 16 | April 27, 2007 |

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Syeda Shamin Mortada

Eyes are the mirror of the soul! And we all want the mirror to have a sparkle and shine. It is a pity for those who have to hide their long lashes behind fat rimmed glasses or even worse if one must grope for the spectacles first thing every morning. Fiddling with contact lenses before going out, or pushing the eyeglass up the bridge of the nose every two minutes can be really annoying.

Imagine gaining independence from those lenses or glasses and be able to enjoy the beautiful world with bare eyes! What if your blurred world became clear as crystal before your very eyes? Thanks to modern technology, we can achieve this sort of freedom now and all that is possible due to laser eye surgery. "Laser surgery is the most exciting advancement in ophthalmology," says James J. Salz, M.D., clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southern California. It can be conducted on people who are short sighted or myopic, long sighted or hyperopic and even for those suffering for astigmatism, which produces blurred images at all distances. Laser surgery helps to reshape the cornea which helps correct all of the above problems.

Laser surgery of the eye has various advantages. The risk of infection is much lower; the surgery is fairly painless, a long hospital stay is not required and most importantly the lasers use complex system for producing and focusing light beam, making it more precise than any other kinds of surgery. Therefore, in spite of being quite costly, this sort of surgery, being quick and simple is increasingly gaining popularity and receiving many celebrity endorsements as well. According to the Lasik Specialist and Managing Director of Lasik Sight Center, located in Gulshan 2, “A time will come when the whole world will be without glasses. And the good news is that you can never get permanently blind thorough Laser Eye Surgery.”

The Excimer laser surgery is commonly performed using a variation of techniques, namely PRK (Photo-Refractive Keractectomy), first introduced in the early nineties and LASIK (Laser Assisted in situ Keratomileusis), introduced in the mid-nineties. There are also more recent procedures called LASEK (Laser Epithelial Keratomileusis) and Epi-LASIK. Some doctors consider LASIK as a suitable procedure for correcting the most severe refractive errors. They also say that there is generally a faster recovery time after LASIK than after PRK. In addition, LASIK patients can see well enough to drive immediately and have good vision within a week.

However, just as there are pros and cons to any other surgery, laser surgery has its risks too. According to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, complications occur in less than 5% of cases and the chances of having vision threatening complications are minimal. There is about a 0.1 percent chance of the cornea becoming infected after PRK, and a somewhat smaller chance after LASIK. The MD of the Lasik Eye Center said “If infection does occur it can easily be treated, so there is nothing to be afraid of. Moreover a specialised thorough eye check up is done first to determine if one can proceed with the surgery. A person who is under 18, is pregnant, has a history of eye disease such as optic nerve damage, cataracts or problems with the cornea such as corneal thinning will not be recommended to go through the procedure.” Some suffer from dry eyes in the months following the surgery and artificial tear supplements may be required in the long term. Others may experience glare or halo effects during night driving particularly just after the treatment. In very rare cases, complications can lead to corneal ectasia, where fluid pressure builds up on the eye.

This article will not be able to cover all the conceivable risks for every situation. Thus, the first thing you ought to do if you decide to go for Laser Surgery is to conduct an extensive research and be fully informed about all the risks and complications. Make sure to have a detailed discussion with your ophthalmologist or eye care specialist about your visual and lifestyle needs, medical condition, career and future plans. Ask all questions you deem necessary. Talk about your expectations, benefits and risks with the surgeon and make sure you are a suitable candidate before you go ahead with the operation. Most patients have a reasonably comfortable period after surgery and are back at work within a few days to a week. Depending on the vision correction attempted, driving may be unsafe for one to two weeks. Tinted glasses with ultraviolet protection are needed when out in the sun for the first three months.

Nafis Emran, a non resident Bangladeshi who had the LASIK surgery on both his eyes a few days back, commented “The operation was successful, I have gained complete vision on my left eye and as with the right one it will take a bit more time. Over all I am quite happy and satisfied with the result.” Ismat Zerin Chadni, a 1st year MBBS student also went through LASIK surgery recently. She had been wearing glasses since she was in her 7th grade. “Glasses were always a burden to me. I am so content now that I don't have to put them on anymore” said Chadni.

Although there are several types of surgical techniques being performed today to correct refractive errors, laser refractive correction is fast becoming the most technologically advanced method available, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology in San Francisco. For those who suffer no side-effects, laser surgery undoubtedly is a positive and life changing experience. Doctors say it allows for an unparalleled degree of precision and predictability. William Power is an eye surgeon at the Blackrock Clinic in County Dublin. He believes that when common sense is applied by patients and correct surgical assessments are made by doctors, surgery with a laser produces immediate and tangible benefits to vision.


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