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Seeing Clearly

Seeing Clearly …From the pages of Art of Living Well…

Debunking common Lasik myths

If you’ve ever thought about having Lasik eye surgery but have avoided it because of certain fears or beliefs, it’s worth doing some research and finding out which beliefs are actually based in fact. We spoke with several local eye care practitioners who told us that patients often come in with misconceptions about the procedure. We’ve summed up some of the most common Lasik myths and asked area eye physicians to set the record straight.

MYTH: It’s going to hurt
TRUTH: The professionals we spoke to all reiterated the same point—that Lasik may be uncomfortable at times, but it doesn’t hurt.

“When done properly by a skilled surgeon, the patient should pretty much be pain-free during the entire procedure,” says Dr. James G. Nachbar, of South Jersey Eye Physicians. “There is a part during the procedure where patients will feel pressure. It only lasts a couple of seconds but I always let my patients know when it is coming. My patients don’t describe pain from the procedure and because I make them aware of the pressure sensation. It’s not frightening to them, either.”

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“The surgery itself is painless and performed under numbing drops, but during the post-op recovery period, patients may have an unconformtable, scratchy feeling in their eye,” describes Dr. John D. Dugan Jr., co-director of the refractive surgery department at Wills Eye Hospital and a doctor with Eye Physicians in Voorhees. “It’s not horrible; It feels as though something is in your eye. That sensation goes away relatively quickly.”

MYTH: I could go blind
TRUTH: “It would probably be more likely to go blind from contact lens-related infections than from Lasik,” assures Dugan. “Both would be considered very rare. The risk of vision loss from Lasik is around one in 10,000. It would require a series of events happening such as an infection that then went untreated with the patient not following through with medication at home. I can say I’ve been doing this for 20 years and never experienced a case like that.”

“I’ve never experienced or heard from a colleague about a case of someone going blind from Lasik,” adds Nachbar. “It would have to be a pretty bad day where literally one thing after another went wrong. Infections from Lasik are rare to begin with, but if they happen, we’d catch and treat them early. Going from infection to blindness is a big stretch and not one that patients should be worried about.”

MYTH: I’ll never need glasses again
TRUTH: The truth is Lasik isn’t a cure-all for never wearing glasses again. It will make glasses much less necessary but won’t get rid of them all together.

“Everyone, including patients who have worn glasses their entire lives or those who have never worn them, will need some help with reading once they get into their 40s or 50s,” says Dr. Sally Halim, owner of Village Eyecare. “Lasik only corrects a patient’s distance vision. The ability to see up close is controlled by muscles in our eyes that only have about a 40- to 50-year life span. Once those muscles are fatigued, they cannot be built up again.”

MYTH: I’ll need the surgery repeated multiple times
TRUTH: Dugan says that most people do not need the surgery done again. “Typically if we do re-treat, it’s within the first six months,” he says.

“It’s pretty uncommon to need it repeated, but results can vary,” adds Nachbar. “Re-operating may be doable if the vision isn’t as sharp as we’d like. But the truth is, sometimes trying to make things too perfect backfires. It’s typically not worth the risk of repeated surgery. The key is expectation. Patients can’t come in expecting perfect vision in all circumstances —it’s just not possible. We come as close as we can and the majority of people are happy with their results. We are honest with our patients and don’t want them to have unrealistic expectations.”

MYTH: Anyone can have Lasik
TRUTH: While Lasik has come a long way and a large majority of patients who want it are candidates, not everyone is a good fit for surgery. Halim says that the ideal candidate is moderately nearsighted and young. “Patients who are extremely nearsighted may not be good candidates because they tend to have thinner corneas and the thinner the cornea, the less tissue there is available for the surgeon to laser down,” Halim explains. “Farsighted patients do not fare well with Lasik because the surgeon has to re-shape the cornea to make the eye appear longer.”

Other conditions that could prevent a patient from being a candidate for Lasik may include those with large pupils (Lasik can cause significant glare,) patients with severe dry eye (Lasik could worsen this,) patients whose prescriptions are unstable or constantly changing, patients who have lazy eye, or patients who have ocular disease or may require cataract surgery in the eminent future, says Halim.

If you’re told you’re not a good candidate for Lasik, it may be dangerous to go searching for someone who will do it anyways. Nachbar warns that there are some practices out there that really want business and will treat patients even if they aren’t ideal candidates.

“I’ve screened patients out because they weren’t a good fit for Lasik and they’ve gone elsewhere and had it done anyway,” Nachbar says. “Then they come back and want it repaired. It’s not that simple. If we screen patients out, it’s for a good reason. We’re very honest and have built a reputation on that. If you go out looking to have Lasik done, it’s imperative that you find a practice that is trustworthy and reputable, with physicians who are skilled.”

Resources

Eye Physicians
1140 White Horse Road
Voorhees
(856) 784-3366
Eye-Physicians.com

South Jersey Eye Physicians
509 S. Lenola Road
Moorestown
(856) 234-0222
25 Homestead Drive
Columbus
(609) 298-0888
103 Old Marlton Pike
Medford
(609) 714-8761
SJEye.com

Village Eyecare
120 Center Square Road
Woolwich
(856) 832-4950
SJVillageEyecare.com

Wills Eye Hospital
Multiple Locations in N.J. and Pa.
(877) 289-4557
WillsEye.org

Published (and copyrighted) in the Art of Living Well pull-out section of Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 1 (March, 2015).
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Author: Lindsey Getz

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