According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people have a visual impairment. For 80 percent of people, the vision problems may be cured or improved. With the growing popularity of eye laser surgery in foreign countries, the North countries keep pace as well. Why people decide to perform eye laser surgery, why it looks like doctors avoid taking this opportunity by themselves and what is the main recipe of healthy vision – talking to Rasa Jankauskiene, an ophthalmologist-microsurgeon at Eye Clinic Lirema.
You have been working as ophthalmologists for the third decade – what does the tendency of vision change in North countries?
In fact, most patients between the age of 25 and 35 visit the clinic and the number tends to increase. Perhaps the main reason is that the financial situation in the world is a bit better now. The price-to-salary ratio of vision correction has changed dramatically compared to the past decade. Now, the price for a good vision and a comfortable life does not seem so high. The social media and other information play a huge role – people now have more knowledge and come to consultation determined about methods of treatment. The most common short-sighted, far-sighted, or astigmatic patients are that they are tired from old eyeglasses, contact lenses, have heard good feedback and prefer eye laser surgery.
According to the latest data, more than 16 million eye laser surgeries have been performed worldwide in 28 years. What do patients expect the most before and enjoy after this procedure?
Patients come to the consultation having information about the environment – how good it was to overcome fears and take an opportunity to have surgery. A lot of people want to regain their freedom, save time and money in the future and forget about taking care of eyeglasses and contact lenses which should be replaced on time, remembered and removed before bedtime. We are happy to advise patients as much as they have questions, and after extensive examinations, we may tell what vision goal may be reached by surgery. It is very important to clarify the patient ‘s expectations that the surgery will justify. If the expectations are higher than they may be achieved by the procedure, we do not recommend it.
So far, I have done about 7000 eye laser surgeries and have met patients with a wide variety of visual impairments – those who see poorly but don ‘t wear glasses, wear them but still have poor eyesight. The most memorable was the 78-year-old patient who had multiple eye surgeries – retinal, macular and lens implantation – and he still saw poorly. We have achieved a very good result with eye laser surgery and made a patient extremely happy. Sometimes, even in the most challenging situations, vision may be corrected, and the quality of life can be improved dramatically.
The results of the surgery are obvious, but there are fears that it may be painful and cause a dry eye. Is it true?
Everyone is worried about how things are going during the surgery. At the consultation, we inform the patient how he may feel during the procedure. None of the patients felt pain– they were preceded by anesthetic eyedrops, which provide comfort. After the operation for a few hours, the patient may not feel any pain as well, so he may back home safely. A little bit harder time begins after the day, during the healing period of eyes – it is the body ‘s natural response to the procedure. At the clinic we give each patient additional eye drops and medicines, to relieve the healing feelings. These feelings are very individual for everyone – for some, the postoperative period passes like nowhere, while others ask to rest and do not go to work.
Previously it was thought that eye laser surgery may cause dry eyes, but recent patient studies have shown that dry eye is independent of this procedure. In contrast, patients who had the most complaints about dry eyes before surgery, after the femtosecond and excimer laser procedure, experienced improvement.
If eye laser surgery offers so much comfort, why we may see eye doctors still wearing glasses?
Actually, very often I get a question from patients if I don ‘t need glasses or had eye laser surgery for myself. There are some myths in the public that eye doctors who perform such operations avoid it – patients see microsurgeons at their office wearing eyeglasses. I am in a hurry to deny this stereotype – doctors surely perform this procedure. I have undergone eye laser surgery for several colleagues of mine and their children. I think this myth comes from the most common doctors’ age 40-45 when in the eye occur natural changes and every person – would it be a doctor or not – need glasses for reading. This process is called presbyopia. Eye laser surgery does not heal it, a person may still be dispensed with reading glasses. This is the main reason why the procedure is not recommended from the age of 45.
Doctors, who are right candidates for surgery, perform it, but after the operation, the eye looks untouched and patients cannot tell if the doctor has undergone the procedure or if he just does not need glasses naturally. Such information is not emphasized during the consultation, as it is not a priority – consultation time is for the patient. Third thing is that some people may like eyeglasses, they may fit with style, beautify the face and even do not need to be with diopters.
What healthy eyes recipe would you recommend?
The main good vision factor is – being outside, looking to distance and enjoying the fresh air. Working from a close range, looking at a small screen leads to the development of myopia, especially for younger people when eyes are still growing. Genetics also influence vision, we will not run away from it, but treasuring eyes we can turn the situation for the better and avoid many illnesses. Eye exercise is also useful, but it takes time, and more often, we may benefit by being outdoors – healthy eyes and ventilated head. My personal recipe for healthy eyes is to have a positive attitude towards life – this is how you may have both – a good vision and healthy body and soul.