Product Type: Optimax in Health Therapies / Treatments
Newest Review: ... this is a natural phenomena, this however occurred immediately after surgery and Optimax have not accepted that it a result of their surg... more
Review on Epi-Lasek Eye Surgery
Optimax Epi Lasek Laser Eye Surgery
Member Name: grafit
Optimax Epi Lasek Laser Eye Surgery
Date: 11/10/06, updated on 26/11/06 (5042 review reads)
Advantages: Great Sight, no glasses or lenses. Freedom to see without compromise.
Disadvantages: A bit of pain at the start. Taken me longer than expected to get decent vision.
Date of consultation and operation:
I am a 43 year old male, born in England and still living in the UK. I have needed glasses since the age of 15 as I realised at that age that I could not see the blackboard, or bus numbers as they approached (the buses not the blackboards).
I started wearing contact lenses at the age of 17 and was fortunate to be able to wear soft contact lenses. My prescription then was about -2.5 (short sighted).
So some 26 years later, I have grown weary of the constant hassle that glasses and contact lenses, and although I have never had a really bad problem with contact lenses, I have been starting to find them more temperamental and can keep them in for a shorter length of time - 7am - 7pm which can be annoying if I am going out in the evening. My prescription at 43 is -3.5 (short sighted)
Some years ago a friend of mine had corrective laser eye surgery and he was delighted with it.
I wanted to wait to make sure there were no serious side effects - or longer term problems linked to this kind of operation.
Ok, so some ten years on from that, I have looked into it all over again, and made the decision to have corrective laser eye surgery. I have looked at the different types available, and it would appear that I could have Lasik or Epi-Lasek.
Epi-Lasek looks like the more painful version, but with a better long term result and also more suitable for me as I enjoy outdoor activities, some of which may result in my head coming into contact with another object (Mountain Biking, Windsurfing etc.) and it looks like Lasik surgery will leave a flap that may be damaged, whereas Epi_Lasek results in the eye healing completely and able to take knocks and bumps.
I browsed the internet and researched the treatments, and also looked for blogs. I found the blogs very useful, as they were honest heartfelt reviews and answered many more ‘real’ questions than the company websites and even the scientific research. I was looking for ‘how does it feel?’ “Is it worth it?”, “Is there a lot of pain?”, “Would you do it again?” sort of Q&A.
So with that in mind, here is my account and hopefully others will find it useful for them as they look into whether corrective laser eye surgery is for them.
I live in Wales, UK just above Swansea and my nearest laser eye surgery centre is Optimax, Bristol, some 2 hours car drive away. I did consider other laser eye surgery providers such as Moorfields, but could not see that they used any different equipment or procedures.
I had already contacted Optimax some months before and had filled in an online questionnaire regarding my suitability. After that time, I had received a letter about every three weeks offering me discounted laser eye surgery (buy one get one free).
Once I had decided to go with the surgery, I rang Optimax and I arranged a consultation for the 2nd October 2006 at 11am. I also pre-booked my laser eye treatment for later that day (This would only happen if the Opthalmic Consultant said it would be possible, and also that I was in agreement!).
The Epi-Lasek treatment means that you will be out of action for at least a week, if not three and Optimax stress that you should have someone at home that will be able to look after you for at least a couple of days after the operation.
A week prior to the consultation I stopped wearing my contact lenses, as apparently they can cause mis-readings when the optometrist measures the surface of your eye prior to laser treatment.
Wearing glasses all the time for a week prior to the consultation was a good reminder to me as to why I had decided to go for this operation. I have good quality, fashionable glasses that don’t make me look like a jerk, but I still find them annoying and intrusive. I have never gotten used to wearing glasses all day. I don’t have a problem using them in the evening when watching TV or doing the cooking etc., I just don’t like them on a day to day basis - when they steam up as you come in from the cold, when you have to clean them off each time you go out in the rain etc.
So I drove to Bristol on the Monday morning - what a lovely morning, clear blue sky and the leaves starting to show signs of changing colour - what a lovely time of year. Well, a great time of year except if you need to put on sunglasses over the top of your glasses!!
Optimax in Bristol does not have parking that close by, it is at least a ten minute walk from the Galleries shopping centre. I don’t mind walking, but I was wondering how I was going to find my way back as a blind person!
I made copious notes as to landmarks, and my wife and I discussed worst case scenarios - like leaving me on the pavement as she rushed back to get the car and then race back to me to bundle me into the car if I had collapsed half way back to the car.
We bought a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of Sprite from Greggs the bakers, as we were not sure whether there were any coffee bars near the clinic.
Arriving outside the Optimax clinic, I was looking for other people who may have been treated - people with bruised red eyes and sunglasses, or maybe people clinging for dear life to partners as they guided them back to awaiting transport - maybe even with blood seeping from under their sunglasses. Thankfully I was not met with any of these sights.
The receptionist at Optimax Bristol was efficient and showed me through to a room, whilst my wife sat in the reception lounge and plugged in her iPod ready for a long wait.
Inside the consulting room, I was asked to take off my glasses and a number of tests were performed.
My blood pressure was taken, a nice little machine that straps to your wrist and is completely painless!
The first test carried out on my eyes was a strange machine that you look into and then loads of red rings appear. This machine measures the shape of your eye and its readings will be used to work out whether you may benefit from Wavefront treatment prior to the laser treatment. The Wavefront treatment is a lower powered laser that tries to reduce any irregularities that may be present on the eye surface - a bit like sanding down the paint work to ensure a smooth finish prior to applying the paint I guess.
The second test was a machine that puffed air into my eyes and measured the internal pressure of the eye. This will show up whether you are susceptible to Glaucoma - where the internal pressure of the eye causes damage to the optic nerve. If there is constantly too greater pressure, the optic nerve is gradually crushed, until eventually it no longer functions. So if there is a history of Glaucoma in your family, get this checked out anyway. If you are found to have too higher internal pressure, a simple application of eye drops every day will allow the pressure to be decreased and held at a safe level.
The third test was a machine that you look into and the machine takes a picture of your eye - I’m not too sure what this was for.
After the tests, you are led to a computer, where you have to answer loads of questions with YES/NO answers. Most of these are to establish that you realise what you are letting yourself in for and obviously act as a disclaimer for Optimax (which is sensible for both you and them).
I was then asked to sit down and wait for the Opthalmic Consultant to call me.
Ten minutes later, I was called to see the Opthalmic Consultant.
The Opthalmic Consultant took me into a room that anyone who has had an eye test would recognise - the large Dentists type chair and the sight chart at the other end - only in this case, the sight chart was a mirror that reflected a sight chart that was projected onto it from a computer.
The Opthalmic Consultant put the normal variety of lenses in front of my eyes that discern the correct prescription and asked me when I could and couldn’t see the chart etc.
After he had carried out the eye tests, including the black circles on a green vs. red background, he placed some antiseptic drops into my eyes (which sting a bit). He then looked carefully at my eyes via different microscope type devices and shined lights into my eyes whilst telling me to look this way and that.
He also measured my pupils. Apparently if your pupils are very big, there is much more chance of a halo effect occurring later on as the eyes heal, and can even be a permanent problem regarding night time driving.
Eventually he pulled back and put all the machinery to one side so that I could talk to him unhindered.
He explained all the different problems that can occur with laser eye surgery, including that for one out of a thousand, some of the problems may not be able to be corrected and that this would mean worse sight than I now have, and possible pain and discomfort!!
However, he did state that this was a worse case scenario and that with my prescription and results from all the tests that they had carried out, that I didn’t really need to worry.
He also said that they could laser my eyes so that I ended up with one eye being perfect for distance vision and the other perfect for reading. In this way, I would not require reading glasses in the future. However, the down side is that you may get headaches, you may have problems in spatial awareness and also that some European countries state that it is illegal to drive with this kind of vision, unless it is corrected with glasses! I could not see the benefits outweighed the potential problems and declined the offer to laser my eyes in this way.
I was also told how my eyes may be very sore after the treatment for some weeks, and that for the first few days I would have to wear contact lens bandages - basically soft contact lenses that would stop my eyelids rubbing against the raw cornea. I would also need to use anti-biotic eye drops and ant-inflamatory drops, and also refreshing eye drops.
I agreed that I still wanted to go ahead with the Epi-Lasek surgery and would like both eyes treated for short sight (not the long sight / short sight treatment that he had informed me about).
He also stated that my results showed that I would benefit from Wavefront treatment - which would mean an extra cost of £150 per eye.
What could I do, it seemed silly to baulk at an extra £300 when I may receive even better results?
So it was back to the waiting lounge - where I reported back to my wife about all the procedures I had just been through, and that we were now looking at a bill of £1165 rather than the £865 we had budgeted for :-(
The next step was a visit to the reception desk where the poor old credit card got a pounding! How easy is it to spend £1165 these days!
I sat back with my wife and we ate our sandwiches.
At about 1pm I was called to the operating suite!
In fact, I was led to another small room, where I was asked to put on a silly hair net. I am not sure if there were cameras in the room, but I thought that maybe they ask you to wear a hair net just to make you look really stupid and to lower your self worth.
I still wasn’t really nervous about having the operation - in fact I was looking forward to it - or rather I was looking forward to the end result. A bit like I don’t enjoy going to the gym, but I do enjoy the results.
I was kept waiting in this god forsaken room for about half an hour - the longest I had been made to wait all day. There were no magazines or anything else to look at and I decided that deep breathing and closing my eyes was the best way to get through the boredom / anticipation. I heard quite a few voices in the room next door - as the got the laser ready for action. I comforted myself with the thought that I would far rather them take the time to get the laser calibrated correctly, rather than getting it ready by testing it out on my eyes!
A young lady eventually arrived and escorted me to the laser zone.
I saw my Opthalmic Consultant - or rather just about saw him, as he was now in surgical scrubs, with a face mask and gloves etc. All of a sudden, I was aware that this was a surgical procedure that I was about to undertake - and I had paid good money for it!
As I laid back on the operating chair, my glasses were taken from me with the comforting words that I would no longer be needing them - ever again.
The consultant then laid a piece of gauze over my right eye and placed a few anaesthetic drops into my left eye. You don’t get to see anything very clearly after this stage.
He then placed something on my eye that I think kept my eye wide open so that the rest of the procedure can be carried out. You only see blurred images at this stage, and you are concentrating on breathing and not moving your eye at all (even though there is no real feeling in your eye). The consultant then told me that he was about to apply alcohol to the eye and they would time it for 30 seconds. This eemed a really important thing, as the assistant counted out the seconds in a 25 - 20 - 15 - 10, 9, 8 kind of way. At zero seconds, the consultant wiped my eye with what I presume was a cotton bud (but surgical kind of cotton bud - I hope). This allowed me to have quite clear vision and it was at this stage he said that the laser was about to be applied.
The Wavefront laser was first, it made a humming noise and lasted about 15 seconds - no pain.
The Full Power laser was next - the one that does the proper job. This was a much louder hum and I could hear a slight crackling - and could sense that fumes were coming away from my eye. I had been told that this was the protein becoming gas. I had also been told that I may notice an unpleasant smell. I did not notice an odour - maybe the air conditioning has been improved since the early days?
After 27 seconds the left eye was done. The laser stopped and the consultant dropped in some antiseptic drops and then a contct lens and then some more antiseptic drops.
The right eye was the same procedure as the left eye and after a couple of minutes, I was being led from the room - healed!!
I was amazed that I could see so well after the operation. There was a slight scratchy feeling in my eye, similar to when you put a new contact lens in that needs to bed in - not unpleasant.
I tapped my wife on the shoulder and sat down next to her, as a young girl gave me a bag of goodies.
She very briefly explained that I needed to take anti-biotic drops four times per day and that I should take a large Ibuprofen tablet now, as I would start to feel some discomfort as the anaesthetic eye drops wore off.
Within the bag were also some ant-inflamatory drops, some refreshing eye drops, some plastic eye cups and surgical tape - apparently I needed to wear these eye cups at night to make sure I didn’t rub my eyes. There was also a piece of paper with full instructions about what I should do when I got home. It was at this stage that I realised my near vision was not up to much, as the type just appeared as black smudges on the paper.
There were also some anaesthetic drops in the bag which I was advised against taking as they slowed the healing process down. “Only take these if you really, really need to” is what I was told.
I was then told that I should go home and rest and that I should return on Friday to have the contact lens bandages removed.
I said my thank you’s and put on my sunglasses - my word, everything was very bright!!
I walked back to the car with my wife, reading out the car number plates we passed - with me trying to see how far away I could read - fantastic!
Five minutes into the walk back to the car I found the sunshine unbearable and I was squinting whilst wearing sunglasses. I was also finding my peripheral vision was not up to much and I was getting annoyed with people walking in my way.
As we entered the shopping centre to get to the car park, I was feeling really really agitated - my nerves felt on edge and all I wanted to do was get back to the car as quickly as possible - my eyes were starting to hurt.
We got to the car and I collapsed into the passenger seat - feeling very hot.
As my wife drove the car out from the underground car park, I was frantically trying to get the air conditioning controls turned to ‘as cold as possible’ as I was getting really hot - and my vision was blurry (I had taken off the sunglasses as we navigated to the exit of the underground car park, and yet everything was still very dark).
As the car exited the car park, the bright blue sky and lovely sunshine became my most hated enemy. My eyes winced as the sun streaked in through the car windows and even though I now had my sunglasses on and my eyes closed, it was still too bright!!
I fumbled in the back seat and found my lightweight black rain jacket and threw it over my head - not caring what onlookers may think about a passenger in a car writhing and wrestling against himself trying to smother themselves with a rain jacket on a lovely autumnal day. My eyes started to stream, I needed tissues quickly - but I didn’t want to open my eyes to see if i could find anything - it was too bright outside! I fumbled blindly and eventually found the tissues - slight relief as I wiped the tears away.
The car came to a halt - traffic jam as we try and reach the M32. Stupid road works - my frustration seems totally over the top and all my senses seem to be screaming and I just want the car to move and to get home - surely not another two hours trapped in a car feeling like this?
After 15 minutes (which seemed an eternity), we are driving onto the M32, and heading for the M4. I can’t get comfortable, and my ever patient wife is listening to me relay exactly how my eyes feel. It is as though someone has squirted fairy washing up liquid into them, added toothpaste and then asked me to close my eyes and grin and bear it!
My wife updates me on landmarks as we zoom westwards on the M4 - I am thankful for a loving wife who drives well, I am also grateful fo having a smooth fast car and air conditioning. Eventually a couple of hours later, we pull into the drive at home - tissues strewn around the footwell of the car and a loving family gathered outside concerned at my condition. My 17 year old son guides me from the car, into the house where the curtains are drawn. Such relief to be home - I am no longer nearly as agitated, and the nerves seem to have stopped being quite so sensitive. I am offered a lovely cup of tea, and everyone looks at the blind mans eyes :-)
The feeling in the eyes is now more of a scratchy feeling, similar to having a badly fitting contact lens - bearable but not something you want to live with on a minute by minute basis. I know that I should expect to feel this way, and I really don’t mind putting up with feeling like this as I am sure it will get better.
The first anti-biotic drops (Allergan Exocin) bring brief relief to my eyes and I look forward to more in another four hours.
I retire to the bedroom, as it is unfair to the rest of the family to condemn them to living in the dark without the TV or radio on. The bedroom has the blackout curtains up, and I feel great relief as I take off my sunglasses. My iPod is here - preloaded with audiobooks and playlists ready for my enforced bed rest.
I find that the backlight on the iPod is way to bright and I cannot focus on the words in front of me, and when I then play audio through the earbuds, I find it all too much and cannot listen as it seems to be far to loud or harsh - even at the lowest volume. I find the radio preferable as I close my eyes and listen and drift in and out of a light sleep.
My wife brings in the anti-biotic eyedrops when it is time for their application. Again, relief from this sandy rubbing feeling I am getting. A light supper of eggy bread soaked in maple syrup - with me playing ‘guess where the pieces in the bowl are’, as I stab blindly hoping to spear food. It is just too painful to have my eyes open for longer than half a second, I am also dead scared that the contact bandage lenses may fall out and I will need to call Optimax on their emergency number and then travel all the way back to Bristol to have them sorted out! My fears prove to be unfounded and the lenses stay in no problem at all.
I take a sleeping tablet at 9:30pm and lie down looking forward to sleeping through until the discomfort stops. I wake up at 2am and my eyes are pretty scratchy and painful. As soon as I open them tears start to well from them and this helps reduce the discomfort. A trip to the bathroom confirms that my eyes are really light sensitive, as the moonlit night appears bright enough to cause me to squint.
A restless night follows and this restlessness is to be the course for the next few days. I don’t have any energy and I am really bored as you can’t read and you can’t watch television or films, and I find I can’t concentrate on the audiobooks I have prepared. The radio is the best companion at this stage, and the pre-programmed buttons allow me to quickly switch from station to station.
I found the Allergan Refresh drops very good at relieving the soreness within my eyes and by day three my eyes seemed to be settling down to a dull scratchy feeling which was totally bearable, especially when you know that the healing process should soon allow you to get these contact lenses out - which seemed to be the main cause of the pain.
I hate not shaving, and on Wednesday afternoon I have a lovely wet shave - ah - that’s better.
I also have a shower - using a mask I bought on holiday for snorkel diving. I find the mask better than goggles, as it does not push against my eye socket, which is still swollen. It is strange having a shower with a mask on - it all steams up on the outside and needs to be wiped frequently. I am also frantically worried not to allow any water to ingress the mask, and close my eyes when possible - just in case!
I am also running out of Refresh eye drops. My wife went to the chemists and cannot get Refresh Drops. She does manage to get some other eye drops (they need to be preservative free) called Minims Artificial tears - expensive at £7.99 for 20, but this is a small price to pay for relief.
In the evening I take a walk up the lane, it is great to get out and taste fresh air and my vision isn’t too bad - blurry around the edges and not a great deal of detail able to be recognised - although it is now dusk and the light levels are dropping rapidly, so the walk is brief - I am also worried in case a fly or some small insect flies in and infects my eye!
Problems during Wednesday night; it seems that I may be allergic to these latest eye drops - my eyes start stinging more and more and the pain is very much like having soap in your eyes. I don’t sleep for more than an hour at a time, and then it is very painful trying to open my eyes, but it is also painful having them closed. The anti-biotic drops sting even more!
First thing the next morning my wife goes out in the pouring rain and gets soaking wet just so I can have the Allergan Refresh drops - I am very grateful!
I phone Optimax, as I feel that I shouldn’t be feeling as much pain as this by this stage in my recovery - I really am not a woos, and the literature says that I should phone if I am still having pain at this stage. I would really like to come in and get the contact lenses removed today rather than wait another 24 hours... The phone is answered by a receptionist who states that there are no consultants in Bristol on Thursdays and that I should come in as planned on Friday when my contact lens bandages can be removed. I do state that my eyes are in a great deal of pain, very red and i would value someone looking at them. The answer is the same - no one here who can help, use the Refresh drops and come in on Friday as scheduled. I am left feeling a mixture of annoyance, pain and resigned hopelessness.
During Thursday my eyes continue to hurt, although the Refresh drops do seem to be better than the Minims drops that caused the flare-up. Thursday night is a bit better than Wednesday (it couldn’t be worse), and I awake eager to get shaved and washed ready for the journey to Bristol.
The weather is kinder to me (though not my wife) as we travel along the M4 in torrential rain. As we approach Newport the sky clears and we have patchy cloud and blue sky - thank goodness I brought my sunglasses!
No problems on the roads mean we arrive early in Bristol, some one hour early for my appointment. However, I am seen very quickly by the optician. It is a different optician to who treated me and she says that it looks like I have had an allergic reaction to the contact lenses, which would explain why all the other people waiting looked like they were about to have the treatment - clear eyes and smiling, whereas there was me looking like I had gone two rounds with Mike Tyson and then been poked in both eyes with a stick!
The upside is that I think this was the reason i was seen earlier than the appointed time - so there was some upside to having a reaction to the lenses. The Optician stated that ‘I should have come in earlier if I was in such pain’. I refrained from stating the bleedin’ obvious, and calmly said that the receptionist had stated there was no one there that could help on a Thursday. I also said that it is difficult to know when things are wrong, as I was expecting pain, and the literature states that some people may feel more pain than others. I had assumed that I was in the ‘more pain’ category.
The Optician removed the lenses - so easily - a couple of eye drops and then flick them out just like you would any contact lens.
Wow - relief!! I had been living for this moment over the last few days, and it was worth it. My eyes stopped hurting and things were coming into focus.
The optician stated that it looked like their had been an allergic reaction with my eyes and the bandage contact lenses, hence the pain etc. I was glad in a way, as I had started to wonder whether it was just that I had a low pain threshold?
Talking to the optician, it seemed that my left eye had not healed as well as my right eye and she said that I should expect it to be fairly ‘scratchy’ for a while yet as it continued to heal. My right eye had fared better and she proceeded to do an eye test using the computer driven eye chart.
With my right eye I could read the bottom line of the chart which apparently means I have greater than 20/20 vision in that eye.
She than asked me to cover my right eye and do the same test with my left eye.
Optician: “How far can you read?”
Me: “I can just make out the black border of the eye chart!”
OK - so it seems that as my left eye heals up, it may even overtake my right eye, and in fact the two eyes may play good eye / bad eye for a while and I may have days where the right eye is blurry and the left eye is fine.
I made an appointment for 1 months time to have a check up. I depart Bristol Optimax - sunglasses in place!
The drive home is much better this time, I can enjoy the journey and it is great being a passenger and being chaffeur driven by my wife. We stop off at a McDonalds and get a couple of Big Tasty Meals... mmmm life is good again.
Some people have said that they can drive as soon as the lenses are out.There is no way that I would trust myself driving at this stage. My vision is good, but I feel spacial awareness is not good and after a week of bed rest, life is a bit strange and driving needs you fully alert and 100%.
Now that the lenses are out, anti biotic drops need to be taken four times a day and also Anti inflamatory drops need to be taken four times per day for the first week.
No water is allowed to enter the eyes for at least another week, and swimming is out of the question for at least a month. You are also advised not to go skiing for some months as the brightness may be painful and harmful to your eyes.
I found that my eyesight was ok for driving in the day by the next Tuesday - some four days after the contact lens bandages were removed, but night time driving was not advisable at this stage as the level of detail is still not adequate at this stage of the healing process. Obviously, this is a personal finding and I am sure different people have different rates of healing, and maybe if i had not had an allergic reaction to the lenses the healing process would have been that much quicker?
Can I recommend Laser Eye Surgery?
Yes, I am really pleased I had it done. It was painful for a while, but waking up at night and not needing to put on glasses to see the radio clock has been great. Knowing that things will continue to fall into focus is something to look forward to and not having to buy lens solutions and lenses is a fantastic feeling. Added to that is that I travel a fair bit and it will be nice not to have to pre-plan where I am going to stop to take my lenses out and also that I don’t need to remember to take my glasses with me!
Can I recommend Optimax?
My experience with Optimax was very good. The professionals that carried out the procedure and the aftercare were very approachable and I felt very confident in their care.
However, the receptionists at Optimax did not come over as particularly professional, and I felt that they were there ‘just for the job’. They were not that knowledgable and if I had been nervous before the procedure, I do not think they would have helped. There was a lot of in-house chat and they seemed oblivious that others could overhear their office gossip.
I also felt that the waiting lounge could have had a free water dispenser, and to charge 30p for an instant coffee from a machine I felt was a bit tight considering how much I was paying for the treatment.
Ok - so minor gripes aside, a very positive experience that I would recommend to anyone looking to be free of their lenses and glasses. Look into it thoroughly and be honest with yourself. There is pain and it is expensive, but what price do you put on great sight?
Summary: Well worth it, just make sure you have some one to care for you for a week following the procedure.