The thing about Scary Spice going blind was enough to give a lot of us glasses-wearing-thinking-about-lasik people a fright. Fortunately, Mel B is fine; turns out it wasn’t a laser surgery gone abysmally wrong, it was an old condition flaring up. "This has happened before. She has herpes in her eye, so this can happen. She told the doctor she was blind because she couldn't see but her eye is okay," a source was quoted as saying to People magazine.
And while the singer’s left eye may still be smarting from a botched job in the 1990s, technology – we found out – has come a long, long way.
"They gave her some drops and she's good now. It was nothing major," the source insisted.
Still, it’s an incident that’s dredged up many fears – imagine heading into an operation theatre hoping to come out ‘cured’ – no more blurry vision, no reason to hold on frantically to those glasses or lens cases, no need to grimace at the hot summer air, wishing for once that condensation would give your glasses a miss. And so what happens when the cure leads to the darkness?
We asked the doctors for some clarity – sorry about the puns – before deciding on a course of action. This is what the specialists had to say.
Firstly, what exactly is Lasik?
The term stands for laser in-situ keratomileusis. It works by reshaping the cornea – that’s the clear part in front of the eye – so that light is focused properly on your retina.
What’s better? Glasses, contact lenses or Lasik?
“Actually, mostly it depends on the personal preference of the person. We cannot say one of them is better than the other. Each has its pros and cons. We need to ask about the lifestyle, convenience, aesthetic concerns also,” explains Dr Nadire Erdogan Dib, from UAE-based Eye Consultants. She along with Dr Osama Giledi, consultant refractive surgeon at Moorfileds Eye Hospital Dubai, did a comparative analysis.
Who can this help?
This will benefit you if you are:
- farsighted, or
- have astigmatism.
What’s the typical recovery time?
Dr Nadire Erdogan Dib, from UAE-based Eye Consultants, says: “If it’s done with advanced technology and an experienced surgeon, the recovery time usually very short. Some of them of them recover within one day; most of them recover within the first week. For example, instability of vision and other temporary side effects, some recover with 24 hours.”
Can you have Lasik more than once in your life?
Yes. “Sometimes there is over or under correction, because we are putting the [variable] in the machine, but sometimes it can be over or under – this can be no problem, because we can do Lasik even after years,” explains Dr Dib.
What are the important factors for a successful surgery?
Dr Osama Giledi, consultant refractive surgeon at Moorfileds Eye Hospital Dubai, has undertaken more than 53,000 operations. He explains the four factors important for surgery.
1) Prescription suitability:
a) -1 to -9
b) >-9 an implant can be used, because it’s very high quality and doesn’t hurt the cornea
c) Some people may just have a big number and not be able to do it at all
2) Cornea thickness should be good for the surgery
a) If the cornea is too thin it can cause problem. “Those that have problems, are not suitable [for the surgery from the start]”
3) Dryness of eye – should not be so much
4) Post-op care
a) Eye hygiene itself – for the first few days especially. Very important to not have a dusty environment, water uncontaminated, to avoid infection.
b) Avoid rubbing the eye.
Lasik changed my life – a first-person account
By Yousra Zaki
I opened my eyes and I could see. I could see everything. All the details around my room. I could see small writing from a distance. I could see the colours clearly. Nothing in the world beats that.
I started wearing glasses when I was five years old. Very dorky, round, pink glasses that I needed, so that I could see. Everything was blurry without them.
I was a swimmer growing up, so you can imagine the struggle of squinting to see my mom, or my coach on the side lines. I had to guess who my teammates around me in the water were and I was never sure which bottle of water at the end of the pool was my own. Small problems, but my eyes were tired from struggling to see.
I started wearing glasses when I was five years old. Everything was blurry without them.
I was also a careless child. I constantly broke my glasses. Constantly had to get them replaced. All the ugly frame shapes that made me feel self-conscious. It was so expensive to keep buying new glasses. I didn’t just replace them when I lost them or broke them, I had to keep changing the frames every year, since my short sighted vision was getting worse and worse. My parents had to keep paying for new frames and new lenses at least once a year. It was just a never-ending burden.
As I got older, I wanted to look cute. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, there was no such thing as fashionable glasses. You had to wear whatever style, just to get by. I also started caring about wearing makeup, and going out to evening events. I did not love having to cover my face with spectacles. Sometimes I wore contact lenses whenever I could. But they hurt my eyes and gave me headaches.
Then one day, when I was 23, my parents suggested I look into laser eye surgery. My vision had finally stabilised after years of getting worse and worse. They stopped at negative five per eye.
I was nervous and skeptical. “Glasses aren’t so bad,” I would think to myself, just so I can avoid going through “a scary” surgery. But I was lucky that my parents encouraged me to go through with it. They kindly funded the surgery. They just wanted me to see again.
I came across a few people who had also gone through the surgery. I was warned about exactly what I would feel, see and hear. This is what I was told, and this is what I am telling you.
1. You will be awake and you would see everything. Except it’s kind of blurry, so you don’t see all the details.
2. Laser beams are shot into your eye, so you will smell something burning.
3. It is completely painless
4. It’s over in 3 minutes
5. Your eyes will feel slightly itchy for a week, so resist rubbing them
6. Do not look into the sun for a while
The week or two after the surgery, are the most important. I had to take eye drops, three times a day. These eye drops were so satisfying. They cooled my eyes down and with every drop, all I could think about was that I am speeding up the healing process. It’s only going to make me better and better.
Five years later and I still have 20/20 vision. I would go through the entire Lasik operation again, because of how grateful I am for my vision. I can see when I wake up; I can see when I swim. I can see distances and I never have to worry about glasses or lenses ever again. If you are thinking about doing it, and you found a good clinic, I say, go for it. 100 per cent. Do it. You won’t regret it.