Talk Around Town
Lasik eye surgery is a clear way to perfect vision
by Mai Hien
You’re on the go. You don’t have time to deal with glasses or care for contacts, but you need to be able to see, it’s essential. Lasik Laser surgery can perfect your vision and liberate you from hassle.
I came across this advertisement on the Internet a year ago and was attracted by this idea. I immediately contacted ophthalmologists and people who had undergone eye surgery for more information.
Being near-sighted, I had to wear glasses all the time. It was difficult for me to drive my motorbike on rainy days or go out for a picnic with my friends. I quickly decided this new technology was for me and had the surgery one week later. Now, my vision is 20/20.
For Truong Cong Thai, a third-year student from Hai Phong City’s Maritime University, the laser operation made it more comfortable for him to play football and go swimming.
Thai decided to register for laser surgery despite his family and friends’ warnings. He was the fourth person to receive the operation at the Post Office Hospital.
“I strongly believe that my operation will be successful with an experienced doctor under the supervision of foreign experts and modern equipment,” he said.
Thai’s mother recalls how happy she was when two years ago, the day after her son’s operation, he said: “Mother, I can see wrinkles in your face.” She explained that Thai had worn glasses that were not strong enough, so he could not see clearly.
Nguyen Tien Thanh, a student studying in the United States, returned to Viet Nam in July for his summer vacation. He asked his parents for VND13 million (US$825) to perform the operation after he learned it was a fraction of the cost in Viet Nam than it was in the United States.
Dr Bui Tien Hung from the Post Office Hospital said people choose Lasik surgery for a variety of reasons, but ultimately, they all want to get rid of their glasses.
“My patients’ satisfaction is my greatest pleasure,” he confided.
Although Lasik surgery is rather expensive, many people go ahead with the procedure because the equipment is sharp, clear and accurate, he said.
In Lasik surgery, an ophthalmologist uses an extremely precise laser to reshape the cornea to re-focus light coming into the eye.
“It’s very quick and is only as painful as being bitten by an ant,” a patient told me.
There are few conditions for people who want to have Lasik surgery. You must be over 18-years-old. Near-sightedness can be corrected up to 12 diopters, or 12 levels of lens strength provided you do not have eye diseases such as glaucoma or cataracts, or presbyopia (the need for bifocals). Your vision must also be stabilised, with a prescription that has not changed more than 0.50 diopters over one year.
Tran Anh Tuan from the Ho Chi Minh Medical and Pharmaceutical University said he has performed more than 3,000 cases of Lasik surgery since the procedure arrived in Viet Nam in 2000.
Most of patients are students and office clerks, he said, adding that two-thirds of them are women.
Lasik is performed more frequently during summer vacation when students don’t go to classes; before Tet (Lunar New Year) as overseas Vietnamese return home and office clerks receive bonuses, as well as after Tet as students prepare to apply for certain jobs that demand normal eyesight.
In August, health experts warned about worsening eyesight in Asia, especially in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. They attributed the condition to genetics, educational pressures, work that requires looking at things closely for long periods of time, and environmental influences.
Four out of five Singaporean male adults suffer from some form of myopia, making the island a major market for the optical industry, the Straits Times reported in October.
Singaporeans are flocking to eye centres for corrective laser surgery after the price dropped to as low as S$1,320 (US$780) per eye, about 40 per cent lower than the previous year.
According to the Times’ survey, myopia afflicts 25 per cent of seven-year-olds, 50 per cent of 12-year-olds and more than 80 per cent of 18-year-old males in Singapore.
But while the laser operation is spreading in Viet Nam and around the world, many people are still opposed to it. They said the operation, which takes about 30 minutes, is irreversible. They also fear about its long-term safety for patients because Lasik was officially approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998 and extended effects are still unknown.
Also, about 5-15 per cent of overall patients are unhappy with the results after the operation, and while some are afraid to undergo the process again, others return for additional “enhancement” surgery, as I did. In these cases, near-sightedness is mostly corrected in the first procedure but the lasik must be updated to obtain 20/20 vision.
Last year, the American Journal of Ophthalmology said the failure rate for eye surgery was one in 10, not the one in 1,000 figure widely advertised, according to the British’s Sunday Times.
One complication, corneal ectasia, can cause patients to require a cornea transplant, the paper reported.
However, Vietnamese ophthalmologists said like any surgery, there are risks and complications. More than 96 per cent of operations are successful and most patients say their vision is as good as wearing glasses. So far, there haven’t been any complications that lead to blindness reported in Viet Nam. They said the potential for long-term side-effects due to the surgery was significantly reduced because of the stringent pre-operative screening procedure.
In the meantime, ophthalmologists warned that those who are considering having the Lasik procedure, should weigh the risks and rewards. If you’re happy wearing contacts or glasses, you may want to forego the surgery. Anyone, with under two diopters of myopia, shouldn’t undertake it otherwise they will have to wear glasses for reading in the future, however, if you’re like me, the surgery could be for you and improve your life too. – VNS
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