Here we answer frequently asked questions posed to us by patients and visitors about eye laser treatment. If there is anything else you’d like to know that we haven’t mentioned here, then you can contact us directly so that we can provide the information you need.
What can I expect from Excimer Laser treatment?
The excimer laser is able to eradicate all or the majority of a patient’s myopia or other refractive error. With certain provisos, discussed below, we can virtually guarantee that you will be able to function for the majority of the day without the use of glasses or contact lenses. Patients become independent of these optical aids and have more self-confidence doing their normal day-to-day and sport activities. Patients enthuse about being able to wake in the middle of the night or in the morning and be able to see clearly immediately, or to be able to swim with clear vision.
It is important to realise that we all heal differently and it is unlikely that both eyes will have “zero” readings after treatment – in fact this situation occurs rarely in the normal population. The small refractive error that remains is usually insignificant and does not require the use of spectacles or contact lenses. However, for fine visual tasks only, some patients do require a thin pair of spectacle lenses – currently about 1% of our patients fall into this category.
When we enter the 40+ age group we begin to need help for close vision because of presbyopia. This need to use reading glasses will happen regardless of whether you have Laser treatment, or continue to wear contact lenses or glasses. In a few patients not all of the refractive error is eradicated and the level of vision is inadequate. In these cases (about 4%) a repeat Excimer Laser treatment, or enhancement, can be performed. The need for an enhancement becomes manifest within the first few months. After this period the correction stabilises and is usually permanent.
How long has eye laser surgery been performed?
Excimer laser was first used on a patient in 1986, and first became available clinically in 1990. Dr John Hill has been performing refractive surgery since 1984 and Excimer Laser treatments since 1993. In 1994 he started using the Lasik procedure, and now uses this method almost exclusively.
Is eye laser surgery safe?
The Laser is constantly checked for accuracy, and when used by an experienced surgeon the risk of a serious complication is extremely low.
Is the result of eye laser treatment permanent?
The result of eye laser treatment is permanent for the vast majority of patients – providing your refractive error was stable prior to treatment.
How long does the eye laser procedure take?
Eye laser surgery takes about 10 minutes per eye.
Is the eye laser procedure painful?
No. The anaesthetic drops will numb all pain. Some sensation of pressure may be felt, rather like when you press gently on your eye when your eyelids are closed.
Will there be pain after having eye laser surgery done?
Normally there is only a slight scratchy feeling for a day or two. The eyes may feel dry sometimes, for a week or so (especially in the mornings). We’ll give you artificial tears to help alleviate these symptoms.
Are both eyes done at the same time?
Many patients request that both eyes are corrected at the same time. The decision is yours. We only proceed to treat the second eye when we are certain that the first procedure has gone well.
Are my eyes covered after treatment?
No, we do not cover your eyes after treatment. However, there is a small chance that you will rub your eyes when you are asleep, so we give you clear plastic shields to cover your eyes for the first night or two.
Can I wear contact lenses after the treatment?
Yes, but contact lenses are very rarely required after having eye laser surgery.
Is there any follow-up needed after having eye laser surgery?
Yes, we will see you the next day and again a few days later. Thereafter we will follow-up with you again at 1, 3, and 6 months, if necessary. This is done at no charge.
Is there a fee for eye laser enhancements?
During the first 4 months, when enhancements could be needed, no fee is charged.
Will my eyes be more sensitive to light after treatment?
Initially your eyes may be slightly light sensitive, and you may need to wear sunglasses outdoors. This usually settles within a few days. However, in a few patients this sensitivity persists for a month or more, and for these patients we prescribe additional eyedrops.
Does eye laser surgery lead to poor night vision?
Laser surgery done with older technology did lead to some patients experiencing poor night vision. The reason was because the older lasers only treated a small area of the cornea. At night when the pupil enlarged, it becomes bigger than the treated area – so that light rays didn’t only enter the eye through the treated area, but also around the edge through the untreated area. The result is a ‘ghost’ image or glare, which usually subsided over a period of 3 to 6 months.
The newer lasers (that our Centre uses) treat a much larger area, meaning that these night vision symptoms are now uncommon.
However, if you require treatment for a large refractive error, or if you have large pupils at night, then you may initially notice these effects. That’s why before the eye laser surgery we will measure your pupil size in the dark. Doing this will give you an indication on whether these symptoms could occur.
That said, in a recent survey we found that almost all patients found their vision to be better or unchanged at night. This is because contact lenses or glasses can also cause these symptoms and are, of course, not needed after laser treatment.
How much does eye laser surgery cost?
The all-inclusive fee for having eye laser surgery done for both eyes is R20,500.
If you’d prefer using a different payment model, then a short-term loan can be arranged with an independent medical finance company.
Do you treat patients who live outside the Cape Town area?
Yes, we treat many patients who live in other parts of South Africa and also from other countries. Patients will often decide to have eye laser treatment while on holiday, and while visiting family and friends.
If you live outside of Cape Town and plan on having eye laser surgery with us, then you’ll need to be in Cape Town for at least a week. You’ll need this period so that you can attend the first two post-operative visits.
Thereafter, we’ll keep in contact by email. When you are back at home, you can visit a local optometrist or optician to get a refraction reading and then forward this reading to us.
Please note, though, that a small percentage of patients (about 4%) need to have a repeat treatment or enhancement after their initial eye laser surgery. This would normally need to be done anytime after the first three months.