A common question we get asked by prospective patients is “what is involved in a laser consultation?”
A laser consultation is basically a very thorough eye examination undertaken by an Optometrist as the first step towards laser eye surgery. The free consultation can take up to two hours compared to a standard eye examination which may take up to thirty minutes. Many of the examinations will be familiar to you such as measuring your vision without spectacles and/or contact lenses, determining your eye prescription and assessing your eye health.
Some of the additional tests may not be so familiar, such as: a test for assessing the shape of the outer window of your eye, known as the cornea, with a topographical instrument such as an Oculus Pentacam; measurement of the thickness of this eye window; and assessment of the higher order visual phenomena that can contribute to the quality of your vision. In addition the Optometrist will, as standard, dilate your pupils. This is done by using dilating eye drops which prevent your pupil from closing down, allowing a detailed examination of the retina to take place. All of these tests, including the eye drops, are pain free.
Following these clinical examinations, your Optometrist will interpret the results and compare them with the International Medical Advisory Board approved Clinical Suitability Guidelines. These are a set of parameters that confirm who should be referred on to a surgeon for a surgical procedure such as laser eye surgery. Everyone’s eyes are different and therefore not everyone will be a suitable candidate for this optional procedure. There are some health and eye conditions that are contraindicated (i.e. prevent us from proceeding with the surgery) as well as some eye prescriptions that are better served by a different procedure.
For example, in some cases the Optometrist may discuss an intraocular lens replacement procedure as being more suitable. That said, laser eye surgery procedures can be performed on patients who have a short sighted prescription up to and including minus twelve dioptres (these are the numbers you will be used to being told about when you have an eye test or will see on your contact lens packaging), a long sighted prescription up to and including plus four and a half dioptres or have astigmatism up to and including six dioptres.
For patients suitable for laser eye surgery, the Optometrist will discuss the procedure in detail. They will cover both the benefits and the risks of the procedure. As we can all understand, all medical procedures have benefits and risks. However, with laser eye surgery the risks are very low. The risk of developing an infection, for example, is greater with frequent wear or extended wear of a soft contact lens than a laser eye surgery procedure.
Your optometrist will also make a recommendation of the best procedure for you. This recommendation is based upon a collective analysis of clinical outcomes, peer review articles, the optometrist’s personal experience and last but by no means least your personal feedback. Any questions you have in respect to this prospective future treatment are of course answered and you should feel free to ask any question during the discussion phase of the consultation. Some patients consider what questions they wish to ask ahead of the procedure and this is worthwhile doing as the consultation is your opportunity with the optometrist and it is worth getting as much from it as possible.