One of the UK most promising creative directors and luxury womenswear designers has praised surgeons who saved her eyesight from the threat of a potentially blinding eye condition.
Aimee McWilliams, who runs her own fashion design studio in Shoreditch, London, wore glasses from the age of 13 then started using contact lenses aged 15.
When she went for a regular check up with her local Optical Express last month she was shocked when her eye examination revealed she had a condition called neovascularization.
The condition is most commonly caused by excessive wearing of contact lenses. The front of the eye (cornea) becomes starved of oxygen, and the eye then tries to compensate by growing new blood vessels across the surface of the eye – potentially causing damage to the eye and resulting in vision loss.
If left untreated neovascularization can be blinding in extreme cases, and even with treatment the effects can be irreversible if it is not stopped early enough.
The condition has four grades of severity ranging from mild to complete loss of vision, and Aimee was told she was already at the second stage and in danger of her eyesight deteriorating further unless she gave up wearing contact lenses for at least one year or looked at surgery to correct the issue.
Due to the demands of her job in designing premium fashion wear in conjunction with brands such as Balmain of Paris, Levi’s and Underground Shoes, Aimee said the decision to have corrective surgery was a “no brainer”.
“It was a scary thought that a condition like neovascularization which I’d never heard of might cost me my eyesight. It was a real bolt out of the blue.
“I could maybe have gone back to wearing glasses, but in my line of work that’s not always practical as often I’m working on very finely detailed drawings or embroidery of garments at a very fast pace. It’s very important I can see what I’m doing properly to ensure I get the kind of high-quality finish I want on pieces for my clients.
“What also appealed was the thought of being free from having to carry around glasses or put in contact lenses every day too, so I decided straight away to book in for a procedure to rectify the problem.”
Aimee, who was born in Hammersmith to Scottish parents and graduated with a BA in Fashion Design Womenswear from Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in 2003, said the laser eye surgery she received from Optical Express at its Harley Street premises has changed her life.
“The whole process was amazingly quick and my new vision since I had the operation is incredible. I have 20/20 vision and my right eye was so good it literally went off the standard chart.
“I’d recommend anyone who is considering laser eye to go for it. I can’t thank the surgeon who looked after me Dimitris Kazakos and his team at Optical Express enough for putting me at ease and taking care of me throughout the process. I’d thought about it for a long time as my sister had treatment a few years ago with Optical Express, but now I can clearly see the benefits I wish I had done it sooner.”
Dr Steve Schallhorn of Optical Express said cases like Aimee’s underlined the importance of people of all ages taking regular eye examinations.
“Unfortunately there is little awareness of eye conditions like neovascularization among contact lens wearers. It is very important that those who use contact lenses do so properly, follow appropriate wear and hygiene and have routine eye check-ups.
“Another critical issue, and one that it commonly overlooked, is that contact lenses should never be left in overnight, even if they were designed to do so. The risk of a vision threatening eye infection, which can cause permanent blindness, significantly increases with overnight wear.
“In published reports, and as verified by our own data and experience, the chance of having a long-term loss of vision is much higher with contact lenses than laser eye surgery. So a very reasonable alternative to contact lenses is to seek treatment that alleviates the need to wear them.”
“Thankfully Aimee’s condition was picked up by our experienced optometrists, and from audited clinical outcomes we have seen that like Aimee, over 99% of our patients achieved 20/20 or better vision following laser eye surgery.
“Those results are what give us the confidence to be able to offer prospective patients their money back if for any reason we cannot achieve that standard for them.”
Optical Express offers patients a full refund if they do not achieve 20/20 vision or better following their procedure using the latest generation of laser eye surgery technology, iDesign iLASIK.