I had lens replacement (IOL, RLE) surgery to fix short-sightedness in Feb/Mar 2013. I’ve had my first annual check up everything is fine. I couldn’t be more happy! And I wholeheartedly recommend Valerie Saw. I describe my experience in full detail below and hope it helps others with their choices.

I have been short-sighted with astigmatism since childhood and wore contact lenses for 25 years. In my 40’s I began to need reading glasses too. I tried monovision and multifocal contact lenses and couldn’t get used to either so reluctantly changed to varifocal glasses. By the end of 2012 my prescription had deteriorated to short-sightedness of -10.00D and reading +1.50D plus astigmatism. I was struggling with reading and computer work and frustrated with wearing thick, uncomfortable glasses.

After researching the London area I chose Moorfields Eye Hospital because they are world leaders in this field with a long and excellent track record and have a team of highly qualified consultants specialising in a wide range of procedures.

As I wasn’t sure which procedure would be best for me I chose consultant Valerie Saw because of her broad experience with lens implants (PIOL – Phakic Intraocular lens, ICL – Implantable Contact Lens), lens replacement (IOL – Intraocular Lens, RLE – Refractive Lens Exchange) and laser surgery (LASIK).

I was interested in lens implants (ICL) but Valerie recommended lens replacement (RLE) as I was over 45 years old. As part of the aging process natural lenses thicken reducing the space available for lens implants. The implant procedure is more difficult to perform in the smaller space and the risk of complications, including initiating an early cataract, increases. Once our natural lenses have lost their ability to accommodate (focus) they do not offer any advantages over artificial lenses so lens replacement is recommended.

Lens replacement (RLE) is identical to cataract surgery, except that a custom prescription lens is used. As cataract surgery is the most widely performed eye surgery worldwide its well understood and the risks are low. Some other advantages are: your prescription will not change again so glasses don’t need frequent replacing; you can’t get cataracts so future cataract surgery is avoided.

I was initially very wary of having my healthy natural lenses removed in an irreversible procedure at a relatively youthful age. I left the initial consultation with Valerie feeling very uncertain about RLE. I did some more research and spoke to another consultant. I also emailed Valerie a few times with various questions which she responded to providing all the information I needed. A couple of months later I decided to go ahead with RLE and had the first eye done in February 2013 followed by the second eye two weeks later.

For each eye, I was in hospital for about six hours in total although the actual surgery only took about half an hour. After the surgery I was given a meal whilst waiting for the anaesthetic to wear off then was allowed to go home. My eye had a patch over it which needed to be kept on overnight. The patch prevented me from wearing my glasses so I was completely blind after the first eye operation and had to rely on my husband to guide me around and get me home.

When I took the eye patch off the next morning I could see very well although there was some cloudiness. The eye itself was a bit tender and red, especially where the anaesthetic had been put in. I had a bit of a headache behind the eye for the first day and took paracetamol to relieve this. After about a week the cloudy vision and most of the redness had cleared up. The prescription fluctuated in the first few days before settling down.

Glasses that correct for distance make everything appear smaller and further way, rather like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. When wearing my old glasses with one lens removed everything appeared to be about 25% smaller with my short-sighted eye (-10 dioptres) compared with my corrected eye. No wonder I was having difficulty reading 8 point text prior to surgery! As Valerie had warned me, seeing two clear images of different sizes was akin to double vision so I discarded the glasses and managed with one eye for two weeks.

The final post-surgery result can vary by up to +1.0 or -1.0 dioptre (D) from the result the consultant is aiming for. I did not want to be near-sighted so we aimed for a slightly short-sighted outcome. The target was for -0.3D in the first eye and it eventually settled down to -0.5D which is nearly perfect distance vision. The target for the second eye was -1.4D and the final result was -2.25D which gives excellent reading vision at about 30cm, a bit too close but perfect for reading phones. Both eyes are slightly blurred for the middle (computer) distance. My astigmatism was also corrected.

I was unable to drive for about six weeks until both eyes had stabilised and Valerie could provide me with a new prescription. I ordered a pair of distance glasses for driving and another pair for intermediate computer use. These are the only times I regularly wear glasses.

Having struggled with monovision previously I was expecting it to take a long time to get used to. Valerie also warned me that as the difference between my eyes was more than 1.0D it would take at least six months, possibly longer, to get used to. I found that in just a few weeks I was quite comfortable in familiar places with good lighting (home, office). It took longer to get used to busy streets, dusk, bright lights, TV and computer screens. A year on, my brain completely blocks out the distracting blurred image and I can’t perceive it even when I look for it!

I have more floaters in my eyes since the surgery but only notice these when looking at pale surfaces. As a result of this surgery I have a small increased risk of glaucoma and retinal detachment. For me, the benefits outweigh the risks.

I’m extremely happy with the outcome and would happily recommend this surgery to anyone, especially if you have severe short-sightedness. Valerie Saw is not only highly qualified, but helpful, kind, gentle and patient as well and I highly recommend her to anyone considering this type of surgery.