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Acornme

Having Lasik / ReLEx eye surgery in Bangkok, Thailand

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I'm an Australian doctor who came to Thailand for the first time recently, and while I was here I made the decision to go ahead with ReLEx vision corrective surgery. It's something that I personally have no regrets doing (except, perhaps, not having it done earlier!) and in this article I'll be sharing my personal experiences.

I'm not an ophthalmologist and definitely don't know any medical terminology in Thai. I've been wearing glasses for short sightedness (myopia) for the past 20 years. In my case contact lenses weren't suitable for daily wear because my eyes became irritated and painful after wearing them for a few hours.

This meant that glasses were more or less a permanent part of my life, and my reliance on them made activities such as contact sports and swimming difficult.

Lasik and ReLEx (Refractive Lenticle Extraction)

Lasik (and other forms of surgical vision correction such as ReLEx) is commonly available in many countries however depending on where you call home there may be some benefits to having it done in Bangkok, including cost and shorter waiting lists.

ReLEx is a more modern form of laser vision correction than Lasik, and its available here in Bangkok. This newer treatment uses a laser to create a small 'lenticle' within the cornea (the top layer of the eye), which is then removed by the ophthalmologist with tweezers.

Compared to Lasik, and of course if you are suitable for it, the benefits of ReLEx include avoiding a scalpel or microtome to cut the cornea, faster recovery time, ability to rectify higher degrees of short sightedness / long sightedness and lower rates of complications.

Obviously, not all patients or eyes are the same and not all treatments are right for everyone. The most important message is that it is important that you understand the risks as well as the benefits of any medical treatment, including eye surgery for vision correction.

Another fact that should be made known is that in terms of safety, wearing glasses is universally considered the safest method of vision correction, safer than any form of eye surgery or contact lenses.

What I researched beforehand
Prior to coming to Thailand I did some research on the types of eye surgery available in Australia as well as the costs.

Lasik has been available for a long time in all countries and this is is a procedure that most centres have lots of experience performing.

ReLEx wasn't available in Australia at the time of writing this article, which meant that I would have to travel abroad if I wanted to have this treatment.

It also means that if ReLEx becomes available in Australia in the near future, the ophthalmologists performing it could well have less experience as it would be a relatively newer procedure for them.

One particular concern I had before my treatment was whether there would be good after-surgery care. Suffice to say, these concerns were certainly allayed after my initial appointment, and I remain confident that my ongoing care will be excellent. 
My first appointment.

An appointment was available within a week of my first phone call. Apart from having to refrain from wearing contact lenses for a period of time there was little preparation required prior to this appointment. I was told to allow four hours for this appointment-inclusive of testing and consultation.

I was first taken through a series of rooms where technicians measured my vision with seemingly dozens of tests, The staff were attentive and friendly throughout.

The next part of the appointment was a 20 minute information video (in English) which took me through the procedures available, the risks and benefits of these, as well as the reasons the procedure might be unsuitable for some patients.

I was also educated regarding the expected timeframe for my recovery after each procedure.

After the video I was taken to a dimly lit, serene side room and put in a comfortable massage chair to be given a series of eye drops (to numb my eyes and dilate my pupils). About 15 minutes later, I was off for some further testing.

When my testing was complete, I met with my patient advisor. He spoke fluent English, and explained my treatment options in detail.

I did not feel rushed at any point, and I had lots of time to have all my questions answered.

The final part of the appointment was when I met with my ophthalmologist and he explained the recommended treatment (s) to me. I had previously made up my mind to go ahead with ReLEx, and he reassured me that I would be a good candidate.

Before I left, I was provided with some further information and booked to have a HIV blood test (as patients with HIV heal differently after Lasik). They invited to make an appointment for my laser vision correction at my own convenience.

Just a quick note-after this appointment, my pupils remained large for several hours, so my little piece of advice is to bring some sunglasses along so thai bright lights don't dazzle you!

Fees
The all inclusive cost for Lasik or ReLEx was provided to me on the day of my first appointment. Compared to Lasik in Australia, Lasix was much cheaper and ReLEx was a similar
price.

My treatment
I followed the list of required pre-surgery guidelines (things like not wearing contact lenses for a few days, washing my hair, not wearing makeup and avoiding deodorant) and arrived at my appointment. I was warned that my vision would be 'foggy' immediately after my procedure so I had a planned to have a good friend ready to take me away afterwards.

The treatment itself wasn't as scary as I expected, probably helped by a couple of pills I was prescribed to make me more relaxed! I was wrapped in a surgical gown and led to a chair where I was given a series of eye drops to numb my eyes. This took about 20 minutes.

I met with a small team of nurses and my ophthalmologist who led me to the theatre. Even though my eyes were being held open it was difficult to feel any of the instruments because of my eye drops. The procedure itself involved staring into a green flashing light as the ReLEx laser performed it's functions (I was given a 35 second countdown for each eye), and then the second part involved the removal of my lenticles by the ophthalmologist.

There was no pain, and apart from a strange sensation similar to pulling at a contact lens while it's stuck to my eye (another reason to want to give up contact lenses for good!) there was little discomfort, It took less than 20 minutes from lying down to sitting up, my ophthalmologist was friendly and supportive throughout, and he even inspected his work immediately afterwards and was reassuringly pleased with his work!

What I experienced after treatment
I left the appointment with a packet of paracetamol tablets, lots of eye drops and large plastic eye shields taped over my eyes.

My vision was blurry, similar to looking through a panel of glass that had misted over. However the light obstructive plastic eye shields made it more difficult to see than the fogginess in my vision.

I attended an appointment one day after my treatment, and was amazed that I had obtained good vision without glasses so quickly. On the eye chart I could easily read the letters in the 20/20 vision line and most of the letters underneath it.

For the first few days my vision remained quite foggy, with lots of halos around lights (jewellery stores were quite an experience), but this improved daily and continues to improve (I'm now 3 weeks down the track), There has only been occasional, mild eye discomfort. I continue to be impressed with my after treatment care - I've already had my 2 week appointment (uneventful) and I'm booked for a 6 week post treatment appointment next month.

Overall impressions
My experience with ReLEx in Bangkok has been excellent. The service I received before, during and after my procedure has been exemplary.

If you've been wondering whether it would be right for you, then I highly recommend making an appointment. Ask about ReLEx, as it is something that is available in Bangkok. There is no commitment to go ahead with treatment when you have your first appointment and at least you'll have a chance to ask any questions you have about laser vision correction and be fully informed about your decision.

I an still regularly surprised when I go to adjust my glasses which aren't there. It truly is an amazing feeling being able to walk in the rain and see at the same time, wear cheap sunglasses from street stalls (or borrow expensive ones from my stylish friends!), and finally find out whether 1 look better in the mirror without glasses-and Just in case you were wondering, it's yes.

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