Sunday 30 October 2005

I can see all obstacles in my way...

Are there any circumstances under which you would consider cosmetic surgery?

I have really terrible eyesight. I have needed to wear glasses since I was about 5 years old. I can remember that first journey to the optician vividly: my elder brother teased me that I might have to wear glasses and laughed. Ha ha. In the early days it was all national health glasses, and I was always breaking them. Apparently I had the biggest repair file in the opticians. I was acutely conscious of these NHS specs for many years, and it was quite a big deal when I got my first 'private' frame. Rather tragically they were Roland Rat glasses. Anyway....

I probably first started becoming conscious of the thickness of the lenses when I was around 11 or 12. My eyes were still changing quite rapidly at this point, and I used to dread the moment when the new frames were unveiled, and I got to have a look at how much like milk bottles my new glasses looked. I generally didn't give them all that much thought once I had them on though: what choice did I have?

It wasn't until I was into my 20s and had a proper job that I began to spend more money on my eyes: thinner lenses, designer frames... that kind of thing. It seemed a small price to pay for something that I wore every day and was fundamental to the way I felt about myself and to the way I looked to the rest of the world. I also started to wear contact lenses again. I had tried them when I was 17, but they hadn't suited me. Now I was able to get a much more comfortable pair and although I couldn't really use them for work, I was able to use them for sport. It may not sound like much to you, but contact lenses also gave me the freedom to wear a proper pair of sunglasses in the summer, and I bought myself a pair of Oakleys that I still wear today.

Regular readers here will probably know that my glasses cause me quite a lot of anguish. I get bothered by the way they fit, by the way that the lenses scratch. I am terrified of knocking them out of shape. I never seem to ever get comfortable with them. I am also frustrated by the fact that the strength of my prescription means that I am limited in my choice of frames and lenses if I want to maximise the appearance of my specs and to minimise the thickness of the lenses.

So what's this got to do with cosmetic surgery?

When I had my regular contact lense check the other day, the optician remarked that the astigmatism in my right eye meant that my lens was a perfect rugby ball shape, and asked if I had ever considered laser eye surgery. The honest answer to that question was that yes I had, but I had assumed that my prescription was too strong, and I also rationalised that I wouldn't want to take that kind of risk with my eyesight - after all, I'm lucky to be able to see anything. My eyes are bad, but with correction they are essentially fine.

Apparently I'm within range, and the thought has stayed with me. My life would be radically different if I could see without the need for correction. I would be able to read the alarm clock that sits three feet from my face when I'm in bed. I could swim without the need to risk wearing contact lenses underneath my goggles (the pressure means the lens gets slowly sucked onto your eye, and there is a risk of infection from the water anyway). I would not be totally helpless (I take a spare pair of glasses or contact lenses everywhere - if anything happens to the pair I am wearing, I would be totally lost.) It would be life-changing. The cost? The operation would probably cost me around £2,000 to have both eyes done. I would guess that I currently pay around £500 a year on my specs/contact lenses/solutions etc.

I thought on it for a couple of weeks, and yesterday I booked an initial consultation to have an optician do a detailed examination and to tell me if my eyes are suitable for the procedure. I'm not a fool. I have been reading about the risks ever since I decided to do this. If I go ahead, I run the risk - no matter how small it is - of damaging my eyesight permanently. It doesn't appear that people get blinded, but it could ruin my night-vision, or leave me needing artificial tears, or something like that. I am aware of this, but I figure I have nothing to lose by going for this consultation. Having the check is not a committment. I have not made my mind up one way or the other, but I do want to find out from an expert whether or not this could work for me.

This is a cosmetic procedure. I would not need this operation to be able to function. Am I an idiot for even thinking about it?

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