I thought laser surgery would be as sim­ple as hav­ing a spray tan

The singer tells LUCY BENYON how the eye pro­ce­dure left him with per­ma­nent prob­lems

Daily Express - - YOUR HEALTH - ● yourhealth@ex­press.co.uk

WHEN 1980s pop supremo Limahl no­ticed his near vi­sion de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, he didn’t think twice about book­ing him­self in for cor­rec­tive laser treat­ment. But it’s a de­ci­sion he now bit­terly re­grets – be­cause the surgery not only al­most de­stroyed his vi­sion, it has per­ma­nently dam­aged his eyes.

A decade on, the for­mer Ka­ja­goo­goo front­man suf­fers from such chron­i­cally dry eyes that he needs to ap­ply eye­drops count­less times a day, dreads fly­ing and must avoid air con­di­tion­ing and cen­tral heat­ing.

“It might sound like a mi­nor prob­lem, but it can be very lim­it­ing and un­com­fort­able,” says Limahl, 61, who re­cently started act­ing as well as singing, hav­ing found in­ter­na­tional fame 40 years ago with chart-top­ping hits such as Too Shy and The Never End­ing Story.

“I guess I’m lucky that all my eye prob­lems haven’t af­fected my ca­reer,” adds the pop star who has just re­leased his lat­est sin­gle, Still In Love.

“But my eyes do have an im­pact on my every­day life,” he stresses.

“I have to use spe­cial eye gels overnight, and ev­ery morn­ing, I need to clean the in­side of my eye­lids. My eyes are con­stantly ir­ri­tat­ing me too,” he adds. “I just wish I’d never had the treat­ment.”

THE IRONY is that be­fore surgery, the singer had al­ways had good eye­sight and had only been wear­ing glasses for four years.

“I have never been short-sighted, but in my mid-40s, I started to strug­gle a bit with my near vi­sion,” says Limahl, who lives with his part­ner Steve, in Hert­ford­shire.

“It got re­ally an­noy­ing hav­ing to rum­mage around for read­ing glasses ev­ery time I wanted to look at a menu or read the pa­per, but I’d never re­ally con­sid­ered surgery.”

But then, in 2010, he re­calls how he was sit­ting in a green room, wait­ing to ap­pear on a chat show when pre­sen­ter Anne Di­a­mond started talk­ing about a friend of hers who’d had LASIK laser surgery and was de­lighted with the re­sults.

With­out giv­ing it too much thought, Limahl got the num­ber of the clinic and booked him­self in.

The pro­ce­dure cost him £4,000 an eye and he never con­sid­ered that any­thing could go wrong.

Ac­cord­ing to the Royal Col­lege of Oph­thal­mol­o­gists (RCO) more than 100,000 pa­tients a year un­dergo LASIK laser surgery in the UK. It in­volves cut­ting a flap on the sur­face of the cornea so that lasers can be used to al­ter its shape to cor­rect short-sight­ed­ness, is­sues with long sight, and astig­ma­tism – when the cornea has an ir­reg­u­lar curve, caus­ing dis­torted vi­sion.

The pro­ce­dure typ­i­cally takes 15 min­utes per eye and has a 95 per cent suc­cess rate, with many pa­tients de­scrib­ing it as life-chang­ing.

Limahl who de­scribes him­self as “hor­ri­bly squea­mish” said he felt sur­pris­ingly re­laxed as his eyes were anaes­thetised, and he de­scribes the op­er­a­tion as be­ing un­com­fort­able rather than painful.

“It was fine hav­ing it done, but I do re­mem­ber this sin­is­ter smell of burn­ing which made me rather ner­vous,” he says.

At first, he as­sumed the surgery had been a suc­cess, but over the next few days his sight became in­creas­ingly blurred, and alarm bells be­gan to ring.

“I re­ally couldn’t see prop­erly,” he re­calls. “Ev­ery time I took a step it felt like I was about to fall off the edge of the kerb. My bal­ance and spa­tial aware­ness were all over the place, and I didn’t feel safe leav­ing the house.”

Alarmed, Limahl re­turned to the surgery where he learned that his poor vi­sion was the re­sult of an “over-correction”.

This means that the re­frac­tion (the way the eye fo­cuses light) he had been left with was in­cor­rect which was why his vi­sion was so blurry. He was told he would have to wait an­other three months be­fore he could have more laser surgery to cor­rect this re­frac­tive er­ror.

Sur­pris­ingly, the lat­est re­search from the RCO, shows that one in 10 pa­tients need to have their ini­tial re­frac­tion altered.

“It was re­ally ter­ri­fy­ing,” says Limahl.

YET THANK­FULLY, the sec­ond pro­ce­dure did re­store his vi­sion, but it left him with per­ma­nently dry eyes. “In the terms and con­di­tions

I had to sign be­fore the op­er­a­tion, it did state that 20 per cent of pa­tients were left with dry eyes – but I never thought for a minute that I’d be one of them, or the con­di­tion would be per­ma­nent for me,” he says.

Limahl re­calls how he first re­alised there was a prob­lem when his eyes became un­com­fort­ably dry on a flight to Swe­den a few weeks af­ter the sec­ond surgery.

Over the next few weeks, the dry­ness became in­creas­ingly un­com­fort­able and he sought ad­vice from an eye spe­cial­ist at the Royal Free Hos­pi­tal in Lon­don who told him that the sec­ond laser op­er­a­tion had per­ma­nently dam­aged the Mei­bo­mian glands, which se­crete oils onto the sur­face of the eyes to pre­vent tears from evap­o­rat­ing too quickly.

“I was gut­ted when I dis­cov­ered there was no cure and that I’d be re­liant on eye drops and gels, but I’ve come to think of my­self as one of the lucky ones,” he says.

Limahl is re­fer­ring to the fact that de­spite its high suc­cess rate, not ev­ery­one gets a happy end­ing af­ter laser surgery, with some pa­tients be­ing left with light sen­si­tiv­ity, stab­bing pains and blurred vi­sion.

What isn’t stressed enough, Limahl be­lieves, is not only the fact that things can go wrong; but also that some pa­tients will end up wear­ing glasses again at some stage.

“It’s just not the mir­a­cle treat­ment it’s por­trayed to be,” con­cludes Limahl. “I thought get­ting my eyes done would be as sim­ple as hav­ing my hair high­lighted or a spray tan.

“But your eyes are in­cred­i­bly del­i­cate. I just wish I’d never put mine un­der the knife.”

Limahl’s new sin­gle Still In Love is out on June 5. For in­for­ma­tion and tour dates go to limahl.com


HEY­DAY: Limahl was a big star in the 1980s

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