health

Mel B: "I can't see at all out of my left eye."

Image: Getty

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: X Factor judge and former 2Day FM co-host Melanie Brown is mostly blind in her left eye, apparently as a result of laser surgery she had 15 years ago.

“I had laser treatment done to correct [my eyes], but it started to reverse in one eye. It’s scary. I’m going blind again,” Brown – who you may know best as Mel B, aka. Scary Spice – told The Mirror back in 2008, after struggling to read her autocue during an awards show presentation.

Although the 39-year-old mum of three didn’t specify what procedure she had, it’s believed she underwent Lasik. This is one of the most common laser eye treatments, especially among short-sighted people.

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“[Lasik] is where a flap of the cornea is cut, and then a shape is cut into the substance of the cornea, and the flap is placed back over the top of the area that’s been lasered,” explains Dr Bradley Horsburgh, President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.

“It’s been done on millions of people around the world – it’s not an experimental procedure, it’s very well accepted and it works very well indeed.”

However, Dr Horsburgh says in a “small proportion” of cases, patients can experience regression after their treatment.

"It can happen, but I wouldn't say it's common," he says. "If someone was extremely short-sighted before they had the treatment done, then they may have more regression than someone who was not terribly short-sighted before they were treated."

Interestingly, Dr Horsburgh says for some women who undergo Lasik or another laser eye surgery procedure, pregnancy can have an affect on their post-treatment vision.

"People can have Lasik done for short sightedness, and then as they go through their pregnancy the pregnancy hormones can sometimes mean the treatment which was present, and working perfectly well, can regress and they might lose some of the improvement they had," he says. "That can happen to some women."

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In an interview with Hello! magazine earlier this week, Melanie Brown said she's now planning to have a cornea transplant to restore her "one in a million" vision issues.

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"I can't see at all out of my left eye. The lasering went wrong so this [procedure] will be totally life-changing," she said. A corneal transplant involves replacing a damaged cornea - the transparent front part of the eye - with tissue from a donor. Brown seems to find the concept pretty humorous.

"Hopefully I won’t be seeing what the other person’s seen, the other dead person ... you think that you might be dreaming what the other person dreamt," the 39-year-old joked during an appearance on the Jonathan Ross show in October.

Hmm... obviously she's seen The Eye, that movie where Jessica Alba's character has scary visions after undergoing the same surgery, a few too many times.

You can watch Mel discussing her vision issues in this clip:

Dr Horsburgh says the treatment for vision regression after a laser procedure depends on several things.

"Patients can be re-treated, but that is guided by how much treatment they had in the first place, and how much tissue remains to be able to re-treat safely," he explains. "The cornea has a certain thickness, and what the treatment does is takes away some of the corneal tissue - so you can't take away too much tissue, otherwise the shape of the cornea is not stable. You can't thin it too much."

The most important thing is to seek professional advice first. "[The patient] needs to see an ophthalmologist to answer those questions about whether it is in fact regressing, and what are the options to deal with it."

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Dr Horsburgh also iterates the importance of viewing laser eye surgery as a serious, permanent procedure that can't be undone.

"I think it's very important [for patients] to realise that when they have Lasik or PRK surgery, it's shaping the front of their eye to a shape that is analogous to the glasses they wear. That's what it does. They should not approach such a procedure thinking, 'if I don't like this I can just have it reversed' - it's a surgical procedure and that's not a reasonable thought process," he says.

"Things can be touched up and amended afterwards, but to approach something this serious thinking it can be totally reversed with impunity would be unwise."

Have you ever had laser eye surgery? Are you happy with the result?

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