Originally posted June 3, 2006:
On Thursday June 1, I had LASIK done on both my eyes. After needing glasses or contacts for the past 33 years (my vision was about 20/450 in my left eye and 20/425 in my right - that pretty much translates to to "blind as a bat" with my naked eyes).
My results so far
The vision in one of my eyes is crystal clear and better than 20/20. The other has slight residual "haziness" that comes and goes depending on the time of day - when the haze is clear, I can see better than 20/20 in that eye, and about 20/30 when it's hazy. They tell me the haze is normal and should fade and clear up over the next few weeks. Even with that, I can now see better than I ever did with contacts or glasses. Truly amazing stuff.
If you're thinking about LASIK, I recommend you check it out. If you decide to investigate, here is my perspective.
What to look for
Looking back, I'd do it again in a second. And I wish I'd had this done a long time ago.You can find lots of "bargain" LASIK centers out there. I don't recommend deciding based on price.
- Look for a doctor that has lots of experience
- (as measured by number of LASIK procedures done - mine has over 22 years of experience and has done literally thousands of laser surgeries)
- Check with the local medical board to see if the practice you select has any past complaints or recent issues
- Ensure that they use up-to-date equipment and procedures
- Look for one that "feels" like they know what they're doing
- (a friend of mine checked out a"bargain LASIK" center near us and said it didn't give him the warm feeling of highly professional care I'd described with my doctor).
The clinic I went to also holds regular information seminars and will even let you watch a live procedure over a video camera if you choose to do so. This will also give you a great feel for what the center is like and how they will treat you.
The clinic I chose provided me with an "all-in" price that included surgery for both eyes, all pre- and post-op care, and adjustments (if I end up needing them) for 5 years. As an added bonus, they offered a 20% discount under my company's vision insurance plan.
So what was it like? I won't kid you - the thought of someone doing any kind of surgery on my eyes made me just a bit nervous. The process was very easy though.
Lots of preparation
First, I went in and had an initial examination to determine whether I was a suitable candidate. A number of factors are evaluated.
If you pass this "elegibility" hurdle, you have to stop wearing your contacts for some period of time to allow your eye to return to its normal shape. I was wearing soft contact lenses, so I needed to be out of them for about a week (I was out of them for about 12 days). If you wear gas-permeable or hard lenses, you're probably looking at several months out of your contact lenses to let your eye get back to its natural shape.
About a week before the surgery, you go in for a very intensive examination of your eye, with some super-duper eye dilation (it lasted 24 hours vs. the 4 hours or so I was used to in eye exams where they dilate your eyes). They do a lot of checking for eye diseases, ensuring you don't have any risk factors that might cause problems, taking a ton of measurements and doing computerized mapping of your eye so they can properly adjust the laser to correct your vision.
When I left, I was provided with a ton of information (FAQ's, a form outlining the risks of this type of surgery, and things like that). I was asked to schedule two days off work - one day for the surgery, and another day for a follow-up checkup and recuperation time. I scheduled my surgery for one week later.
They told me I'd need to have someone drive me to and from the surgery, it would take about two hours, and that I'd need to come in the next day for a follow-up.
The day of the surgery
The day of the surgery, my wife brought me in and picked up a prescription for a pain killer so she could fill it while I had my surgery (they told me I'd want food, pain meds, and sleep - in that order - when I was finished).
At this point, I was given a chance to any questions and given one last look-see to make sure my eyes appeared healthy. I was then given a Valium to relax me and I waited in the reception area for it to take effect.
About an hour later, I was taken into a staging room and they explained all the post-op instructions to me (more on those later).
A few minutes later, I was brought into the surgery room and lay down on the operating table. I was given a surgical hair covering and prepped for the surgery. Warning - the description from here gets a little graphic.
Prepping the eye
They put local anesthesia into my eyes (several times), took some last minute verification measurements, sanitized the area around my eyes, covered my left eye with a shield, taped my eyelashes back, and put in some special little gadget in my eye to hold my eyelids open.
They then cleaned up my eye really well, irrigated it, and applied some sort of suction to my eye which caused my vision to go black. During this time, they cut a circular flap out of the surface of my eye, and released the suction. My vision came back and they used a small suction cup to fold the flap back. At this point, I could see, but things were very blurry.
Fire forward phasers...
The laser machine was positioned over my head, my head position was adjusted, and I was told to stare at a red, flashing "fixating light" that helped me hold my eye and head in the proper position (and, I think, gave me something to do).
They then verified the settings on the laser, spouting off numbers, settings, and timings to double check that everything was set properly. When all was verified, they told me we were beginning and the laser started firing. I didn't feel anything - just saw that same red fixating light. The laser fired for 21 seconds in my right eye. They irrigated again, put the flap back, smoothed it out, and irrigated some more.
They then repeated the process on my left eye, where the laser fired for 29 seconds.
Prepping to leave
After the surgery, I got up and walked into another room where they checked to make sure my corneal flap was positioned correctly. At this point, I could tell my vision was better, but it was pretty blurry and foggy. They put antibiotic drops in my eyes, put on my eye shields (they look like big tinted goggles with a stretchy band on them), and sent me home with my wife. They warned me the local anesthetic would be wearing off in about 30 minutes.
The first 24 hours
When I got home (I only live 10 minutes from the laser clinic) I ate a Zone-friendly lunch, took my first dose of pain medicine and went to bed. Right on cue, the local anesthetic wore off and my eyes suddenly felt like they were full of broken glass. With tears streaming uncontrollably from them, I lay there and was thankful when the pain medicine began to do its work and I slipped off to sleep about 90 minutes later.
A couple of hours after that, I woke up and my eyes felt quite a bit better. They still felt irritated and scratchy, but the first four hours was by far the most painful part of the whole experience - in fact, my eyes only felt mildly irritated for the rest of the day. The other thing I noticed after I woke up was that I was beginning to see much better.
For the next 16 hours, I tried to keep my eyes closed as much as possible, and took my pain medication. Things went smoothly, and when I slept that evening, the most difficult thing was getting used to sleeping in the eye shields (big, tinted plastic goggle things with an elastic strap to hold them on my head).
The next morning, I woke up, took a shower, and went to my follow-up appointment. By this time, I was seeing much better. When I took off the eye shields, I could see pretty well. They checked my vision at 20/20 in both eyes, scheduled my one week follow-up appointment, reminded me of all the post-op instructions, and sent me home. It's been smooth sailing since then. By the way - no pain since the morning after the surgery, either!
- Expect about 4 hours of pain after the local anesthetic wears off. [Note: I have spoken with others who had no pain - everyone is different.]
- Wear protective goggles after the surgery, and not take them off until my follow-up appointment, except to put drops in my eyes. After the follow-up the next day, sleep in the protective goggles for a week
- Use antibiotic drops 4 times per day for about 10 days to prevent any infection.
- Use preservative-free artificial tears every waking for the first week, then 4 times per day after that.
- Avoid getting soap, dust, or water in your eyes. No swimming, hot tubs, etc. for a week - showers are OK, just be careful not to get anything in your eyes.
- No strenuous activity for 2 or 3 days. After that, be careful not to get sweat in your eyes for at least one week. Wear eye protection to prevent getting hit in the eyes for any contact or projectile-related sports.
- Wear sunglasses when you're outside to protect your sensitive eyes from the glare and keep things from getting in your eyes. Don't go anyplace that's really dusty for the first week.
There are more, but I got the full litany of instructions on a handy take-home sheet.
My tips and observations so far
- It's easy to forget to put your drops in every hour. I have a watch with a countdown timer, so I set it for an hour and I now get a beeping reminder every 60 minutes so I don't forget to put my drops in.
- I have these bloodshot-looking bruises on both eyes (outside corners of both eyes) that look a little freaky, but they are normal bruising and will fade over the next week or so - they don't really hurt.
- The eye shields are really uncomfortable to sleep in, particularly if you are a "side sleeper" like me. I have small bruises on my nose from the plastic, so I added some adhesive foam pads to the bridge of the eye shields to make them more comfortable. I also tend to wake up once a night to find them flung aside and I have to put them back on.
- Each day my vision gets a bit clearer, and I notice my vision is a little blurrier in the morning due to natural swelling that takes place over night.
- The drops make a big difference in comfort and visual clarity - make sure you use them.
I know this is a long post, but I thought it might be helpful to others who're curious about LASIK to find a first-hand account of what it's like. I'm sure I may have left out a detail here and there, but this will give you an idea what it's like.
Yes, there are risks. This is surgery on your eyes, after all.
I'd done enough research, reference checking, etc. and had enough conversations with others who've had LASIK that I decided to go for it - make sure you go in with both eyes open (so to speak) and take the time to learn about the risk and complications that could arise from this procedure, and decide whether LASIK is right for you.
My perspective? Knowing what I know now, I'd do it again in a second. And I wish I'd had this done a long time ago.
And, as smooth as it's been, I'm still early in the post-op experience. If anything unusual happens, you'll hear about it here.
Since mid-morning today (5 days after my procedure) both of my eyes are clear and I can see perfectly out of both eyes. I'm loving this.