I write this just over a month after getting Lasik, which makes it a rather premature post since I have yet to experience the full results of the surgery, but I’ve had a few people ask me to talk about my experiences, so … here we are, and here is the requisite caveat: this is what I have learned in the last 6 weeks.
Lasik Is a Time Investment
Yes, it also costs a fair bit of money. But don’t discount the time investment. My initial consultation was 2 hours, at the end of which I found out whether I was a candidate for Lasik (yes), what my surgical options were (as it turns out, only one), and how much it was going to cost me. The appointment on the day of the surgery was about 4.5 hours; the surgery itself only takes about 10-15 minutes, but there is a bunch of testing, pre-surgical consultations, and a 45 minute post-surgery waiting period. I had the standard follow-up appointment the next morning, which took about 15 minutes. Because a bandage contact lens was placed after surgery in one of my eyes, I had a second follow-up 2 days later, to remove the lens. That also took about 15 minutes. My one week and one month follow-up appointments were more of the same.
Because my original prescriptions were high (astigmatism in one eye, myopia in the other), my eyes were still healing at the one month mark, so I was directed to come in for another follow-up in 6 weeks to check on my progress. And there will be more appointments to come thereafter: at a minimum, six months, and one year from the date of surgery. After that, there will be check-ups every 2 years. It’s critical to attend all of these appointments as directed, because failing to do so voids any “warranty” included with your procedure. More on that in a minute.
Now, the clinic where I had my surgery is conveniently located close to my office, which makes it relatively easy to pop in for appointments, and I am fortunate to have a relatively flexible schedule at work that allows me to take time off at random times. However, the frequency and necessity of these follow-ups is something to keep in mind when considering when and where to get surgery (particularly if traveling out of town for that purpose).
Surgery Is … Weird
First up, let me reassure you: it doesn’t hurt. But it does feel weird. Your vision will go black for a few seconds while the corneal flap is being cut. After that, you will sense/see when the flap is being lifted – this was the weirdest part to me, though not necessarily in an unpleasant way. Just … honestly, “weird” is the best way to describe it. After that, you will smell the laser working. Yes, smell. Burnt cornea smells like burnt hair. I think there was a feeling of (light) pressure on my eyeball as this was happening, but, again, it was not unpleasant, and it didn’t last long. The smell was the worst part, but thankfully it didn’t linger. The whole thing doesn’t last very long at all.
There Will Be Pain
Almost everyone glossed over this – both the consultants at the clinic, and the friends and acquaintances with whom I spoke about their prior Lasik experiences. I would chalk up my experience as an aberration, but I ended up hearing from one other person who went through the same thing, so while I may be in the minority, I am not a special snowflake. Well, not entirely.
This is what most people said: you’ll experience some discomfort after the surgery, and will probably just want to rest/sleep for the rest of the day. By the next morning, you’ll wake up and everything will be great. [I was told that my vision would not be perfect within 24 hours, just that I would be able to see without my glasses. This was true.]
Here is what happened. Immediately after surgery, I was fine. My eyes felt a bit gritty (normal) and I was light sensitive (normal) but that was about it. I was fine while I waited at the clinic, fine while being chauffeured home, and fine as I rested at home. At first.
About 3 hours post-surgery is when the pain kicked in. Stabbing, excruciating, horrible pain. I had been given medicated eye drops for pain, though encouraged to use them only if absolutely necessary because they slow healing. Well, it didn’t matter anyway, because I couldn’t even open my eyes – the pain was that bad. It got bad enough that I cried. [For the record, I did not cry during the unmedicated portion of my births. I would not compare this pain to that of childbirth, because they were completely different, but this definitely registered very high on the scale.] The whole thing is a bit of a blur now, but I *think* I took a bunch of regular Advil and, thankfully, I fell asleep after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only an hour or so.
You Will Wear Sunglasses at Night
That’s a reference only some of you may get, but yes: you will be wearing sunglasses – and not the cool kind either – at night, in bed. That’s what I was told to do, anyway, and it’s what I did. The glasses came with my post-op care bag, and they were hideous. Sleeping with them on was not comfortable, but I was beyond caring that first night.
So, About That Light Sensitivity
I woke up the next morning relieved to find that the pain had gone away, and excited to test my new powers. I did not get very far. Even with the sunglasses on, I could barely keep my eyes open – they were painfully light sensitive.
In the interests of disclosure, I will mention that my eyes are sensitive to (sun)light at the best of times; that sensitivity was exacerbated 100x on the first day, and I experienced it both indoors and outdoors in any and all light conditions apart from pitch black. My eyes did not acclimatize to the ambient light conditions until late in the day, at which point I was able to take my sunglasses off indoors without having my eyes clamp shut. After that first day, however, I was fine, and since then I have not experienced issues with light sensitivity beyond the normal (for me). However, this was another issue for which I felt wholly unprepared; there probably wasn’t anything to be done, but I would have appreciated a heads-up.
Your Vision Will Not Be 20/20 Immediately
Once I was actually able to open my eyes for any period of time, it was clear that my vision had improved tremendously. Things more than a foot in front of my nose were no longer a blur. With that said, my vision was far from perfect. Having the bandage lens in my right eye (my dominant eye) did not help. Until the bandage lens came off, my vision was better in my left (non-dominant) eye, which threw me off, and things still looked pretty blurry out of my right eye; this, however, I had been told to expect. As my eyes continued to heal, my vision became better and better.
Now, just over a month after my surgery, my vision is still improving. Things at distance are still not perfectly crisp, and I still experience coronas/halos in dim light conditions, but this is not all that different from what I was used to get with contact lens wear. It takes a few months after Lasik surgery to reach “peak results”, as it were, so it’s still early days for me especially given the prescription with which I started. At my one month appointment, I was told my vision was around 20/25. I expect to find out more about how my eyes are progressing at my next check-up.
Your Eyes May Be Extra Dry
My eyes were on the dry side to begin with, and I was advised to continue using lubricating eye drops 4-6 times a day after the initial healing period was over. I currently use Systane Ultra, which I find too “gummy” and plan to ditch once my current bottles run out. I have been told that Hylo brand drops are better, and plan on trying those next. I don’t find the dryness to be a huge bother; it’s similar to what I used to experience with contacts. I do work in front of a computer screen all day (and tend to spend a few more hours each evening staring at different screens), which probably does not help.
Your Vision Might Get Worse Later
Obviously, this hasn’t happened to me yet, and I hope that it never will, but I have been warned that, due to my pre-existing prescription, I have a 20-25% chance of my vision regressing. Those are not great odds, considering the cost of Lasik surgery. [Because of my prescription, again, I had to have the most costly version of the surgery.] Leaving aside issues of convenience, Lasik makes financial sense in my circumstances (based on the cost of new glasses and contact lenses) if it lasts at least 7 years or more. I chose to take advantage of the “extended warranty” package offered by my clinic, which is supposed to cover a future procedure if necessary to again correct my vision, with a view to making that math work even in the worst case scenario.
There is also a good chance that I will need reading glasses as I get older; presbyopia is farsightedness caused by loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye (an age-related condition), which is not something that Lasik can address. This was a risk that did not factor into my decision to get Lasik; needing reading glasses is a whole different ballgame than needing glasses to see a foot in front of me, so if I end up needing to use them, so be it.
All in all, I am happy so far with my decision to get Lasik. I have been wearing glasses and/or contacts since I was about 9 years old – and hating them the whole time. I am not a very active/sporty person, so Lasik is not so much about “freedom” for me as it is about vanity and convenience, but I value both of those things a great deal. I have adapted to my new, contact-free reality very quickly but even so, there are times when I realize with a start that I haven’t had to take any extra steps to be able to see (clearly!) that day — and it’s AMAZING! No fumbling for glasses first thing in the morning; no wrangling of floppy, slippery contacts. I can see in the shower! I can wear all the cute sunglasses!! As the exclamation marks would suggest, I can say, without hesitation, my 8 quasi-warnings notwithstanding, that Lasik was totally worth it.