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My Experience With Lasik Eye Surgery - Thoughts About Laser Vision Correction - Is It Worth The Cost and Risks?

Published 12/21/07 (Modified 3/8/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I had Lasik surgery a few years ago and it completely changed my life for the better. For those considering the procedure, I highly recommend it wholeheartedly. Particularly for those people like me who spent the majority of their lives dependent on corrective lenses, Lasik will truly transform your life in an almost miraculous way. Freedom from glasses and contact lenses has been such an amazing and liberating experience.

The procedure is considered elective by most health insurance companies and the cost can range between $3000 to $5000. Although the cost has gone down over the years, it's still quite an expensive procedure. But if you can afford it, the potential benefits greatly outweigh the limited health risks and possible fear factor. It's one of the best financial expenditures I've ever made for myself.

My Background Of Wearing Glasses and Contact Lenses At An Early Age

Since I was little kid I've always had terrible eye sight. I started wearing glasses during second grade and my prescription only worsened and thickened over time till they essentially became bullet proof eye guards. I went from thick plastic frames and lenses to sleeker wire frames and ultra thin prescription, but with my horrendous eyesight of -7 in the left and -8 on the right, it was impossible to reduce the lens thickness by much.

I'm not particularly vain but I guess I always felt constrained with having to wear such thick glasses and being recognized by my thick "nerdy" goggles. Since my vision was so bad, I was basically blind without my glasses, frequently having to fumble around for them at night just to do simple things like checking the time. One one occasion, I broke my frames in college, popping out the lenses by accident, causing me to have to tape them up like an uber-dork and attend classes because I did not have a backup pair with me.

Thankfully, I eventually transitioned into contact lenses, but the honeymoon was short lived. Contact lenses were easy and clutter free, but required extra time and effort day and night to maintain and clean them properly. I tried different types of contact lenses but even Acuvue disposables caused eye irritation problems. I had severe dryness in my eyes and they frequently turned blistering red due to contact lens irritation and oxygen deprivation. Remembering to take them out before sleeping or swimming, and having to readjust them after unwittingly rubbing my eyes and dislodging them were always problems to contend with.

It was not until my last year in college that I finally decided to do something about my vision situation and seriously pursue Lasik vision corrective survey as the solution to permanently correct my vision and rid myself of the shackles of contact lenses and glasses forever.

What Is Lasik and What Does Laser Vision Corrective Surgery Involve?

Lasik stands for Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis and is a type of refracted laser eye surgery used to correct most forms of near sightedness, far sightedness, and astigmatism. It has become a very popular alternative to wearing corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses. The operation is performed by an ophthalmologist who creates a thin flap on the surface of the eye using a specialized blade, and uses a special excimer laser machine to modify the eye tissue underneath the flap. After the laser has corrected the vision surface, the flap is then returned to its normal position where healing commences fairly rapidly.

The procedure is usually performed with the patient awake, sitting in an operation chair with the head rest tilted back. Anesthetic eye drops are used to numb the eyes while the surgery is underway. There is usually little to no pain involved other than temporary dryness or mild soreness in the eyes after the procedure. Functional recovery occurs within a day but permanent healing takes a few months.

My Lasik Experience At The Laser Eye Center (TLC Vision)

I had my Lasik procedure done in 2000 at The Laser Eye Center, a popular laser vision correction center in my area known for its Lasik procedures on celebrities like Tiger Woods. There were other popular Lasik center choices available aside from TLCV, such as Lasik Plus Vision (LCAV), but I chose the Laser Eye Center due to its strong local presence. There are even more Lasik choices available today, but personally, I would still choose to go with more established brands.

The Lasik procedure itself was pain free, albeit a bit scary. Two close friends came with me for moral support and to drive me back home afterwards. Since my vision and eye had already been mapped out and calibrated during a consultation the day before, all I had to do was pay the $5500 Lasik charge in full by credit card before the procedure would begin.

I remember nervously sniffing the refrigerated freon scent as I sat in my operating chair. Once the anesthetized drops were placed in my eyes, and the eye clamps were put on to keep them open, everything else seemed quite automated. The suction device caused my vision to fade into white but I felt no pain or discomfort as the blade created the flap and the laser device went to work. I remember the physician and his nurses talking excessively to one another during the procedure, which I found kind of annoying since I was a bit nervous and wanted complete silence. The laser excimer created an electrical tapping sound as it zapped my eyes and the buzzing sound lasted longer than usual since my vision was so bad, requiring extra correction. After one eye was done, the procedure was repeated for the other eye. All in all, it only lasted maybe 15 minutes before I hopped out of my chair to face the world again. Immediately I knew my vision had been corrected because I could make out distinct objects, although it initially felt like I was peering through a sheet of gauze.

I was given pain killers and antibiotic drops for my eyes and I went home with my friends who had been watching the entire procedure from a video monitor in the waiting room (I think they were fascinated and grossed out at the same time). The next day, my vision was almost a perfect 20/20 and I was on my way to vision bliss, already returning to my normal routine like nothing had happened. Since then, I've remained extremely satisfied with my long term Lasik results.

My Advice To Those Considering Laser Eye Surgery and What To Keep In Mind:

  1. Not Everyone Is A Good Candidate For Lasik - Lasik is not a good idea for those whose vision is still fluctuating or for those with unusually thin corneas. Ethical physicians will usually reject those that don't qualify as good candidates for the procedure. I did not become a good Lasik candidate until my vision stabilized during college. Once your vision has remained consistent for a few years, I recommend undergoing the procedure sooner than later. The younger you are, the quicker your eyes will heal and the lesser the chances that complications may arise.

    Also, if the corneas in your eyes are too thin, you might be rejected for the Lasik procedure as well. A sufficient corneal diameter is needed to properly create and lift the flap. Unlike cornea thickness, having a high prescription is generally not a major problem for the Lasik procedure since advances in laser technology have greatly enlarged the treatment range.

  2. Lasik Is Permanent, But Over Time, Your Vision Is Likely To Regress A Bit - It's been several years since my Lasik surgery and my vision has since regressed very slightly towards nearsightedness again. Fortunately, I still have excellent vision and don't require a follow up procedure.
  3. The Nighttime Halo and Glare Problems That Lasik Patients Complain About Are Real - Lasik has been known to cause one to see fuzzy halos and glare at night - this is true. When I gaze at a street lamp at night, I will frequently see an unusually large ball of light surrounding the light source. It was a bit strange at first, but I've gotten so used to it that I don't even notice it anymore. It's not a real inconvenience at all. The glare was much more significant immediately after the procedure but my eyes have since adapted well.
  4. After the Lasik Procedure Your Eyes Will Likely Turn Red and Become Very Dry - Immediately after the procedure my eyes hemorrhaged slightly and displayed small patches of red, but this went away after a day or two of rest. This is a normal and natural response, and you eyes will soon recover. My eyes were also very dry for weeks afterwards and I remember avoiding malls because the dry air wrecked havoc with my post op vision. Your eyes recover within days after the procedure, although the corneal flap doesn't fully seal until 9 months later.
  5. Price Is Important But It Should Not Be Your Main Consideration When Choosing A Lasik Physician Or Facility - For both eyes I spent a total of $5500 for the procedure, back when Lasik was just coming out. The price was high but it was the best decision I ever made. I paid a premium for it but I received premium results. Don't try to save money by going to some unknown or amateur physician with little experience in using the Lasik machine or in creating proper corneal flaps. Yes, your chances of ending up blind are extremely remote, but eye surgery is still serious business. Don't risk it!

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65 Responses to “My Experience With Lasik Eye Surgery - Thoughts About Laser Vision Correction - Is It Worth The Cost and Risks?” 

  1. ls says:

    jim,
    the visian ICL rocks.
    had too thin corneas for lasik, which was a blessing in disguise.
    after the visian ICL, I had 20/15 overall, better than 20/20, I can see at 20 feet what others only see at 15 feet.

  2. JENNIFER says:

    IF YOU LOVE LOOKING AT LIGHTS, ANY LIGHTS, DONT DO IT!!!!! iTS ALMOST GUARENTEED YOU WILL SEE HALOS OR STARBURSTS. IN THE DAY, IT CAN BE A SHADOWY EFFECT. I HAD MY LASIK 9 MONTHS AGO, AND REGRET IT. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE DEBATING ON DOING IT OR NOT, PLEASE DONT! YOU MAY BE SICK OF GLASSES OR CONTACTS, BUT AT LEAST ITS A MORE NATURAL VISION THAN AFTER LASIK.

  3. Lux says:

    Jennifer,

    My starburst are not so bad anymore, though I completely agree with you. As told I had my lasik last February and I regret it as well. However, after enhancement (right eye) by other doc, at least my vision improved. BTW, what type of lasik you had? There is a big difference between procedures. Does any one know the reason except large pupils for starbursts and halos?

  4. Katie G says:

    Thanks for creating a forum, Raymond.

    I've been debating this for years. I am 43, have -10 and -10.5 with moderate astigmatism in one eye. I am just starting to notice that menus aren't as clear as they used to be, but am not a candidate for reading glasses.

    I tolerate contacts fine for the most part. What is difficult is when I travel, especially to places with bad air pollution (in Addis Ababa, my eyes were red and weepy the entire time), SCUBA diving, swimming, etc.

    I'd be interested to hear back from Jim now that it's been 6 mths since he had implantable contacts put in.

  5. Jim says:

    Hi again all! Hello Katie G.

    Katie, I am doing pretty good, but I never wore contacts and I haven't had problems with red eyes or anything like that, so I don't know how they would work for you. When you say you're not a candidate for reading glasses, do you mean because your prescription is too strong? Can you use bifocals? I never used reading glasses with my normal -12 glasses because I didn't need them, and I don't think I would have liked bi-focucals, but I never tried them either.

    If you are truly interested in considering ICLs, I would just recommend that you see a well-respected eye doctor and if you don't feel comfortable with that person, then you see another one, etc. Make sure you get your questions answered to your liking.

    On a different subject, I just wanted to mention one interesting thing. After I got my ICL's, I felt that the vision in my right eye was nearly perfect - the left eye was clearly behind (some astigmatism mostly) and I asked the Dr. about do I still need to do LASIK in the right eye? He said that maybe it would be a good idea not to because there is always some risk even if very small and if the right eye is fine, then why bother. Well, I did the left eye LASIK and now my left eye is very good, but I feel that my right eye is a bit behind now! I kind of wish I had done the lasik on that eye as well now. I might still consider asking about it later (my next appt for a checkup isn't til April now), but it certainly isn't necessary or anything. I am seeing very good overall, it's just that if I cover each eye, it is clear that my left eye is better now. I think it might be as good as 20/15 or something. The right is probably 20/25 or 20/30 or something, I don't know for sure. I have some eye charts in my room, but it's hard to determine an exact 20/ amount depending on lighting or whatever. Again, I want to stress that I am fine without it - I have been driving and doing everything else without glasses, but it's just that the left eye is so super sharp now.

    Also, it seems odd, but I would swear that after my vision has been quite stable for a number of months now, it really seems like it has gotten even just a bit better the last couple of weeks. I have several things I look at like small text across the room at work, and the eye charts in my room and it really seems like my vision has gotten just a tad bit better the last couple of weeks! I would really stress to people who get either LASIK, or ICLs or both to not put too much into how exactly their vision is the next day, or the next week, or sometimes maybe even the next month - stuff CAN still get better, whether or not it actually does.

    Overall I am certainly happy with the way things have gone - I admit there are times when you wonder if you are doing the right thing and you always fear that something won't get better or that you won't get to 20/20 or whatever, but it has worked very good for me.

  6. fara says:

    i am 24 it took me 4 years to decide to do this. my eyes are strong and i had a nearly full recovery after 6 days. however i could see fine only for 2 weeks and now i see shadows of objects projected like 3 times. after 2 months the doctor says my eyes are 1.75 astigmatic. !!! i dont know who to blame myself or the doctor. cus i was never astigmatic, poor mom and dad,they wasted so much money to help me. i am ashamed to say i need a second surgery. what should i do i will have to study japanese in 3 months which will take my day and night!! and i am scared to retake the preceture. what do you think i should do???!!!

  7. Jenni says:

    hi, i went for a consultation for laser eye surgery yesterday and decided if i did go for it i'd go for the best possible option. Lasik, wavefront and intralase. Has anyone else had these 3 and what are their experiences? i'm only 22 and my eyes are right -3.25 and left -3.0. I have been wearing glasses since i was 5 and contact lenses since i was 16. i hated wearing glasses i don't feel myself when i wear them and contacts have boosted my confidence so much. However i joined the armed forces 3 years ago and my contacts have been such an inconvience taking them in and out all the time and my eyes get really itchy and dry wearing them especially when i'm working with computers. I'd love to have permanent clear vision as i'm young and healthy i feel its best to have it now. My eyes have also been stable for the past 4 years my sight hasn't changed at all. The price is quite alot at 3,140.00 but i think in the long run it will be worth it. The only problem i have is a lazy eye, is there anyone out there who had the procedure with a lazy eye and has it effected the outcome at all?
    Thanks.

  8. Lux says:

    Jenni,

    my opinion is subjective, but if the car lights also in my case after operation look like this: http://www.afterlasik.com/Starburst.jpg I cannot recommend the operation.

  9. Daniel says:

    Hi Jenni,

    I had Lasik back in Sept 08.

    My vision was pretty much clear after the first day, the dry eye lasted a good few months and is uncomfortable.

    I didn't really do enough research before I had my eyes done, but luckily I did not have any problems (bar the dry eye).

    I would recommend researching thoroughly before making any decisions.

    Do the army have a stance on eye surgery ?

    Best

    Daniel

  10. Lux says:

    Karina,

    today is the annual day of my worst decision. Maybe I need "bitter drink". Though slow improvement occurs, I still see starburst around the most bright car lights and halos around others. Also, when getting elder, you miss your near sight, when doing some accurate hobby, like electronics, what I do. So, do not undergo this unsafe procedure.

  11. Katie says:

    For those who post horror stories, it would be really helpful if you stated WHEN you had the procedure done and by WHOM.

    I know there are a lot of shoddy practitioners out there who don't know what they're doing--but in "real life" I know far more people who have been very happy with their results. They all paid top dollar for it too.

  12. Katie says:

    And frankly, many of those here who are posting negative experiences--the English is not good, so that makes me think that either you're getting in done by the factory-line eye doctors or in dodgy countries.

  13. Lux says:

    Katie, hope to be 26, but I started to study English then. Now almost retired. Correction was done in my right eye by one doctor having very good reputation and vision is quite good now in my right eye. Starburts still remain, not so bad though.

  14. Mary Smith says:

    I have bad experience. Mine only lasted 5 years. I was told that I would never had to wear glasses again. Now I need glasses and is getting worse little by little!!

    Ms. Smith

  15. Carlie says:

    I am 20 years old and have been wearing glasses for about 5 years. I would really like to get the surgery but recently I have been getting corneal ulcers which are probably due to contact lens wearing. I am waiting for my consultation appointment but I was wondering if anyone else had similar problems and lasik was okay for them?

  16. Alex says:

    I had that problem, which is why I wanted to get LASIK. The ulcers are related to your contacts, not problems with your cornea. If you stop wearing contacts they will go away and you should be able to get LASIK if your corneas are thick enough and your eyesight has not recently changed (if your corneas are too thin you should get PRK; if your eyesight has been changing, you should wait until it stops).

    I would highly recommend that you find a doctor experienced with IntraLase and CustomWaveFront and spring for them. It is worth the extra money; it will virtually eliminate the kinds of problems many people above have with starbursts and halos and whatnot. Don't go to someone who doesn't at least offer it as a choice - it means they're old-fashioned and aren't using the latest technology. IntraLase is the all-laser LASIK technology, and CustomWaveFront is a technology that creates a 3D model of the cornea and creates individualized correction measurements based on the topography of your eye. I got both and experienced a little temporary dry-eye from the laser, but it went away in a couple months and I have never had ghosting, halos, starbursts or any other problems.

  17. Jenni says:

    Daniel,

    When i first joined the armed forces you weren't allowed to join up if you had laser eye surgery but it's recently changed and you now can, and some places even offer armed forces discount on surgery.

    Fot all those thinking of surgery, I decided to go for the surgery and had it done the end of April with Optical Express. My eyesight was -3 and -3.25 and i'm 23 years old. i had lasik, ultralase and wavefront. The procdure was over in a matter of minutes and it felt so strange, i could see the improvement straight away though my eyes felt heavy so as soon as i got into the car i closed my eyes and rested while i was taken home. In the house i still wore my sunglasses as the lights stranged my eyes, i looked silly but it was worth it. I didn't watch tv or read any books for the 1st day and slept lots. You have to put 3 sets of eye drops in every 4 hours on the 1st day but they are really good and do help. Then after that its 4 times a day for a week and you wear goggles in bed to stop you rubbing your eyes, my fiance found this hilarious but they did work just were a little uncomfy to sleep in obviosuly but it was only for the 1st week. A week after surgery its just one set of eye drops whenever your eyes feel dry. My eyes were really stratchy for the 1st 2 weeks and i hated blinking as it was really uncomfortable but it gradually got better. I took a week off work so i could relax my eyes and not be stressed at work but you can usually go back the same week you have them done. Its been nearly 7 weeks now since i had them done and it feels like it was months ago. The changes are amazing i can see perfectly, my eyes are hardly dry anymore, just sometimes after a long day i put some eye drops in to moisture them a bit. My eyes are also fine in the evening and i have no starbursts which are good. Optical express do a check up on your eyes the day, week, month and 3 months after to ensure everything is going ok. So overall i am very pleased with the results and hope my vision stays good for years to come and i look forward to life with my new eyes :) x

  18. Katrina says:

    I have Lupus, and autoimmune disease, and it seems like some doctors refuse to try Lasik on lupus patients while others are perfectly fine with it. The ones who refuse say they're worried my eyes won't heal right, but the others say there's no problem (both from large reputable companies). I was super excited to get it done (My eyes are 7.5 in my left and 8.5 in my right) but now I'm getting worried. Any suggestions? I can't find anything from people who have had it done with lupus. Thanks!

  19. janellen says:

    I had wavefront at TLC over 3 months ago and am at -1 at least, and can't drive safely without glasse. They won't do an enhancement at 3 months. apparently their 'policy' is to make people wait 6 months. i figure this is just a financial move on their part, trying to avoid doing enhancements. So they told me to get contacts or glasses! I wish I'd gone to a clinic that is more concerned about outcome. At this point I wouldn't recommend where I went.

  20. Christina says:

    Agree with Katie! Yes Visian ICL seems like a good way to go. According to www.yourvisionoptions.com which compares ICLs to LASIK and PRK it seems to be the best option so far. Consultation scheduled for me! fingers crossed

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