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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. ham says:

    I'm considering doing lasik...i will be having my consultsion next week. Thank you for all your feedbacks...its extremley insightful.and i feel prepared enough to ask about the night time possible problems as i too must drive during the night.

    Thank you so much

  2. Lux says:

    ham,

    I know at least 4 - 5 other people, who underwent lasik with good results. However, I would be ready to pay same amount or more to reverse it.

  3. Momo says:

    Jim - what doctor did you use for you Visian ICL? I am considering doing it and not sure what doctor to trust. Also - do you recommend the procedure?

  4. Jim says:

    Momo,

    I used a doctor who is listed in the www.visianinfo.com site in CA as a "Leading Visian ICL specialist". I think anyone considering a Visian ICL should consider any of the doctors who are listed as specialists. I'm just a bit hesitant about saying exactly which one it was on a public board - maybe you could list your email and I could let you know that way.

    As far as recommending it, that is a hard one for me at this point, just because I am not complete yet - since I have astigmatism I have to do the LASIK step and I hesitate to judge the results too much until that gets done as well. I think there are certain factors to consider such as the price and if you could just do LASIK instead. LASIK can certainly be quicker, but if you can't do LASIK, the ICL could be a great option.

    Up to this point I would say I am happy, maybe even very happy, but again until the final results, I won't be able to be sure as I don't know if the LASIK will get me up to 20/20 or whatever or not. I guess I'm the kind who likes to get stuff over with, so I am very anxious for the final step.

    I think for most people if you don't have much astigmatism, it could be quite a bit simpler then my case. The surgery itself was very easy - there is about 2 weeks of taking drops before the surgery, etc. but that's no big deal. If you don't mind, could I ask what about your prescription is? Have you been told you can't do LASIK, or don't want to for some other reason?

    I guess for each person they have to decide on how much they want to at least have a chance of getting rid of glasses/contacts against how much it costs and any possible risks. Just like in Lux's case, if it works for me or for others, it doesn't mean it will work for everyone. I think the best idea is to find the Visian ICL specialist closest to you and go in for a review - and if the doctor doesn't answer your questions or you don't like him or her that much, then go to the next one.

    I guess to finish off I will say that I am expecting that I will recommend it - it's been very good so far, but I just want to hold off endorsing it completely until after I have my final step taken care of (maybe around Jun 24th).

    Jim J.

  5. Momo says:

    Jim, thank you so much for your feedback. I would want to post my email confidentially but not sure how to?
    I've been told my corneas are way too thin for lasik by every doctor, and the only correction possible is the ICL or lens replacement. I also have retinal detachment in my family, I fear it might cause a tear OR make my floaters even more prominent.
    I am seeing the famous doctor in LA in a couple months for a consultation and to see if he thinks that its worth it since I don't have any issue tolerating contacts. They do get dry/red when I am tired but other than that, no problem.

    My prescription:
    right -12.75 +150 A=60
    left -9.00 +100 A=160

    The only reason I am considering the surgery is convenience, so not sure if its worth all the risks?? I am scared to death about the surgery, but would love to wake up and see the clock.

  6. Raymond says:

    Momo,

    As the blog moderator, I can email Jim for you with your private email contact information. There is no need for you to reveal your confidential email address in this public online forum.

  7. Tulio says:

    Hi everyone,

    I think this is a great forum, full of relevant information. I am 44yo and I����m considering Lasik surgery here in Brasil. I would like to hear from people who have had the procedure at around my age. I was very sorry to read about Lux����s experience and that worried me a bit. I have myopia, around 5 or 6D on both eyes and astigmatism, around 2(?) on both eyes as well. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  8. Lux says:

    Tulio,

    At least you should check the size of your pupils. If they are big, forget.

    I have had tiny improvement in halos and starbursts, but now we have natural light almost all over the day, so I am not sure, how bad it will be, when our "dark season" will start in autumn.

  9. Evelyn says:

    I just had the surgeruy yesterday and this has been the first day in my adul life where I can get up and just leave...not worry about glasses or contacts....best thing I could EVER do!!!!!!

  10. Olga says:

    Hi,

    I am 23 and I am considering doing Lasik. I have myopia, around 4 on both eyes. My consultation today with LasikPlus went well. They say that I am a good candidat, but I am still scared to actually do it. Eventhough I am pretty tiered of wearing my glasses and contacts, tiered of not seeing very well while driving at night, I feel like these reasons might not be strong enough to undergo such a risk. I just think that compare to the people who posted in this blog my vision is not that bad, and may be I should just deal with it, instead of dealing with anykind of bad results.

    Would be glad to hear any thoughts on this. Thank you.

  11. Lux says:

    Hi Olga,

    you can also visit other sites, like
    http://www.asklasikdocs.com/forums/index.php

    My situation is slightly improving, but still rather unhappy. I visited another doctor and he recommended slight enhancement.

  12. jeff says:

    how much is the chance of becoming blind?

  13. andrei says:

    Hi,
    I underwent the intralase, custom lasik just over 6 weeks ago. So, I can say that I am somewhat satisfed with the results, but it's definitely not what I expected.
    Background: I am 39 and I spend, at least, 12 hours a day on the computer if not more. Before the surgery my reading vision was degrading over the last year. It got to the point where I could not read my iphone when I had my contacts in. Furthermore, with my glasses on I didn't know whether I should put them on or take them off. My prescription was -4.5 in both eyes, with a slight astigmatism.
    After the surgery: my reading vision has become incredible. So sharp and detailed. In fact, within 4 to 5 feet around me it's amazing. But, after a few feet out the blurriness sets in. My doctor says I've got just around 20/40 or need for a -0.75 corrective lens, though I think it's legal to drive like this (which I do daily).
    The odd part is that when I put in lubricating drops my distance vision becomes *perfect*, but unfrotunately the effect only lasts 10 minutes.
    My doctor says that my eyes are still a bit dry, especially around the incision and to continue using Restasis, which I understand takes 2 to 3 months before it starts working. I hope that I will start producing tears that are equivalent to those in the lubricating drops, but somehow I doubt it.
    Now the big question is whether I would want to go back under the laser. Clearly, it would be nice to see perfect 20/20, but I would probably need to start wearing reading glasses... At least now I don't wear any glasses anytime. And since I"m mostly on the computer... maybe it's better this way....
    Anyway, I was wondering if anyone else had the clearing effect of the eye drops and whether it eventually went away? I'm also curious to hear about the Restasis patients and what their experiences have been like.

    Good luck!

    andrei

  14. Jay says:

    Andrei,

    I am curious to hear about your consultation. Did they advise that you were a good candidate for LASIK? I have my consultation this Friday and I am still researching heavily. I am still not completely convinced the pros outweigh the possible cons.

    For reference, I am a -6 and -5 with an astigmatism is both eyes. I have worn glasses or contacts since before I was ten years old. I would love to know the feeling of waking up with vision in the morning. But, I am being careful in making my decision.

    Thanks!

    Jay

  15. Lux says:

    I wanted to give an intermediate report, as I am not willing to give up for poorer vision and other problems. After my surgery I have tried to find pages like this, but also I have had consultant with two other doctors. First one is a pioneer of lasik in my country and he has all possible equipment. He suggested an enhancement to my left eye, but didn't mention the real reason for problems. Second doctor made guessing already in email, spherical aberration, caused by old fashion machines and in her test this turned out to be true. Also she found some coma and astigmatism. She suggested enhancement in right eye and indeed it causes a bit more starbursts than left eye (with glasses). With fear I agreed the enhancement on Sept 24.

    After several months study, I can give suggestions to guys willing to undergo lasik operation.

    1. Don't go
    2. If you still are willing to take a risk, choose the place, which have modern wave front guided operation, others cannot take the corneal profile in account so well
    4. Also, choose the doctor having long record of lasik operations and good reputation (ask as many places as possible)
    4. If you have big pupils, they may cause starbursts at night (reason is that light reflects in operated area as well as non operated area)
    5. Very strong myopia and thin corneal thickness is not a good combination, because prolate shape cannot be preserved and seeing at night becomes extremely difficult.
    6. If your outcome is bad, then there is at least one place in US very willing to correct botched operations: http://www.wangvisioninstitute.com/ (makes of course primary operations too).

    Good luck!

  16. Andrei says:

    In fact I was told that my combination of characteristics put me in the "sweet spot" as a candidate for Lasik.

    Btw, an acquaintance of mine who is an optometrist recently said that there is a bit of unknown surrounding the outcome. Things like individual healing process and humidity levels could have some negative (or positive) impact.

    The other curious thing is that my colleague who had -8 in both eyes went to the same surgeon just weeks earlier and can not be happier with his outcome. Oh well... Just my luck.

    Anyway I still have hopes that the restasis will kick in, since the doctor said there was dryness around the edges of the flap. (even though it's been 7 weeks!)

  17. Karina says:

    I went for a LASIK consultation a few days ago.
    I have -6 Dioptres both eyes. I waslready to go ahead but the surgeon
    mentioned about my large pupil size (7mm and 8mm) and poor night vision compared to someone with smaller pupils who had LASIK.

    I did some research and now I am very frightened to go ahead. People have written about debilitating night vision after having LASIK with large pupil size. It makes sense to me and I feel it would be foolish of me to go ahead with it if I know of a reason why it may not work.

    I am now very disappointed as I was looking forward to being free of glasses but if it means I cannot see at night to drive, socialise etc then I think I would be better sticking with glasses/contact lenses. I am very depressed about it but feel I would be even more depressed if I ended up with poor night vision. I know it may improve but there are no guarantees.

    Has anyone else had LASIK done with my pupil size and what is your night vision like?
    I know there are several factors which also affect night vision which makes it complicated and difficult to predict. It's a shame for me as I have very thick corneas which would otherwise make me a good candidate.

  18. Ornella says:

    Hello everyone.
    I'm 50 years old and I just recently had custom LASIK surgery at TLC just a few days ago (Sept.24/09). I waited years to have it done. This was my birthday present to myself for my 50th. I was lead to believe that this surgery is best done when you're older as that's when your eyes stop changing. I realize that it can takes months for ones vision to 'settle', however, I have a real concern. Before the surgery I wore bifocals. My reading ability without glasses wasn't too bad. Now, after the surgery it's horrendous! When I eat my food it's blurry, I can't even see to put make-up on! I was told 'after' the surgery that my vision , up to arms length, would be gone. It's blurry anywhere from 4-6 feet in front of me! I knew that I would still need reading glasses, but I was never told that it would get much worse nor did I read any literature stating this would happen. I was aware that I may experience halos at night. I didn't realize I'd have them in the daytime too! My distance vision did turn out well, but I made my life much more difficult than before.
    I work as an advanced care paramedic and the reason I chose this surgery was because rain, snow, smudges on the glasses, breaking, having the lenses fog up when entering someones warm home from the cold as well as having them fall off my face made my work a bit difficult. I think I just made my job alot more difficult. I really, really hope it gets better with time. We'll see.
    I did try bifocal contacts, but that didn't work.

  19. Lux says:

    Ornella,

    as I had, you may have higher order aberrations due to using wrong type of laser equipment. The correct one is wave front guided instead of wave front optimized. I had enhancement to my right eye on last Thursday in new place having such a modern instrument and my visus improved a lot as the doctor could completely eliminate 4 types of HOAs. However, still starbursts and halos remain, but hope to get rid of them, when time passes. I prefer you will consult another place having wave front guided capability. In the place I visited they are also able to operate wide enough to compensate big pupil sizes.

  20. Alex says:

    Ornella, you didn't do your research. It's a well-known fact that for nearsighted people, LASIK takes away the ability to see close-up when the cornea is reshaped. I am (was) nearsighted before the procedure and can read fine close-up now (I'm 27), but when I'm in my 40s I will need glasses like everyone else because I gave up the nearsightedness I would have had for the ability to see far during my youth. It was a compromise. Because you're older and wore bifocals, you should have gotten monovision, not regular LASIK like a candidate like me got. With monovision, they correct the dominant eye to see close up and the less dominant eye to see far away to create "bifocal" vision. You don't get perfect vision either up close or far away, but a decent blend of the too. At the very least, you wouldn't have needed glasses. Someone should have told you about this surgery.

    I also would have recommended that you get a custom LASIK procedure, in which they map the topography of your cornea and match the procedure to it. A regular LASIK procedure runs a much higher risk of effects like halos and starbursts.

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