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)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!