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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. Dan says:

    Great post, I had my eyes corrected coming up to 1 month ago. Vision is great mostly does deteorate throughout the day (work in a air conditioned office looking at a PC for 8 hours a day), Guess thats the dry eye.
    Eye Drops and wearing sun glasses whilst on the PC help a great deal.

  2. Raymond says:

    Dan,

    Don't worry about the dry eye part too much. That's part of the normal healing process. I remember experiencing significant dry eyes and extra sensitivity to sunlight and glare for months after my original Lasik procedure. In time the negative effects do pass and you get accustomed to any lingering discomfort if any. I still see small blurred halos at night when I stare directly at lamp posts or street lights. However it's not really a burden and isn't too bothersome.

  3. Geri says:

    Loved your story.....Thanks.
    I had the surgery three days ago and LOVE it !!!! I read so many terrible stories I almost backed out of the surgery. I feel terrible for those who did not have a favorable experience.

    I too went to TLC, the procedure was painless (yeah). After the numbing drops wore off a Tylenol took care of any (anticipated) discomfort. I did come home and sleep for 4 or 5 hours (highly recommend it). I am so glad I went through with the surgery. I can now see things I never could before.

  4. Raymond says:

    Geri,

    The reason you hear so many scary horror stories about Lasik is because the limited ones who had a bad experience are the same ones most motivated to go out and blast the procedure. After all, if you had a pleasant Lasik vision correction experience, what personal motivation and incentive do you have to go online and post positive comments about the procedure? It's usually the critics and negative opinion folks who are generally the most vocal.

  5. Karen says:

    My husband is having Lasik tomorrow and we're both very nervous. He's kinda a big baby which makes me extra nervous. However he has wanted this for years and this was my Christmas present to him so I'm really hoping all goes well. I was searching the internet to hear what the actual procedure is like when I came upon your story. Thanks for all the info, and wish us luck!

  6. wayne says:

    I had lasik treatment just over a week ago and am pretty happy with the results. Just before surgery i was informed due to my high astigmatism and the the rather large pupils i posess i would almost definately have poor night vision. I was given a short break to decide whether i wanted to proceed with the treatment. I went ahead anyway and apart from the trippy looking streetlamps and the poor eyesight at dusktime i am very happy with the results. Certainly a gamble that paid off.

  7. sue says:

    after 9 years are you still glad you had the procedure?
    I am wanting to have the procedure but I am afaid--of a I guess just nervous of teh bad effects--the worsening of eyesight etc..just curious after 9 years--thanks

  8. Raymond says:

    Sue,

    Lasik laser vision correction surgery was the best decision I ever made for myself. For the tremendous confidence boost and physical conveniences alone, the financial cost was worth its weight a hundred times over. Even after 9 years, I am still extremely pleased with the results of my eyesight improvement. My vision has regressed a little bit over the years but even with a slight reversion back to near sightedness, I am still able to function perfectly without the hassle of having to wear thick bullet proof glasses.

    I hope your Lasik experience went well! The procedure's very safe and has a good track record of reliability. Feel free to review and share your pre-surgery and post-surgery thoughts.

  9. Lux says:

    Greetings from Finland,

    I wonder why there are web pages telling bad experience and web pages like this.
    Maybe it could make sense to tell age as well as in my age, 59 decision to undergo lasik was not good. It was done 3 months ago and let us see, should I spend rest of my life with poorer vision than before lasik.

    For everyone considering lasik, I prefer to search information as much as possible before operation. I did not do enough.

  10. Raymond says:

    Lux,

    I'm sorry to hear that your laser corrective surgery via Lasik did not go as well as you had hoped. How bad was your vision originally (what was your prescription for your glasses)? Did the Lasik procedure put your eyesight in a worse position than before?

    Please share your thoughts as I'm certain plenty of other fellow concerned Lasik patients would like to know more as well. The only thought I'll add here is that your more advanced age may have been an issue. When it comes to surgery, the younger you are, the easier it is for the body to overcome the complications, burdens, and physical trauma of surgical procedures. I was a young student in college when I had Lasik performed, so perhaps that may explain why it went so effortlessly for me at the time.

  11. Lux says:

    Raymond,

    I had -4.0 in both eyes, but the doctor said that it has improved to -3.5. Anyway, I agree it is my age, which matters. Also I was told it may take several months to improve, but in this age, one doesn't want to collect troubles in addition to the existing ones. Decision was made based on couple guys, who underwent the procedure with good results. Because of my age, I had so called monovision, meaning that dominant eye is for far sight and another eye for near sight. Gradually I am used to deal with this outside, but being in dark is terrible. Halos around the lights and poor contrast are the most unpleasant things. Anyway, I have to live with this.

  12. Raymond says:

    Lux,

    I am very sorry that you're in the difficult predicament. I know it must be frustrating for you to have to undergo a medical procedure that winds up not helping you significantly and even actually raises more problems than before.

    Re: Halos, they do dissipate a bit with time. Like eye floaters, you get used to seeing them after some time and they end up being less bothersome.

    While fairly safe, Lasik is still invasive surgery. What was your reason for deciding to undergo the procedure in the first place? Were there certain activities (swimming etc) that you had wanted to engage in that your glasses were hindering? Or was it due to cosmetic reasons etc? I am just curious as to your motivating factor for choosing to undergo the laser surgery.

  13. Lux says:

    Raymond,

    looks like my last answer did not appear here?

  14. Lux says:

    I decided to undergo lasik operation after over 10 years consideration. First I thought it is too dangerous and in fact I saw some letter in Finnish news paper telling bad experience of PRK. Then one of my friend decided to go to the lasik operation and he was happy after that. Also I met one guy, who has had the PRK operation in 1991, and he told he is very satisfied. However, it took several years after that, maybe 2007, when I met another guy, who recently underwent lasik operation and he said he is happy. I think, my decision was done then. I checked Finnish blogs and most of them were very positive and finally I thought, this is the year (2009) when I will have the operation. First I booked in different place, but they told, they have co-operation company closer to me and I appointed the checking and operation time with them. I asked, whether there is possibility to have bad result, but the answer was only that every operation has its own risks. Then I decided to go ahead. Surgeon was very friendly and I believe also professional on his field (but not sure about ethic). I was so exited that I hardly remember the operation. Everything seemed to go well and they told that I already could drive car without glasses. However, as I had "monovision" operation, the feeling was very strange. They said, by the time it will improve as it did a bit. But the other problems, which they did not mention, like driving at night is impossible due to halos and glare and I lost the road completely, when I look the cars lights. The distance sight is not so good as I had with glasses and even with reading glasses I cannot see the smallest print, what was easy before the operation without glasses. Three months has passed since my operation and I have feeling that it has gone even worse. I was in one seminar sitting rather front, but I could not see small letters in the slides presented there. I believe, when I have next check, I will have glass description.

    Today, I read in another advertisement about the reason of halos. They explained that the operation area is too small and they are able to do wide enough. I sent an email to them, asking if they can do some enhancement for me and they replied asking more detailed information. This place is very far from my home town, however, if it improves my sight, I will consider this option.

    When I will go to my original surgeon for checking, I surely will tell him that this was worst decision in my life. I found, nowadays contact lenses are much easier as they used to be and opticians give even free trials, if you like. In my case, playing badminton, I could wear contacts and see better than I can do now. As I have received high education, I should understand that before this kind of irreversible operation, enough references should be collected . I failed to do so, even though I have had enough time. Although I gave many reason, like playing badminton, frosting glasses, loosing them in the morning and so on, maybe it was only pure egotism to have this operation. many kind of alternative medical treatments are banned, but usually in those cases one looses only money without result. In this case I lost money with bad result. However, should I be able to reverse this operation, I was more than happy to pay again same amount.

  15. Frances says:

    I decided on Lasik because my vision was -11.50 in one eye and -9.5 in the other. I am one who totally understand why people choose to have Lasik. I have to admit, I was very happy to see the world w/o glasses. At present, I am not sure if the pros outweight the cons. I did not need reading glasses before Lasik. I was also able to drive at night. I can live with having to read fine print w/ reading glasses, although the optomologist told me I would not need them. I just cannot live with not being able to drive at night since I live in an area where driving is a must. It is not the halo that freak with me out. I cannot see as well at night. I can see, but the lighting is very dim. It is like driving with sunglasses at night. I am hoping this is temporary since it is one of the condition I read from the Optomologist's handout. I would rather have my bad vision than not being to do things at night.

  16. Raymond says:

    Frances,

    I know about the night time halo side effect that many experience with Lasik...but was not aware of the possible dim-ness factor. This seems like a pretty major side effect and one that may cause many potential patients to reconsider.

    How long ago did you undergo the laser vision surgery procedure and how long have you had to recover? Also, what is your current age? I ask because age is a major determinative factor in how quickly and completely our bodies can recover from certain invasive procedures. Did you have any other pre-existing conditions that may have been exacerbated by Lasik?

  17. Lux says:

    I have 3 moth's checking and as anticipated I got glasses. But even with them, the result is worse that it was before operation with my very old glasses.
    However, I have been in touch with other companies and they try to convince that halo & dimness phenomenons will decrease when time passes.

    Heard from many sources that even though PRK is more painful it would be better choice, because it touch only the epithel, which is regrowing.

    Anyway, I have to live with this bad decision and maybe after couple years, I cannot noticed the problems anymore.

  18. Lux says:

    Hi Jim,

    is Visian ICL some extra lens in the eye?
    Does anyone has experience of multifocal IOLs? I am not sure, if the operation is only done in case of cataract, but sounds perfect as the artificial IOL could accommodate as original lens and nor reading glasses are needed.

  19. Jim says:

    Lex,

    First of all, I'm sorry about the problems you have had. It is very tough when there is a procedure that could fix your problems and then you end up with other problems because of the procedure. Keep up your hopes and maybe the halos and stuff will be reduced - I hope they will in my case as well.

    The Visian ICL is a seperate lens. It is placed in front of the natual human lens. This is different from Cataract surgery where in my understanding, they basically destroy the person's natural lens and then implant a new lens.

    In the Visian ICL surgery, the ICL is placed in front of the natural lens and the natural lens is left untouched, so it is basically like having a contact lens literally put inside your eye.

    From what I have seen, it seems like the multi-focal lenses, etc. that you refer to are only used for cataracts. My guess is that doctors won't risk destroying the natural lens without cataracts forming (with cataracts they can do it, because the person will eventually have very bad or no vision anyways at that point).

    I wanted to give a bit more background and mention a few more things in my case - first of all, I have been wearing glasses for 30 years, which is quite a bit since I am 36 years old. My first glasses were in 1st grade and my vision got progressively worse until around adult hood. When I moved to California in about 1995, I wanted to make sure to pass the DMV vision test, so I got an exam and a pair of glasses. I don't remember what the prescption was at the time, but I continued to wear that same pair for the next 14 years, until the ear piece broke in Mar 2009. That's when I started to look into LASIK as the Optomotrist kept saying that my eyes were healthy, and I asked her if she thought I would be a good candidate for LASIK and she said that I could be. I didn't really consider her an expert though as she isn't a LASIK doctor, so I went to a LASIK doctor who then told me I was not a candidate for LASIK but gave me the Visian ICL option.

    I should also mention the financial aspect of it - unfortunately this really isn't a money saver in any way for me - like I said I wore the same pair of glasses for 14 years, so those didn't really cost me much. Also, the ICL can be quite a bit more then LASIK. I paid $8400 to the Drs. office for the ICLs, plus $2500 to the surgery center. Then, the LASIK that I will have later will cost an extra $2600, so basically about $13,500 total.

    It certainly is a new thing for me in any event - before this I wore glasses 100% of the time other then laying down or in the shower or whatever. The day after the surgery my mom drove us to McDonalds and I didn't have any glasses with me and I think it was the first time in 30 years I had literally been anywhere without having a pair of glasses with me at all!

    Thanks,

    Jim J.

  20. Lux says:

    Jim,

    thank you for the explanation.
    I believe too that natural lens will be replaces only in the case of cataract. However, being 59 already, I may face cataract problem sooner or later. If this will be the case, I will consider adaptable lens, if available.
    In our country doctors seem to reply also after operation. My doctor told me last Friday that it may take up to one year to get rid of halos. Should I know the halo problem beforehand, I think I never underwent the operation.
    But let's hope better vision for both of us in near future.

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