Thursday, January 8, 2009

In praise of Lasik

As promised, here’s some more information if you’re thinking about Lasik. If you are squeamish, you have been warned—there might be some ick factor here for you, though I’m not going to be too graphic.

Lasik is not for everyone and I am not a doctor, I am certainly not YOUR doctor, so take everything here with a grain of salt. In my case, I was a candidate for both Lasik (which creates a corneal flap, has a much faster healing time, and is a little more expensive) and PRK (which doesn’t create a flap, has an exponentially longer recovery period, and is slightly cheaper). I went with Lasik because I wanted to get this over with and move on with my life.

I saw the doctor during Thanksgiving break, went through all the tests and scheduled my surgery at that time. I took the first date available in 2009 so I could use this year’s health care flex spending, which overall will probably save me about 30% since the money comes from my gross income. On Monday, my long-suffering sister came along to help me get home (four years ago, she took care of me after my wisdom teeth were removed right before Christmas—I owe her a lot!).

So we got to the doctor’s office (they provided a driver for the entire trip) and I took the valium they’d prescribed me. Surprisingly, it worked really well and I was not at all nervous for the procedure. They did a few more tests, asked me when the last time I wore my contacts was, and took me in. I lay down on the table and they gave me a stuffed animal to hold. I’ll be brief here, because I don’t really know what happened—they used two machines and it took five minutes. At times my vision was dark, at times it was blurry. It did not hurt. Really. At all. It was definitely uncomfortable, in the way that going to the gynecologist is uncomfortable but not actually painful (until you get to the Pap part anyway). When it was done, my eyes were watering uncontrollably but I was fine. They smacked a Staples “That was easy” button as we walked out.

Then they gave me a pair of sunglasses and sent me home. I spent two hours sitting in the dark with my eyes continuing to water, and then I realized I could see the clock face across the room, which I haven’t been able to do since second grade. I started crying for real at that point. By evening, I was able to go out to eat (wearing my sunglasses in the restaurant since I was very light sensitive) and otherwise was back to normal.

The whites of my eyes are still very unhappy—I guess technically they’re bruised, and they’ll be like that for about two weeks. I’m using several different kinds of eye drops, none of which burn or sting, and I have to sleep with plastic things taped on my face to protect my eyes. I frequently have the urge to touch them in my sleep, apparently, because I keep waking up when my fingers poke the plastic. The medical tape used to keep those in place is leaving a residue on my skin that I can’t seem to get off—and I can’t submerge my eyes in water or let water run over them for another week. I’m scrubbing at it with a washcloth, so my skin is kind of raw (where it’s not sticky) and I can’t use any makeup or lotion until Monday. I also can’t work out or dance at all until next week (I think to keep sweat from dripping into my eyes, and also to prevent me from touching them without thinking). I still see some glare around lights at night, but it’s no worse than wearing my contacts used to be.

In all, it was a little uncomfortable and it’s now a little inconvenient, but overall, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Total cost came to $3,960 plus maybe another $40 for prescriptions. All my visits and any touchups for one year are included in that cost, but it looks like I will not need any touchups since my vision is 20/15—better than the 20/20 they promised.

I wore glasses from around age seven, got contacts at 14, became unable to wear contacts for more than about four hours at a time around age 25 (due to astigmatism and my eyes not liking the toric lenses), and have fumbled with glasses again for the last two and a half years. I have spent thousands of dollars on disposable contacts and at least three pairs of glasses which I purchased myself. I spent summers with the oh-so-sexy look of sunglasses over regular glasses (as if that was better than the clip on sunglasses!). Now, it’s like a whole new world. I can’t wait to get some cute sunglasses for summer, to go to dance jobs not worrying about falling off the stage (I didn’t perform with glasses, but couldn’t always wear contacts either).

If you’re thinking about Lasik, I would recommend looking into it—all consultations are free (if not, run away from that doctor!) so you’d have nothing to lose. If you have specific questions, feel free to comment and I’ll try to answer them!


  1. How bad were your eyes before (as in, what was the power? mine are -5.75)? Also, is there a possibility that the surgery may begin to undue itself at some point? (not including normal vision worsening due to age)

    Would you say total recovery time would be 2-3 weeks? How long did you have to take off from work?

    Thanks! :)

  2. I don't know what the power was, but my vision was 20/100. Some expired contacts I recently found were about -2.75, but those were three or four years old from when I could still wear them so I imagine my vision was a little worse when I actually had the surgery.

    While I will probably need reading glasses or even regular glasses when I reach middle age, my doctor said I didn't need to worry about "losing" the correction I gained from Lasik. The laser actually reshaped my eye; it's not like it can grow back.

    Recovery time was about twelve hours. :) I took two days off work, but that's because my sister was here visiting. I could totally have gone back to work the next day. In terms of total recovery time, it will be about one week before I can get back to normal activities (redness gone from eyes, no more eye drops, no sleeping with protective plastic lenses on my face, able to work out, etc), and another month before I'm allowed to go swimming (I'm guessing that's because of bacteria in pools? I don't know).

    I will have follow up appointments through the next year, but I think it's like next week, then next month, then three months, then six months. I might need artificial tears for a long time, or I might not--I tear up pretty easily so I probably won't. I consider myself fully back to normal as of now.


Thanks for commenting!