I was lucky enough not to have to go through elementary school with glasses. My eyesight was perfect until about eight years ago, when my newly-acquired desk job had me staring at computer screens and excel spreadsheets for 8+ hours a day. Since then, I’ve been relying on contacts and glasses in order to drive, see the tv, and… just about everything else.
While some people said I look kinda cute in my frames, I never liked wearing them. I didn’t feel like myself in them, like I was portraying a different person; someone much nerdier and studious than the real Leah. Contacts weren’t much better. Although contacts agreed more with my vanity, they could get very irritating. At first I could wear them every day without an issue, but as time went on, they got more and more irritating and the time I could force myself to wear them got shorter and shorter. Something had to change.
A couple weeks ago, when I opened my last pair of contacts, I had a decision to make; make an appointment at the eye doctor for a refill of my contact, or make an appointment at a LASIK doctor and just be done with the vicious glasses/contacts cycle. I chose option “B”. This is my experience with LASIK, honest and unfiltered. It may be a little graphic. So if you’re squeamish, I don’t know what to tell you.
I picked LASIKplus for two reasons: 1) A coworker recommended them, and 2) I wanted to go with a reputable brand. I went on the LasikPlus website and scheduled my appointment. They had me fill out a pretty lengthy online form that had just about every conceivable question about my medical history and my eyesight.
The day of my consultation, I went into the LasikPlus in Alexandria, VA, checked in, and took a seat in the waiting room. To my surprise, the only thing between the waiting room and the laser room is a large glass wall. This allows people to watch someone else go through the procedure before they go through it themselves. Unfortunately, there was no one getting the procedure done when I was there, so I would have to find out what LASIK is about firsthand.
They called me into the exam room for my eye exam, and when I say eye exam, that is an understatement. The whole exam took about an hour and consisted of just about every conceivable thing you could ever imagine anyone ever doing to your eyes. They did the basic eye exam, where they ask you read certain lines of text. They looked at my eyes using various machines. Then it got more intense. They put some strips of paper on the wetline of my eyelid to test my tear production, then the nurse put some numbing drops in my eyes and started prodding them with something that looked like a pen. Lastly, he dilated my eyes. This was actually the first time I had ever had my eyes dilated. They put some drops in my eyes and then sat me out in the hallway to watch a video about the Lasik procedure. My close-up eyesight went blurry, so I could hardly see the video. Then, after the video was finished, he took me back into one of their many exam rooms and shined bright lights in my freshly dilated eyes. That was by far the worst part of the exam.
After the exam, I went out to the front desk to schedule my procedure. It’s at that time the pretty and friendly receptionist gave me my quote. Yeah… um… it’s NOT cheap! Since it’s in bad taste to say how much you paid for something, I’ll just say it rhymes with “smirtysixhundred smollars.” Very pricey procedure, but the one good thing is that they have several financing options. They had a one-year 0% financing option, and several longer-term financing options that charged various interest rates. Of course prices will vary depending on what exactly is wrong with your eyes.
Sidenote: There are two different kinds of common laser correction surgery; LASIK and PRK. In LASIK they create a thin hinged flap on the cornea to access the treatment area, they shape your eye with the laser and then put the flap back so it can heal. In PRK, they remove a thin layer of the cornea completely to access the treatment area. Afterward, they put a soft contact lens “bandage” on your eye, then you have to go back in a week later to get the “bandage” removed (Here’s a good link that has more info about the difference between the two procedures). They’re similar, but PRK takes longer to heal than LASIK because your eyes need to create a new corneal layer. Depending on what’s wrong with your eyes, the doctors will decide which procedure will give you the best results. The procedure is got is LASIK.
So, my procedure was at 12:30 on a weekday. To say I was a nervous wreck would be an understatement. Despite having grilled my coworkers and friends about every detail about what to expect, I was still terrified. No matter how many people told me it doesn’t hurt, or said it was the best decision they’ve ever made, it didn’t help calm my fear very much. I mean, it’s LASERS… reshaping your EYES! The thought was absolutely terrifying to me.
Since they tell you you will need a driver the day of the procedure, my husband drove me to and from my appointment. We checked in, and sat in the waiting room. The nurse called my name. My anxiety was through the roof. He brought me into one of the exam rooms, took one last look at my eyes, gave me some aftercare instructions, and brought me into the doctor’s office. He applied some numbing drops to my eyes, and talked to me for a little bit until the doctor arrived. The doctor came in and gave his regular spiel about the procedure and the risks. He reassured me that based on the condition of my eyes, he didn’t think the procedure would be especially difficult or complicated. That reassured me.
Next he led me into the laser room. I suddenly went from nervous wreck to absolutely petrified! Yes, I was a ol’ chicken. The laser room was dark and full of large expensive-looking machines. The nurse told me to lay down on this table-type thing. First they had to put a suction ring on my eyeball. This was supposed to prevent me from blinking and hold my eye straight while the laser creates the corneal flap. My eye was very numb from all the numbing drops they put in there, but applying the suction ring was my least favorite part of the procedure. They had to push on my eyeball quite a bit to get the suction ring in place. It wasn’t painful, just uncomfortable. It felt like, if you close your eye and push on your eyelid really hard (not that I recommend doing that). It was a lot of pressure. It took about 10-15 seconds per eye to get the suction ring in place. A lot of people get broken blood vessels from the suction ring. These look pretty scary, but they don’t hurt. I only had a couple, and my eyelid covered most of them. The broken blood vessels are essentially bruises on your eye and should go away in a couple weeks.
After my eyeball had the suction ring on it, they moved this machine over my head and told me to stare at this light. I stared at the light, then the doctor told me “Now, your vision is going to go black for a moment. That’s totally normal.” Say WHAAAA?! Just as he said that, my eyesight faded to black. Good thing he warned me first. Then after about 5 seconds he said “Now you should see your eyesight start to come back,” which it thankfully did. They took the suction ring off the first eye and moved on to my other eye. It was frightening, but none of this actually hurt because of all the numbing drops they put in my eyes.
Now that my corneal flap was created, the nurse led me over to a second table/bed-type thing under a second machine. My vision was SUPER blurry so I grabbed his arm for a guide. The doctor put some more drops in my eyes and then put this eyelid opener thing on my eyelids to hold them open. It didn’t hurt at all because my eyes were still numb. Then he moved the machine over my head and had me stare at this series of lights, which I assume were the lasers. That’s when I started to smell something. The smell reminded me of that smell when you get your tooth drilled at the dentist. I have to say it was a little unnerving. However, just like everything else, it didn’t hurt at all. I’m not even sure if I felt it. Then the doctor put a ton of eyedrops in my eye and then used some sort of tool to move the corneal flap back in place. Then he did the exact same procedure to my second eye.
That’s it! My LASIK procedure was over. He took the eyelid holder off and told me to sit in this exam chair that was located in the laser room. Walking over to the exam chair, I noticed my eyesight was instantly better. The doctor looked at my eyes and told me everything was a-okay!! I was all set to go!
It was so quick! The whole time in the laser room probably took about 10 minutes. Most of that time was prep. The actual lasers only took about 5 or 10 seconds per eye. Nothing hurt, although the application of the suction ring was very uncomfortable.
They gave me a LASIK care package that included some eye drops, some sleeping pills, some dark sunglasses, and a pair of goggles for sleeping in. They told me to take the sleeping pills immediately, then go to sleep for 4-6 hours as soon as I get home. This would allow my eyes time to heal and help me get through the uncomfortable phase after the numbing drops wear off.
I took the Tylenol PM and went home. On the ride home, the numbing drops wore off and it felt like someone threw a handful of sand in my eyes. All I wanted to do is flush them out with drops, but the nurse told me not to use any drops until I wake up from my nap, so I just tried my best to sleep through it. Mid-way through my nap, my eyes started watering like crazy. It was tough to stay asleep under those conditions, but the Tylenol PM helped a lot. I woke up about 4 or 5 hours later and my eyes felt tremendously better. However, they were extremely sensitive to light and still a little gritty. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open while looking at my phone because the screen was so bright. So I just went downstairs, turned out all the lights, put on my shades and just watched TV and chilled for the rest of the night.
Surprisingly, after that nap, my eyes felt wayyyyy better. The next day my eyes just felt a little dry, but that’s it. I took the day off work just in case, but I really could have gone in if I really wanted to. The light sensitivity was tremendously reduced on day two. I still noticed a halo around certain lights, but the doctor told me that would go away after a few days or weeks.
The aftercare instructions were essentially no eye makeup for a week (heartbreak), no exercise for a week (heartbreak x2), and I had to use an antibiotic drop, a steroid drop, and a lubricating drop several times a day for the next week or so.
The next morning, I had to drive in for my follow-up appointment. Surprisingly my eyes felt much better. I was able to drive to the appointment no problem, however I did wear my sunglasses just to be on the safe side. At the follow-up exam, the nurse gave me a standard eye exam (you know, where you have to read various lines of text). Then a different doctor came in, looked at my eyes, and then told me the good news! My vision is now 20/15, which I later found out is BETTER Than 20/20!
It’s now been about two weeks, and the halos have almost disappeared. My eyes feel pretty close to normal, however they’re still very dry and I need to use eye drops a few times a day. The nurse told me that tear production will go back to normal eventually, but even if it doesn’t I’m still glad I got it done. The suction ring left a few bruises on my eyeball, but it wasn’t that bad and they were pretty much gone within a week.
Overall, I’m glad I got it done. It was frightening, but then again, I’m a big wussy. Other people may be a little braver than I am. It’s so refreshing not to have to worry about glasses or contacts. I love being able to watch TV in bed, or to be able to see my eye makeup while I’m putting it on, or even be able to exercise without my glasses sliding down my face. I love it! I’m sure I’ll go through sticker shock when I get my first bill, but my improved vision will be around far longer than my “eye bill” will be. It’s scary as hell, but I would definitely recommend it to others! :)
Hope this helped some of you who may be considering LASIK. It sounds scary (and it was), but in my opinion, it was SO worth it. If you have questions about my LASIK experience, please feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you’ve had LASIK or PRK, please leave your experience in the comments. What did you think about the procedure?
*UPDATE* Eight Months Later:
So it’s been 8 months since my procedure, and my vision is still great! The halos around lights never really disappeared completely. I usually only notice it when I’m driving at night and I look at a street light or traffic light. It’s very mild, tho, and I usually don’t even notice it. Also, for a couple months after my procedure, my eyes were very dry. I would have to use eye drops most mornings, but just as the doctors told me it would be, my tear production is back to normal now (as far as I can tell). Now I use eye drops very rarely, maybe once a month at most.
I haven’t been back to the eye doctor since my initial follow-up appointment. However as far as I can tell, my eyesight is still perfect.
I’m extremely happy I got the procedure done. It was super scary (I mean, they’re messing with your tender, fragile, little eyeballs!), but the results are amazing. I almost forgot what it’s like to have to wear glasses and contacts. All those contact-caused eye infections and my half-blind searches for my glasses are like a distant memory now. I would still highly recommend the procedure. It was worth every penny!