Cornea Carving…aka LASIK

Sorry for the radio silence, but I swear I really have been writing. However, I thought y’all might be interested in my recent foray into LASIK.

For nearly twenty years I’ve needed corrective lenses of some sort. I started with glasses in grade school, and graduated to contacts in junior high (my school district’s equivalent of middle school). I wore contacts for 14-16 hours a day, every day, for about thirteen years. My eye doctor wasn’t that pleased, and in law school I started having “floaters” appear in both eyes and signs of “laddering.” I received a stern lecture about the necessity of wearing my contacts less. Something about corneal detachment may have been mentioned but it’s been a while and I can’t really remember. “Wear contacts less or else,” was the gist of it. I tried to wear my glasses more, but back then, “more” meant taking my contacts out in the evenings. Maybe.

At the end of 2012, a car accident and the resulting recovery period forced a return to glasses. I can count the number of times I’ve worn contacts since then on one hand. It helps that I finally got frames that I liked (funky little shop in Wallingford called 4 Your Eyes Only). And, things were great. I’d thought about LASIK before, but my vision hadn’t been consistent for a year (one of the requirements), and the thought of having my eyes held open for ten minutes was freaky. But, as I met more people who’d had it done, I started thinking about it more. So, here I am.

October 1– Went in for LASIK at 9:05am and was out the door at 10:15. The actual laser surgery part is quick—maybe 10 minutes in the chair. It’s all the pre-op stuff that causes the appointment to take an hour or two. I was told to expect to be there for 2-3 hours, but I was the second person in the chair so I got done early.

This is kind of the best “surgery” I’ve had thus far because you get to eat breakfast in the morning. And, the surgeries seemed to run on time. Win-win. That may seem like nothing, but for anyone that’s had an 8am surgery scheduled and still been waiting come the afternoon and no food or liquids since midnight…yea.

There’s paperwork to start, mainly confirming what procedure you’re there for and the follow-up schedule. The first med I received was an anti-anxiety liquid that looked like dark cherry cough syrup and tasted about as bad. Then there was the first of many rounds of eye drops, and an alcohol swab over the eyes (disinfectant?). As I said earlier, I was most nervous about having my eyes held open for several minutes. What do they do about your eyes tearing? Doesn’t it burn? Nope. Eye drops to slow eye movement, capillary action (I think?), numbing, etc. No burning or tearing.

For me, the most uncomfortable part of the whole process was having the eyelid spacer thing put in. I have small eye openings, so there was a chance that I’d either have to have a blade-made flap (microkeratome) instead of a laser-made flap on my cornea. Whether using the blade or laser for flap creation, the machine needs to get good suction on your eye, and the laser one is slightly larger (it’s not as bad as it sounds). Fortunately, they were able to get the laser one to work. The eyelid spacer in my right eye was the only part that “hurt” in the entire process, and I hesitate to say “hurt” because it’s really more a discomfort. Accidentally poking yourself in the eye hurts; this doesn’t.

I was getting eye drops all the time (it felt like), and during the flap creation part it looks really weird. You can’t feel it aside from a sort of removed pressure, but you can “see” it happening. There’s no change in vision (that I noticed. I went in with -5 eyes though), but you can see/feel them peeling the flap back. It sounds gross, but I thought it was cool.

Once the flap was made in both eyes they do the actual laser correcting. I basically just sat there looking at a red dot. I didn’t feel the laser, but I could hear and smell it. It sounds like a machine rumbling near you, not overly loud, and smells like burning. It reminded me of what it smells like when you get a cavity drilled. They put a clear contact in to protect the flap at the end.

That was it. My vision fluctuated noticeably the first day, and it’s expected to for the first few weeks with gradual changes for a few months. My vision was markedly improved as soon as I sat up in the chair, but it’s not at the same level of clarity as with my glasses yet. My vision was blurry immediately upon getting up (they said it’d be like opening your eyes underwater, but honestly it’s been so long since I could do that I can’t say if that’s an accurate analogy), but it improved throughout the day. 5 hours after surgery most of the blurriness was gone. My nearish vision is good—I can see the TV from the couch!—but not yet to the glasses level.

For the first four hours after surgery I was instructed to put in artificial tears every half hour, then every hour until bed. Starting two hours after surgery, I’ve been putting in an antibiotic and a steroid eye drop. The antibiotic continues 4x a day for a week, the steroid continues until the bottle is empty. Artificial tears are as needed/frequently for the first month, & likely on a regular basis thereafter. I want to say they said my eyes would return to the same dryness level they were at before surgery, but I can’t remember. I was given a pain relief eye drop but didn’t feel the need for it.

My energy level was good after surgery and I didn’t find that LASIK impeded my normal activity. I didn’t spend much time in front of a computer during the first four hours after surgery, but I was at it in the evening without a problem. However, I’ve been wearing Gunnar glasses and will continue to do so for a while to reduce eye fatigue.

October 2– So, the plastic eye shield you have to sleep with the first night is the most irritating thing in the entire process. I found it annoying to try and sleep with it. My eyes were kind of blurry when I woke up, but after I put some artificial tears in they cleared up and are blur-free. Still not at glasses-level clarity/accuracy, but getting there. No pain. Have my one-day follow-up in a few hours.

Follow-up recap– Everything looks good according to my follow-up appointment. Healing well, and it looks like I’ll have 20/20 (or close, I was able to get half the letters on the 20/15 setting) vision once my eyes stop fluctuating. At this point it seems like what I’m lacking is crispness of images. During the vision test, I could see the letters but they appear blurry on the edges. This should resolve in a few weeks as the flap finishes healing. They took the temporary contact out & said everything looks good.

So, yay. If you’re able to get LASIK, I’d recommend it. It’s really not scary or painful and the results are fantastic. My surgery was performed at PCLI in Bellevue, but there are a number of LASIK surgeons in WA (and beyond, obviously). Blahblah disclosure, PCLI didn’t ask me to do this review, but if you’re considering LASIK I’m happy to chat more in depth.

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