Lasik Lowdown

Jul 1, 2010 by

Most of you know that I had LASIK surgery on Tuesday.  I’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether the procedure hurt, how it works, how much it costs, etc.  So I’m going to answer all the questions right now.  Before I start, I should say that I don’t think any of this is gory or overly graphic, but if you have a really weak stomach, you might want to pass on this blog. 

The first step is to meet with a doctor and discuss whether you’re a good candidate for the surgery.  This is based on your age, how long you’ve been in glasses/contacts, what your prescription is and how long that prescription has remained constant.  For example, I’m 27, I’ve had glasses since I was 10, contacts since 13, my prescription was -3.5 in my left eye and -4 in my right eye.  I’ve had that prescription for at least 3 years.  All those things combined made me a good candidate for LASIK.

If you decide to go ahead with LASIK, and you are a full time contacts wearer, you have to be out of your contacts for at least 2 weeks before the surgery.  The reason for this is that contacts act sort of like a girdle for your eyes, holding everything in place…then when you’re out of contacts for awhile, things sorta fall back to where they would normally be…and this can change your prescription and, therefore, how much needs to be surgically corrected with LASIK

Two to five days before your surgery, you have to get your eyes dilated.  That just involves some drops and an eye exam.  The reason for this is they need to measure the size of your pupils.  One of the reasons a lot of people don’t like LASIK, especially younger people, is because they tend to have halos at night, especially while driving.  This is usually because when you’re younger,  your pupils are naturally larger, and regular LASIK’s first step is to use a blade to cut a flap in your cornea…this doesn’t leave a visible scar, but there is a scar.  When your pupil dilates past the point of that scar, that’s when you have the halos.  I didn’t want to deal with that, especially since I have “above average large pupils.”  So I went to a doctor (Scott Pinter at Eye Surgical Associates in Bloomington) who exclusively uses a procedure called Intralase.  It uses a laser the entire time, and this is supposed to eliminate the halos. 

The day of your surgery, you take 2 Advil an hour before your surgery, then you come into a regular room, they give you some numbing eye drops, and you hang out for a little while until they kick in.  Some doctors give you a sedative as well, but Eye Surgical Associates doesn’t, because the surgery is so fast that by the time the drugs kick in, the surgery is over.  Then you walk into the surgery room, which is pretty plain, a bunch of machines, a bunch of nurses, and a bed, very similar to a dentist’s chair but flat.

Once they have you situated on the bed, they put a little ring around your eyeball to cut off the blood vessels temporarily.  You stare straight ahead at a little red light, and before you know it, the laser is cutting the corneal flap.  It doesn’t hurt at all, but this is probably the “worst” part of the entire surgery.  It feels like a little pressure, that’s all.  Then they do the same thing to your other eye.  After both eyes have flaps cut, they take the little ring off, and put this device onvto hold your eyelids open, which I thought (before the surgery) would be the worst part but, in reality, I barely noticed it.  Then they have to flip back the flap with this little tool.  It doesn’t hurt, even though it sounds like it would.  There are nurses there the entire time, one holding your hand, and at least one or two telling you what they’re doing at every step, throughout the procedure.  It’s nice to know what’s coming up, even though there’s nothing you can do about it.  Flipping back the flap is probably the second “worst” part, because while they’re doing it, you have to hold your eye still, looking at the red light again, but once they start moving that flap, it looks like that red light is moving all over the place, so it’s a very similar feeling to being drunk and having the spins.  I thought that I might throw up because I was so dizzy.  For some reason, it was only like that on my right eye though, the left eye was totally fine.  Once the flaps are flipped back, they can begin the laser surgery.  You don’t feel a thing while that laser is going, you just stare at the dang red light again until it’s over.  They even count backwards for you so you know how many more seconds the laser has left.  The only thing I noticed about this part of the procedure is a slight burning hair smell…and when I say slight, I mean the laser was almost done before I noticed anything, and I laid there thinking…”hmm, I think I smell something, what’s that?  Oh…that’s probably my EYE THEY’RE BURNING OFF! Oh boy.” 

Once both eyes are done, they put the flaps back down, put some lubricant drops on them and then let them dry for a minute.  After that, they help you sit up and you’re done.  Literally, the whole procedure took maybe 10-12 minutes…and most of that was flipping the flaps back at the beginning and putting them back down at the end.  The actual laser was only on for 31 seconds on my left eye and 34 seconds on my right eye…so barely over ONE MINUTE.  I cannot express to you how bizarre it is to think that my whole life of glasses and contacts is gone, over, done, in ONE MINUTE.  One minute can change your life!

When you sit up, it’s a little foggy, sort of like you’ve been in a hot shower too long…but you can see!  I thought I was going to break into tears when I sat up and I could make out the nurse’s face!  Never in my life, even when I knew I was having LASIK, did I imagine I would ever be able to just sit up and see, without glasses or contacts! 

I walked on my own, all the way back to the examining room we started in, they took a quick look at the corneas, explained my new eye drop regimen (FOUR sets of drops, one once an hour to keep your eyes from being dry, one once and hour to help reduce swelling, one 4 times a day as an antibiotic to prevent infection, and one more one-time-only that day, that’s basically a super lubricant), gave me some goggles that I had to wear 24/7 until I saw them for my next-day check up, and I went home.

You go home, sleep for about 3 hours, hang out, watch TV, check your email, whatever you want.  You can do anything!  It’s amazing!!!!!

The next morning, I had my post-op checkup, which was really quick and easy.  The doctor said I was doing “fantastic” for less than 24 hours after surgery, and after testing my vision with the normal eye chart, he pronounced that I can now see 20/15.  Before surgery I was seeing 20/420.  Quite an improvement, I’d say!  🙂 

I do still have a little bit of a glow around brightly lit objects, but there’s less and less every day, and they tell me it will eventually go away, as my cornea stops swelling. 

I recommend this surgery to anyone and everyone who can get it.  Do it now.  You won’t regret it!

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