Archive | January, 2011

My LASIK Experience: Part 2

28 Jan

For the first 24 hours after LASIK, I was advised to sleep as much of it away as possible as you’re supposed to keep your eyes closed. For the most part, that is what I did.

The worst short-lived aspect of the surgery was maybe the hour before I fell asleep. The ride home was probably a little over 30 minutes. During that time, the anesthetic eyedrops slowly wear off. The sensation wasn’t unbearable, but it was REALLY uncomfortable. My eyes are watering up right now thinking about it. It was similar to the feeling when you’re cutting potent onions, but much more intense. Once the feeling started, I probably couldn’t have opened my eyes if I wanted to.

As you can imagine, this made it somewhat difficult to get to sleep. But eventually I did and the worst was behind me.

The day after the surgery, Jeremy drove me back to the doctor for my follow up appointment. This is also the appointment when I am cleared to drive on my own. Things were still a bit foggy – much like having a bit of gunk in your eyes – but I could see more sharply than I had in ages. I tested 20/15 that first day.

The worst long-term aspect of the recovery was the night shield. I hate having to sleep with crap attached to my face. I once had to use a CPAP machine and it was not a good experience. I had to wear the glasses for a week to prevent my from subconsciously rubbing my eyes in my sleep or having them rubbed by my pillow. Obviously, eye-rubbing is bad in the first week as the flap needs to completely heal.

The glasses weren’t too elaborate. Basically a very smoothly molded sheet of plastic with foam edging to keep it from being too uncomfortable. In all honesty, it wasn’t that bad except that I just really hate sleeping with something attached to my face. I sleep on my side and it’s hard to position it so that my pillow puts just the right direction of pressure so as not to move it, but also not to completely embed the thing into my skin.

The post-op eye drop schedule lasted a little over a week and was very simple. I’m at a point where I can use moisturizing drops if my eyes feel dry, but I’m not on a schedule any longer. None of the drops stung or felt uncomfortable. One kind tasted a little bad if it dripped to the back of your throat but that is all.

At my week follow-up, I tested 20/20, but I wasn’t tested any farther. At the one month mark, I tested 20/15 again. I had halos around lights at night at first, but those are completely gone now.

It is truly incredible to think about. This surgery and its success is truly a modern marvel and I cannot begin to express how much respect I have for the people who made it possible. It is amazing to be in this process of unlearning the habits of wearing glasses and contacts. It’s something that is very difficult for me to put into words, but it’s just nice to have one less thing to think or worry about in my daily routine, as well as not having to worry about reordering contacts, updating glasses, what to bring when traveling, etc.

All in all, it was a risk that really paid off and I am so happy to have had LASIK surgery. Yay, good vision!

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My LASIK Experience: Part 1

27 Jan

I have been considering LASIK for years.

I have worn glasses or contacts for a long time – since before I was 10. While not a horrible inconvenience, they’re not negligible accessories. It is a pain in the butt to put on glasses in the middle of the night or early morning in order to see the alarm clock, walk down the hall to the bathroom, or look out the window to check the weather before getting out of bed on a predicted snow day. Contacts can be equally annoying – can’t leave them in too long, so if I stayed up late, my eyes would get really dry; cleaning, prep, ordering, expense.

I was always worried that I’d be one of those people who had the bad LASIK experience – halos at night, light sensitivity, overly dry eyes. But I have heard more and more success stories over the years that tempted me. So, I finally went to a local practice and checked to see if I was a candidate.

During the initial visit, I made a point to ask what my vision was. I knew my glasses were thick and I knew my contact prescription levels, but I didn’t know what my vision ratio was (20/400? Dunno!). I wanted to be one of those people who could throw out the classic success numbers: “I was 20/400 and the next day I was seeing 20/15!”

Well, I don’t have a number. While it makes the success story longer to tell, it does make it more dramatic. I was told that I don’t have a number because the big “E” is unreadable to me without my glasses or contacts. I was, what they called, at the “counting fingers” level. When they had me look into their little eye mapping machine, the tech looked at the results and said, “Wow! Your vision is really bad – you’re going to love LASIK!” Not the greatest bedside manner, but a good saleswoman.

The other main prerequisite was cornea thickness. Mine are apparently quite thick, so, not only was LASIK with any of the various procedural options a viable choice, but I was even set if I ever needed an “adjustment” after the initial surgery.

Once deciding to go through with the surgery, I had two options regarding the surgery: blade vs bladeless, conventional vs. custom.

Blade vs. Bladeless is exactly what it sounds like. During the surgery, a flap is cut in the cornea. Traditionally, this was done using a blade. (For those with strong constitutions, you can view the general LASIK procedure in this “How It’s Made” video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=HK&hl=zh-TW&v=0V4I2xzwGd4). More recently, there has been an option to use a laser to cut the flap. The major advantages of this are the flap can be cut thinner, using less of the cornea, and, should anything happen mid-cut, the process can be restarted where it left off. If the mechanism detects any movement, the blade or laser will automatically and quickly back out. With a blade, the patient needs to go home and heal before continuing as the process needs to restart. The laser can continue the process, and does not need the fresh restart. The downside is that the laser process can cause more inflammation during the healing process. I went with the laser.

Conventional vs. Custom is just the type of laser – how precise it is. Basically conventional LASIK has sensitivity on the same scale as glasses or contact prescriptions. Custom LASIK is mapped to you eye and can provide more precise results.

On the day of the surgery, Jeremy and I went to the clinic and shortly after arriving, I was talked through the procedure again and then given a couple of valium to ease any nervousness I might be having. I also got my post-op kit with things like eyedrops and an eye shield.

I had about 30 minutes of down time – letting the valium kick in mostly. Once in the surgical suite, I’d say the process took less than 10 minutes.

The surgery was done one eye at a time. Anesthetic drops where administered to both eyes. The assistants were very comforting, noting that I didn’t flinch at the drops (they say contact wearers tend to do better with those), and that I’d be great during the surgery. The eye that wasn’t being worked on was taped shut. The other eye was taped open – at least I think it was tape. It felt like tape – though many surgery descriptions mention clamps, but it didn’t feel like a clamp.

The flap. Probably the scariest aspect for most people. It was so incredibly easy. A suction ring is placed on your eye to hold it still. The benefit of this is your vision greys significantly or (in my and most cases) completely blacks out. You do not see anything while the flap is being cut. I felt pressure, like someone was running a toothpick or something similar over my eye, but certainly not cutting into it. It takes about 25 seconds to perform the incision.

Then, the ring was removed and I was swiveled under the LASIK laser. Because the work is being done right at your eye, you can’t really see what specifically is happening. My vision went from unfocused and off to VERY blurry as the flap was folded back to clear the cornea for the laser. I had a somewhat unfocused dot to look at, there was some clicking and (I was warned) a smell like burning hair as the little dot got clearer and clearer. This took about 30 seconds for my right eye and 40 seconds for my left. Then the doctor folds the flap back down, smooths it out, and put a few drops in.

Rinse, repeat for the 2nd eye.

After the procedure was done, I got up and the doctor looked at my eyes to make sure everything was ducky, and then I got to head home.

Post op continuation to be posted tomorrow.