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.

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