Yesterday was one of those days (that I have about once a year) where I spent an entire afternoon researching laser eye surgery online. I usually start off excitedly thinking “I’m going to do it! I’m going to call up and make an appointment right now!” and then after a few hours of reading about what it actually involves, and then all the potential side effects, I get burned out and decide to leave it for the time being. After all, we only get one set of eyes in our lifetime.

But, this time, I think I really am going to do it. I’ve booked a consultation at least (for tomorrow no less).

Just to give you a background, I am very short-sighted. I think it’s from being a bookworm as a kid (I used to read titles such as “50,000 Facts about the World, with 10,000 Extra Facts about Space“, cover to cover, in a day). My prescription is -5.00 in one eye, and -4.75 in the other. I’ve been wearing contact lenses for 14 years. When I’m not wearing my lenses, I have to hold things up about 6 inches away from my face to see them in focus.

Wearing contact lenses has never been a big deal for me. I’ve always suffered from dry eyes, but I’ve tried out most lenses on the market in order to find the most comfortable ones for me (currently, Acuvue Oasys). I never wear glasses out in public. At my prescription, it doesn’t matter how expensive the lenses are, they’re still thick and heavy at the edges. And I have lop-sided ears, so my glasses end up all wonky on my face.

Why I’m considering laser eye surgery…

Waking up and not being able to see anything makes me feel so lethargic. It’s easier to stay in bed and keep my eyes closed than face the blurry day.

Travelling and having to constantly make sure I’ve got spare contact lenses, a lens case and enough lens solution gets boring after a while. Not to mention the fact that I have to wear my dreaded glasses out in public on the flight. As if I don’t feel awful enough with the dehydrated (but shiny at the same time) skin, and badgers’ breath.

My overuse of contact lenses has resulted in lots of little red veins on the whites of my eyes, where I am depriving my eyes of oxygen. I hear that these “veins” are actually new blood vessels that have been created to try to take in more oxygen. I’ve had these veins for several years now. I don’t know if they’re reversible. I really hope so.

I just want the freedom of being able to see clearly, all the time. It’s fine when I’m in familiar surroundings because I know exactly where everything is, so I can feel my way around when I don’t have my lenses in. But when I’m somewhere new, I bump into and trip up over everything. The other day, I couldn’t find my glasses after moving apartments, but I couldn’t see anything to find them. Argh!

Oh, I almost forgot to add about the annoyance of wearing contact lenses on holiday (aside from the travelling). I always avoid going into the pool or sea, fearing that I’ll get an infection in my eyes from bacteria getting under my lenses, or my lenses will fall out, or that the chlorinated/salt water will just dry my lenses to a crisp. Then during the day, when I need to shower and freshen up, I have to remove my lenses before removing make-up or washing my face, and it just makes me feel like a slave to my lenses. And if I dare to nap even for a few minutes, the lenses dry out and sucker themselves to my eyeballs… *sigh*

Why I’ve been put off having laser eye surgery in the past…

I’d heard that the surgery makes dry eyes even more dry where it cuts off the corneal nerves that tell the eye to blink.

I’ve never liked the sound of zapping away bits of my cornea, leaving it permanently thinner. As laser eye surgery hasn’t been around that long really, no-one really knows what the effects are after say, 30 years.

Vision can still deteriorate years after the surgery (or maybe not achieve 20:20 vision first time round), meaning that I’d either have to go back to using contacts/glasses anyway, or get more laser eye surgery and once again reshape the already thinned out cornea.

I’ve heard that the flap on the surface of the eye that is cut in the LASIK procedure never really fully heals ever. So if the wind blows a little too strongly, or if someone whacks you in the eye with their elbow, the flap can swing open again (gross).

Apparently it’s common that night vision is impaired long after the surgery, where glare and halos around light (e.g. car headlights) can become quite uncomfortable.

I’ve needed to wait until my sight prescription becomes stable (it’s been the same for a few years now, finally).

There’s more chance of not achieving 20:20 vision the higher the original sight prescription.

Watching videos or hearing stories about laser surgery makes me gag.

It’s hard knowing where to go to get the treatment done. The popular, mass-market laser surgery centres sound a bit cowboy-ish based on the reviews I’ve read. Who can I trust with my eyes instead?

Options available…

LASIK

This seems the most commonplace and cheapest procedure, having been around the longest (I think it’s up to £3,000 for both eyes depending where you go). A thin flap is cut into the eye’s surface using either a blade or a laser, and then lifted up. A laser then reshapes the cornea (basically by chipping off bits of it), then the flap is replaced and remains in position by natural adhesion until it heals. Recovery time is reputedly fast, and some patients manage to go back to work the next day. The actual surgircal procedure takes just minutes.

PRK

Rather than the surgeon cutting a thicker flap into the eye’s surface (as in LASIK), the surface cells of just the ultra-thin, “epithelium” layer are scraped off. The laser is then applied to reshape the cornea, before a no-prescription contact lens is placed over the eye to act as a bandage until the epithelium grows back (about 2-4 days supposedly). The recovery time is longer and more uncomfortable than with LASIK, with vision taking weeks or months to become clear, while the epithelium heals fully. But at least there’s no flap cut into the eye, and the corneal nerves are also left intact.

LASEK

LASEK is similar to the PRK procedure above, in that the thicker LASIK-style flap is not cut into the eye. But unlike PRK, instead of the epithelium layer being scraped off and removed completely, in LASEK the epithelium layer is simply loosened using a weak alcohol solution, which the surgeon can then peel back, before lasering. The epithelium is then moved back into place to act as a natural bandage (although a “contact lens” would still need to be worn for a few days until the new epithelium grows back). Again, the recovery time is longer and more painful than with LASIK. The advantage of PRK and LASEK over LASIK is that there is never a thicker flap cut, which means less flap-related complications (e.g. the flap lifting up, or wrinkling) and more cornea is preserved.

Epi-LASEK

From what I’ve seen, Epi-LASEK is similar to LASEK, except that the thin epithelium flap is lifted using a special blade/tool.

ICL (implantable contact lenses)

Also known as “intraocular contact lenses”, ICL is a much newer procedure. Plastic “contact lenses” are implanted in the eye in place or on top of the natural lens. The procedure is supposedly quick, less risky and reversible. I don’t know what makes me more uncomfortable – having plastic bits implanted into my eyes, or having a laser resurface my corneas. Anyway, ICLs are expensive – around £6,000 per eye, so that’s that ruled out.

My next steps…

Tomorrow I have my consultation at a place which specialises in the LASEK / Epi-LASEK procedures. From my laywoman’s point of view, it sounds like LASEK would alleviate some of the concerns I’ve always had with laser eye surgery. It sounds like it would put me out of action for maybe a week (eyes need to be closed as much as possible, no work and no looking at screens), but I prefer the idea of not having a thick flap cut into my eye, lessening the chance of even drier eyes, and leaving a thicker cornea (in case I ever need follow-up treatments).

Obviously, all this is from just what I’ve read on the Internet… so I might be completely wrong. Or, maybe I’ll speak to the doctor, hear some hard facts and decide once again not to have laser eye surgery because my eyes are too precious to mess around with (although apparently laser surgery is safer than wearing contact lenses every day).

I will come back and report after the consultation. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on laser eye surgery? Have you ever considered it or even had it done?

Disclaimer: I am in no way a “medical” person, so no quoting of anything I’ve written in this post please! Any information I’ve typed up is just a summary of about a hundred pages I’ve read and a few videos I’ve watched from the magical place they call The Internet.

18 comments on “Getting laser eye surgery…

  1. I have exactly the same fears as you! My prescription is only -3.5 but still trip all over the place in the night with no glasses. I hope it’s good news tomorrow x

  2. Well I’m interested to hear your results! I have the same issues as you and have always thought about lasik but my concerns steer me away. My step mom the lasik procedure I’m pretty sure and her eyes are now VERY sensitive to light and she said she regrets doing it…I had never heard about the prk/lasek though sounds like a good alternative!

  3. Your post mirrors me exactly – I have one eye much worse than the other because I lost my contact lens (when I was wearing gas permeable) and being a poor student could only wear one for 3yrs. Every year I say that this is the year and I get all fired up and then chicken out. Good luck with the consultation tomorrow. Jan x

  4. =S keep us updated!.
    i really want to get lasik but my perscription keeps getting worse :( im currently -3.75 and -4.00. and same as you, i never like going outside with my glasses. i find it a massive hassle -_-
    &good luck with your consultation tomorrow
    xx

  5. i’m very interested in getting lasik too! i’m waiting for school to end. my older sister got lasik about 2 years ago and highly recommends it. my other friends have had it to. i guess the other reason why i’m considering lasik is because it’s common medicine now not so new as oppose to the other procedures! please let me know how it is for you if you decide to get it!! =)))

  6. Contacts do get annoying. Someone I work with mentioned that she had laser eye surgery and she recommended it to me. Like you mentioned, the only problem she had was dry eyes. I’m thinking of getting it some day. As for the dry eye issue, I think I’ll just talk to my doctor to figure out ways to avoid or mitigate the problem.

    I hope your consultation goes well!

  7. I have the same prescription as you.. wow! I’ve wanted Laser eye surgery for a yr now, but my vision hasn’t been stable enough to consider. You gave me a lot more insight w/all the other options out there. I had no idea technology has advanced so much. I hope your consultation went well. Keep us updated!

  8. I symphatize with you completely as I have the exact same issues and fears. Please keep us updated on how your consultation went.
    I have always considered lasik a better option, but I’m not so sure anymore. I too am also in fear of the flap not healing properly, but this is the first time I hear it doesn’t ever heal completely, could you ask the surgeon why is that (and does that refer to the space between the flap and thinned middle of the cornea that is created by the procedure, or healing of the circumferential part where the epithelium is cut)? Another side-effect I’m afraid of is laser creating little bubbles of air in the vitreous humour, I don’t think it’s a common one, but I heard it was possible (that worsens the vision because the light cannot properly ‘fall’ on retina). Could you also find out if the damaged epithelium (in PRK, Lasek, Epi-Lasek methods) could grow back excessively/thicken up and what are the chances of that happening?
    I don’t want to scare you and am sure that the doctor is going to look at your eyes tomorrow, but please let your eyes ‘breathe’ as much as possible at home by wearing glasses. I had a habit of wearing my contacts non-stop and rarely took them out at night because I stayed up very late studying. That resulted in blood vessels growing into my cornea (it think 2-3mm, but I’m not sure) because the cornea had to get the oxygen some way. My doctor was very mad at me and said I am very lucky to have come on my annual check up because if I had waited a bit longer, they would grow irreversably and I would have to get corneal transplant to see (because retina needs to be transparent in order to refract light properly)!! I didn’t wear contacts some time till the vessels retreated and am very disciplined about contacts now. As I said, I don’t want to scare anyone, just saying what happened to me as a warning.
    You said apparently laser surgery is safer than wearing contact lenses every day, aside from what happened to me, does that refer to the possible infections or something else? Sorry for the long post, but this is a very interesting topic for me. Good luck tomorrow:)!

  9. I had LASIK done in Dec last year, and while my vision is not totally perfect yet (I’m a freak slow healer, and it seems to apply to my eyeballs too)… its still amazing. My prescrption used to be same as yours…. and now I can go around without glasses! SO FREEING. It really is amazing, really!

    Even though I may need a touch up surgery if I dont heal at 100%, now my prescrip is only -0.5/-0.75…. which is pretty fabulous considering I can’t remember what it’s liek to be able to see/ not wear glasses or contacts!

    Total recommend! :D

  10. That sounds so scary! ahh anything involving the eye ball freaks me out. I’m short sighted as well but not too much so i can get away with not wearing glasses all the time. I’m meaning to get contacts though, but last time i tried, they were quite uncomfy! x

  11. I really want eye laser too so this really helps! My eyes are not as sever only around -2.5 but I have tried contacts and they are a pain. I guess I am still young and I need to invest in a pair of decent glasses or try more lenses. I hope it goes well. x

  12. Oh interesting! Best of luck, I’m really looking forward to hearing how it went.

    I’m -3.5 and astigmatic in both eyes and rely heavily on specs, contacts are for going out only as they’re too uncomfortable to wear daily for me. I’d been doing tons of research too (and plenty of dithering, ehem) re: laser over the last few years but had pretty much decided on THE surgeon for me at home in Dublin… when we upped sticks to London. D’oh. I feel like I’m back at square one now, no idea who to go to :/

  13. I had laser surgery in London in 2008 at the London Vision Clinic performed by Dr Dan Reinstein. The whole process was intensive but worth it. The checks pre and post surgery are the most comprehensive and the staff are wonderful. Although not cheap, you certainly do not want to scrimp when it your eyes. I had Lasik and PRK ( left and right eyes respectively). I was -11 in my right eye and – 5 in left (with astigmatisms)!
    The surgery was the best thing I have ever paid for.
    Farrah x

  14. In today’s date and age, laser treatment for the eyes is a part and parcel of life. It is a well-established procedure that makes up for billions in the eye care industry; and there is a continual sort of technological development that is being carried out in terms of bettering the procedures that are involved. It is hardly a surprise then that a lot of people are turning to laser eye surgeries instead of sticking to their reading glasses or contact lenses.

  15. A very belated thank you to everyone for your comments!!! It seems like a long time ago that I wrote that post! My eyes are all lasered and healed now. And it feels amaaazing!

  16. I have always wanted to get it done and I believe reading your blog encourages me to make the decision. I have booked an appointment with a specialist in Leeds in 3 weeks time. I am still pretty worried about the side effects such as dry eyes and especially night vision problems so will be good to have a chat with the surgeon. I heard that is quite frequent, did you have these kind of effects after the surgery?

Comments are closed.