Syen’s question last week about whether she should undergo LASIK vision correction surgery prompted me to share my experience. I went under the laser, so to speak, about 3+ years ago and I thought I’d just quickly share my experience here.
Choose a reputable clinic
I was lucky. My sister and BIL had both undergone LASIK eye surgery. Then, one of my best friends told me she had her eyes done too at the same clinic they went to. So, when the time came that I decided to go under the laser, I went with the same place – Optimax. I cannot vouch for anyone else’s experience neither do I “highly recommend” or even “recommend” this place as the “to go” clinic. All I’ll say is that I had mine done there, along with everyone else I know and that’s that.
Have a consultation and think about it carefully
The clinic should give you a full and complete eye check up before you decide whether you want the procedure done. This is to evaluate your suitability as your cornea must be thick enough and your eyes must be healthy and your prescription must be stable. I would believe the best time to consider this will be when you are in your later 20s when your sight shouldn’t be getting any worse. In most cases, there are no problems. In my case, I was told that my cornea was too thin for conventional LASIK and so, I was recommended to have Epi-Lasik done. This is a procedure which I was told, is less commonly done and comes with a higher risk factor.
Lasik vs Epi-Lasik
Regular LASIK has a “flap” cut into the cornea, which is lifted, and then the lens is reshaped by laser. For Epi-Lasik, because the cornea is a little thin, they push aside the top epithelium of your eye, then laser the lens and replace the epithelium. It is then held in place with a contact lens for about 4 days for it to heal before being removed. It sounds like a long procedure but depending on how bad your eyesight is, it only takes anything from 5-20 seconds. For me, there was no “pain” as your eyes are numbed – but they will smart once the anesthetic wears off so make sure you use the antibiotic eye drops as prescribed and for the first day or two, rest at home in a darkened environment and do everything your doctor tells you to do. If you can tolerate the smarting caused by cutting onions, you should be able to tolerate the “pain”. I was over the discomfort in a day but different people will have different experiences.
There are side effects. Make no mistake. The clinic explained the procedure and side effects to me but never pushed me into making a decision as to whether I wanted the procedure done. The choice was mine alone especially as there were some drastic side effects to consider.
LASIK Side Effects to consider
Some side effects you might expect and which I experienced.
- Dry Eyes – For the initial few months, you are recommended to use eye drops every few hours to hydrate your eyes. If you have chronic dry eyes, the clinic can recommend you a hydrating gel which helps. If your eyes are too dry, your vision will be affected too so you have to keep your eyes hydrated. I do get dry eyes now and again but its not as severe as before.
- Pin Prick or Starburst Lights – When you look at bright lights, you could see pin pricks or starbursts like how fireworks look. It was more severe when I first had surgery and I still get them now. I’m not too fussed though.
- Halo around lights – During the initial period, for me up to a year later, I used to see a halo around lighted objects, especially dim lights and under fluorescent lighting. I used to joke that it made everyone a Saint 😛 I don’t get it as bad anymore. Some days when my eyes get tired, it happens, but its not as severe.
- Double Vision – This was something I experienced only on the 1st day. It was a period of adjustment for my eyes but vision went back to normal once the lens adjusted.
- Over Correction – Due to my super crazy high myopia in both eyes, there was an element of over correction. For nearly a week, I walked around with long sightedness which made it hell to read. So now I know what it’s like to be “older” 😛 It sorted itself out within a week though.
- Sensitive eyes – You will be sensitive to light so sunglasses are a MUST at all times! I still am sometimes more sensitive to light than I am otherwise but nothing a pair of sunnies won’t cure.
Epi-Lasik 4 years later
I’m entering my 4th year of having had my eyes lasered. I had eyesight of about 900 degrees in both eyes before surgery and high astigmatism. That effectively renders me clinically blind 😛 Now, I have minimal short sightedness of about 75-100 degrees in each eye and minimal astigmatism. Its not bad all things considered!
I sometimes get a case of dry eyes in the morning when I wake up. In air conditioned environments, dry eyes can cause vision to blur so using eye drops help. Otherwise, my annual eye check ups have thus far given me a clean bill of health for my eyes so I’m happy.
In dim lighting, my vision too isn’t quite as sharp as it should be. But then I’ve always had a bit of night vision issues too. So, if you see me looking a little blur in a dimly lighted environment, its not that I’m ignoring you – I probably didn’t notice you 😛
LASIK isn’t a permanent cure for short sightedness. If you do not care for your eyes, you can risk getting back your short sightedness. So, I try not to spend too much time on the computer because it can be very taxing on the eyes. As I said, I have some residual power in both eyes but they have not been increasing drastically over the years and it does not impact on my lifestyle so I will not go back for enhancements. Besides, as you grow older, you will still develop long sightedness.
Is it worth the money I spent?
My procedure cost RM5k+ for 2 eyes which I had done simultaneously. For me, yes it was worth it.
I started wearing glasses when I was about 8. Contact lenses and I were never friends mainly because of my very long hours at work initially – I used to pull 36 hour days without blinking an eye (pun intended :P). Due to the high power I had, I was using glass lenses which were heavy and I would sometimes get headaches from the glasses pressing into the bridge of my nose or behind my ears.
Lasik gives me the chance to live life without the hassle of wearing spectacles just to be able to see properly. With power of 900+ in both eyes, I could barely see without glasses so anything is really an improvement.
I like being able to swim and do water sports without hassle. The vain pot in me of course likes being able to wear swanky sunglasses 😀
Everyone I know who has had it (with good experiences and results) have nothing but raves for the LASIK corrective vision procedure. However, there are those who have had bad experiences who will regret ever going under the laser. You can read about those online – I did and it helped me understand just how bad the side effects can be.
As with everything invasive or life altering, there is a risk to it. Ultimately, ask all the questions you can, think about it thoroughly, talk to those who have done it, learn of the possible side effects, decide if you can live with them if they happen to you. And only then decide whether you want it. The procedure itself lasts barely a minute. The after effects can be life altering for better or for worse.
Once you make that choice, there’s no turning back.
I hope this helps someone. If you have questions, please feel free to ask in the comments and I will reply when I can 🙂