The most interesting technological marvel I have experienced is the procedure to remove my near-nearsightedness caused by astigmatism. I’ve been wearing prescription lenses from the age of 16; twenty-four years later thanks to LASIK (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) I am able to navigate the world without glasses or contact lenses. To give you an idea of how poor my vision was before the procedure my optometrist revealed to me today that is was 20/500.
In actuality my vision was worse than 20/500 – just that the computer couldn’t display any letters larger – ack!
What Convinced Me to get LASIK?
Twenty-four years is a long time of enduring glasses and contact lenses. I’m an avid snowboarder and have traveled across Canada, USA and France in pursuit of powder; my contact lenses in these situations provided me freedom but I always had to be carrying sterilizing solution and not to mention a pair of glasses as backup. Being outside in the cold air also tended to dry out and tire my eyes limiting the amount of time I could wear them. So sports was a factor in my decision, but it wasn’t main deciding factor; I could have continued to endure the contact lens routine if I needed to on my trips to the ski hills and continue to wear my glasses for everyday tasks. I also used to be a lifeguard and lately I’ve been teaching my daughter how to swim; having to take my glasses off and on to demonstrate techniques is annoying!
What finally convinced me to pursue LASIK (besides my wife agreeing to the cost), was a combination of my second child and attending a wedding in Jamaica. My son, who is currently 2 and half, grabs loves to grab my glasses! If I didn’t catch him quickly enough he’d bend them out of shape so they would no longer sit properly on my face. The wedding in Jamaica posed an interest problem for me that I haven’t encountered before – ocean salt water is not good for prescription glasses (scratches if not careful) and I didn’t want to risk using contact lenses for water sports in the ocean. Having salt/contaminated water trapped close to my eyes for extended periods of time was a risk I wanted to avoid, especially in a foreign country. I avoided water-sports requiring me to submerge my head under the water as everything would be a big blur. Enough was enough and I decided to take the plunge.
I received an e-mail from TLC Laser Centers after scheduling the consultation to view a video about the laser vision correction. It explains how your vision works and provides information about LASIK and PRK – the two most widely procedures used.
At certain intervals it prompts you to record any questions that you may have about the procedure you are considering. Although I didn’t have any this was a fantastic way to be introduced to laser vision correction. Instead of being overwhelmed at the consultation I was informed and could absorb all of the information that was provided me. The video and the manner that it presented the information to me went a long way to allaying any nervousness or apprehension about the procedure.
I was referred to the Waterloo TLC Centre which is at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) and I must say this is one of the best experience with a
health care provider I’ve ever experienced. Their offices are modern and the staff are highly professional. I was amazed at the diagnostic procedure and the equipment used such as the wavefront analyzer which creates a custom map of your eye. The whole process feels more akin to something in a Star Trek episode with all of the moving lights I was staring at. One of the considerations that is taken into account for LASIK is the thickness of of my corneas. Since a laser will be adjusting it to correct my vision they needed to know that there will be enough structural integrity post-surgery to ensure that my eyes could withstand changes in pressure or an unexpected blow. The test is called corneal Pachymetry. Drops were placed in my eyes and a probe, called a pachymeter was pressed against them. It’s a very strange experience as you see ripples in your vision much like a stone dropped in water, but there is no sensation of discomfort at all.
Before the Surgery
After scheduling the LASIK appointment, I was given a prescription for antibiotic eye-drops to be used before and after surgery, and a steriod drop to be used post-surgery. I was also instructed to purchase lid scrubs to clean my eye lids, lashes and brows. The drops and the scrubs ensures my eyes were sterile and the areas around them were clean to reduce the chances of an infection.
Besides the drops and the scrubs, my information packet included forms to sign to understand the risks and potential side-effects of the surgery. It may look alarming, but the odds are very low that you’ll experience any of them that would be detrimental to your long-term health; however if you are seriously considering laser eye corrective surgery, take the forms seriously and only sign them if you are comfortable.
The day of the operation I was slightly nervous, but I was more apprehensive when I had my wisdom teeth removed (during that procedure I was totally knocked out). For some reason the notion of having lasers shot into my eyes while conscious didn’t faze me. When I arrived at the centre, I spoke briefly with my surgeon to clarify any questions I may have about the procedure and review the risks associated with it; although safe, LASIK is a medical procedure and I was reminded that there are no guarantees regarding the outcome.
Before my eyes were corrected, I sat on a nice comfy lounge chair where antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and anesthetic drops were placed in my your eyes. There’s an option of taking a mild sedative to help calm your nerves – I’ve been told that about 99% of the patient take it, so I didn’t see any harm in accepting it as well just in case my nerves decided to get the better of me. A few moments later I was led into the operating room and instructed to lie on my back and stare at a black circle with a red dot in the middle which reminded me of HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey. A ring is placed over one eye and you moved in order stare at another ring that reminded me of a LED lights – this is the actual laser that makes the corneal flap – your vision goes blurry for a few seconds before you see the surgeon moving the flap out of the way and then you’re staring at HAL again to correct your vision. Once HAL has done it’s job, the surgeon replaces the flap and “paints” it smooth. It’s about as close to an out of body experience as I’ve ever had – someone is brushing my eye and I’m not feeling anything! Once flap was replaced properly, the second eye was operated on using the same process. The whole process took between 5 – 7 minutes if I had to guess – it was so short and painless that I was kicking myself that I waited so long to have this done! Your vision will be blurry when you leave the operating room but it is such a dramatic improvement over what I had before that I was overjoyed. Before being permitted to leave the office, another round of drops are placed on your eyes and you’re reminded of the after-care routine you need to follow.
If there was anything I would do differently is I would have turned down the sedative. I’m sure it actually helped me during the procedure and made me disoriented trying to walking to and from the operating room. But hindsight is 20/20 😉 The sedative is your decision, so you’ll need to be the judge if you need it or not.
First Day Recovery
After LASIK surgery, you’re instructed not to use a computer, tablet, e-reader, book – basically you’re supposed to rest and not to strain your eyes. I immediately took a nap for 3 hours and when I awoke my vision was dramatically clearer. The majority of the blurriness was gone and the world appeared brighter – most likely because I no longer needed my glasses that were smudged with fingerprints. The clarity is almost exactly how it was when I was was wearing contact lenses but much more comfortable and I felt I could drive if I was medically permitted to do so. There is haloing around lights but that is normal and should reduce after the swelling in my eyes have gone down (about a month or so). Looking in the mirror I saw that my eyes were bloodshot due to the ring that was placed over them, but this is normal and worsened before it cleared up (and after one week its almost all gone).
Your take home kit contains a pair of sunglasses, eye shields, and an eye drop schedule. The sunglasses are to prevent dust and other debris from entering the eye as well as reduce the light sensitivity you may experience for the first few days after surgery; the eye shields prevent you from unexpectedly rubbing your eyes while you sleep; while the eye drop schedule is a 14 day reminder of how many times you have to put drops into your eyes. Your also required to purchase non-preservative lubricating drops to ensure there is adequate moisture in your eyes during the healing period which means you’re putting them in almost every hour.
Second Day Followup
About 24 hours after surgery, I had my post-op check in with my optometrist who will also be taking care of monitoring your recovery over the course of the year. This check up makes sure that the flaps in your eyes have settled in place and that there are no detectable complications. My check up went smoothly and we discovered that the vision in my right eye is slightly more sharper than my left one, but nothing to worry about. In fact my vision was technically good enough to drive legally, but it’s not until the 1 week checkup that he signs the Ministry of Transportation forms so that meant my wife had to chauffeur me around for a few more days.
Day 4 through 6
So skipping to day four as days 2 and 3 weren’t very interesting except that I was resting and taking it easy and putting drops into my eyes every hour. Day 4 wasn’t that much different either except I returned to work which meant prolonged staring at a computer. I didn’t have any issues with my vision and was able to see normally; the haloing effect was still present but it didn’t hamper me during the daytime.
First week Followup
One week after the procedure I returned to my Optometrist for a followup examination. That day I did notice that the vision in right eye was slightly hazy as if there was a slight mist in the air. There happened to be a dry patch right in the center of my vision and I was giving a slight scolding that I wasn’t putting enough lubricating drops into my eyes – much more important since I use a computer all day at my job. My optometrist did signed off on the Ministry of Transportation forms and now I can operated my car without the need of prescription glasses or contact lenses!
That day I pounded away at the lubricating drops and by the end of the work day the haziness was gone. So, if your job also requires working with computers for long periods of time remember that this dries out your eyes more quickly!
So How Is My Vision Today?
As of this writing, it’s been 2 weeks since I’ve had LASIK. So far I haven’t felt much discomfort except after I wake up from a night’s sleep. My eyes tend to dry out overnight so I have lubricating drops near my nightstand. My vision appears to be fine, it’s around 20/20 or 20/10 depending on the eye but together I don’t see a difference. I can tell you that there are a few small things that I have noticed:
- I had a “wow” moment after shoveling the snow off of my driveway. My vision didn’t fog up due to the cold and I actually stopped to appreciate it.
- I seem to have a wider and clearer view of my surroundings which takes a bit to get used to. I find that I’m looking at people slightly off due to not having to keep them centrally in my vision to see them clearly. It’s like watching an HD movie of TV show where the director is taking advantage of the additional space to frame a scene more appropriately than he could have before.
- Everything seems a bit brighter – not sure if that’s because my eyes still need to heal or it’s because my glasses were always dirty.
Would I Recommend LASIK?
Absolutely! If you’re considering laser corrective surgery I’d recommend at least arranging for a consult. LASIK is painless so get rid of that fear; if I knew it was this easy I would have done it years ago! The only real medical decision that you really need to make is ensuring that you are comfortable with the risks.
Although I have had no complications with the surgery remember that this account is my personal experience (and I haven’t fully healed); your experience may be differ as everyone heals differently.