LASIK: A Patient’s Perspective

I’d been thinking about getting Laser Eye Surgery for a while. Looked up a bunch of testimonials online, people’s thoughts, facts and experiences. Most of them were positive and glowing with the statement ‘I only wish I got it done earlier’, others were saying they suffered dry eye for years afterwards and that there were a few surprises and complications. Heck, I didn’t even really know what dry eye is, the risks seemed risky even though they actually aren’t but in my head they were very real. So I put it down as a plausible option, but not for me right now, maybe in the future, but not now.

Then strolls in February 2017, the talk of Laser Surgery came up again one day with some friends, it re-sparked my interest and I thought fuck it, let’s take this seriously. I got back from a work trip on a Sunday Night, Monday I did some research and decided to book in a no-obligation assessment appointment for laser eye surgery. Come Tuesday I was sitting in the waiting room about to begin my examination. That same week on the Friday I was booked in the undergo a LASIK Procedure, Saturday I had my follow up and like a butterfly I spread my wings into a glasses free life. It all happened very quickly and I learnt a bunch along the way. I would like to pass my experiences onto you, others who are on the fence in regards to Laser Eye Surgery.

WHERE DO I START

I started where anyone living in 2017 would start, a Google Search. I found various clinics in Melbourne, Australia that offer Laser Eye Surgery and thankfully they have put in a solid amount of work in educating potential customers. Their websites host a wealth of information that you should all check out, you’ll learn the differences between LASIK and PRK, the recovery times of each procedure, what to expect, how much does it cost, etc. Check out any of these clinics to get a solid foundation of information:

After taking a good look at all the options I needed to pick a place to start. Being that it’s my eyes I wanted to go with someone respectable with a good reputation, that’s pretty hard to find in the world of Laser Eye Surgery. Some companies offer up their own client testimonials but I always take that with a grain of salt, they could be altered, or made up, you never know. After a solid session of internet research all that I could find was that some people had trouble with Medownick, that they had a reputation for being cheap and a few Reddit Posts that claim Dr. Noel Alpins of New Vision Clinics was a total professional. The four other clinics weren’t mentioned, Medownick was slammed and New Vision was praised. My choice was made.

INITIAL CONSULTATION

This first visit is important as it marks your first proactive action in getting rid of glasses once and for all. Though that was my goal, I did keep an open mind and wanted to keep a certain level of skepticism to ensure I didn’t get caught up in the allure of it all. On the phone I was told to bring a Medicare Card and Sunglasses, easy. I’d taken it upon myself to prepare a helpful medical history that would assist the optometrist and lay a foundation for good decision making during the appointment. I contacted Specsavers whom I had obtained my last 3 Sets of Prescription Glasses from to obtain records of my prescriptions over time, it was easy to do and could done over the phone, this is how they sat:

06/01/11 – Left and Right Eye: -1.25
30/01/14 – Left and Right Eye: -1.50
31/10/15 – Left and Right Eye: -1.75

So I went for my appointment at New Vision Clinics in Cheltenham in the morning. You get greeted by their reception staff, get asked to fill out a form and then take a seat. Shortly after you are taken into an examination room and you get evaluated by an optometrist. If you’ve ever got prescription glasses before you’ll know the drill, you look at a chart on the wall, various different lenses are trialled in front of your eyes and you’re asked to identify which option is sharper, 1 or 2, it’s a pretty easy task which I find quite enjoyable. They also take a close up look at your eyes under magnification with a light shining to evaluate the surface and general health of your eyes. My current prescription was sitting as follows:

21/02/17 – Left and Right Eye: -1.75 leaning towards a -2.00

Based upon this new measurement in combination with my previous prescriptions we could see that my eyes had only gotten slightly worse over time, jumping up one prescription level of -0.25 roughly every 1.5 Years and that it had pretty much stabilised over the past year and a half. The optometrist said that there is a very small chance that my eyes could naturally degrade over time even after laser surgery but being that I’m in my Mid 20s that it’s not very likely to happen. Being that my prescription is so low it’d be a relatively straight forward procedure with minimal likelihood of complications. She said if I was willing to accept the small chance of my eyes natural degrading over time then we’d proceed to the next step.

I went back to the waiting room and took a seat, shortly after the lady who was working at reception, who I assumed is a combo of Optometrist Nurse and Receptionist, took me to a different room where I undertook some extra tests. These are pretty straight forward and they walk you through what to do. One machine takes photographs of your eyes and the other does a 3D Scan of your eyes which details the thickness of your cornea and medical information about the eye’s underlying components.

Next up they put some special eyedrops in your eyes, these basically cause the muscles in your eye to relax causing them to dilate, aka open up and let more light in, which was the reason for needing to bring sunglasses, so you’re not bamboozled by the glare when you leave. They take about 20 Minutes to come in full effect so you watch a video with headphones on in the waiting room. It’s hosted by a well known Melbourne News Reporter and runs for around 10 Minutes. It basically covers everything that you should have read online in your initial research process, but I guess there are some people who aren’t as thorough as me and just booked in for an appointment blindly. Either way, it serves as decent revision and shows you a brief glimpse of what it will be like in the operating theatre when having the procedure done. That being said, this video felt like it was made 10-15 Years ago and didn’t really feel all that current and applicable. Once you’re finished watching you take a seat in reception and I noticed the weirdest thing, my eyes couldn’t focus properly. I was half freaking out but more intrigued by how my eyes we functioning. My glasses were off at this point, if I looked at my phone the screen was blurry and the closer I brought it to my face the more out of focus it became, but if I held it the right distance away it was okay, looking in the distance everything was blurry as usual due to my short sightedness. Upon putting my glasses on everything in the distance was sharp as a tack and felt a little bit bloomy, almost hyper real. When I looked down at my phone it was even more blurry then without glasses on, so weird. I was in this state of amusement with my eye fluctuations for around 8 Minutes until the optometrist came back to see me. I mentioned the sensation to her and she said it was totally normal, I would have loved to know about this beforehand, all I got warned about was my sensitivity to light would increase. Anyway, I was assured that it’d wear off after 3 Hours.

Back in the examination room we re-did our eye chart tests. This is because when our eyes are dilated or opened up to a greater degree our focus becomes more crucial or in photography terms, our depth of field becomes shallower. This is why at night our vision is often worse then during the day as our eyes have opened up to see better in the low light. These eye drops simulated extreme night time or darkness and lay the foundation for the perfect cross check of my eyes performance. I was told that it matched the -1.75/-2.00 Prescription that I had been given before and that I was a perfect candidate for LASIK Laser Eye Surgery. The cost was roughly $2500 per eye which was in line with my expectations based on what I had read online, there was availability for surgery this coming Friday, if I couldn’t do it then based on my schedule and Dr Noel Alpins Schedule I wouldn’t be able to get it done for like 5 Weeks. I felt pretty good about it and decided to pull the trigger and go ahead with the LASIK.

Next up was a one on one session with Dr Noel Alpins, the eye surgeon himself. He takes a look at your test results from the morning, your patient history and all other information the optometrists had gathered. He then personally evaluates your eyes under magnification and light and gives the yes or no if he’ll go ahead with the procedure. I got the thumbs up and was provided an opportunity to ask any questions. My biggest concern was my inability to focus my eyes right now but he assured me it’d be fine and that my LASIK Procedure would be a complete success. I did have some concerns about some of the side effects that were listed on the document that they get you to sign but he ensured me that they are mainly old side effects that haven’t been an issue for 15+ Years, they are mainly there just for legal reasons.

I headed off on my drive home and gosh it was a bizarre experience. I needed to wear my prescription sunglasses as it was bright due to my dilated pupils but the glasses were also required to focus in the distance to see the road. Their was a new vision factor in the mix though, I was unable to clearly see the speedo as my eyes couldn’t focus on it. I got home safely but it ended up taking like 8 Hours for my eyes to return to normal, a lot different then the 3 Hours I was told back at the clinic.

THE LASIK PROCEDURE

One of the many things that you are asked when you arrive on the day of your surgery is if you’d like a DVD Copy of your LASIK Procedure to take home at the end. It seemed like such a weird thing to ask but I embraced and said ‘yeah, why not’ and thus paved the way for this blog post. There is no better way to give a patients perspective of LASIK then to show you, so I’ve put together this little video to educate and entertain anyone considering LASIK in the future:

IMMEDIATE POST-OP

When you are walked out of the operating room the nurses have fitted clear protective covers over your eyes to keep them safe from touching. I took this photo of myself as record of how you look as soon as you exit:

DirectlyAfterLASIK_LowRes

The optometrist examines your eyes under the magnifying scope after 10 Mins of rest to see if the flaps are placed well and bonding, if all is good you are sent home with some instructions and a little bag full of medical goodies. They also equip you with some temporary sunnies as your eyes are sensitive to light after the procedure, I opted to keep these on for the afternoon as it felt better glare wise. You are advised to get driven home by a friend or family member and to take the afternoon pretty easy. I wound up just cruising out in bed listening to music and podcasts all day. The results are pretty instantaneous, it is tricky to see through the clear plastic protectors as they add a haze to your vision but I found if you peek through the small slit between you’re face and nose you get a clear view beyond and even 2-3 Hours after the operation I could see everything in focus in the distance. Amazing! This feeling of clear vision is something I hadn’t experienced in 6 Years and it was just a taste of what is to come.

EYE DROPS

If there is one thing that you are going to need to learn and get comfortable doing, it’s applying eye drops to yourself. I was always scared of it, I hated looking up and faltering in anticipation as I gently squeezed drops into my eyes. Now as part of my recovery I needed to use three different types of eye drops in my eyes, three times a day. It’s a lot of eye drops so you need to adapt quickly and learn to trust the drop. Know that it doesn’t hurt, get your aiming right, don’t blink and just let it fall. For me it took a few days to get comfortable with the constant application of eye drops, I even made mistakes one week on where I’d go for an eye drop and get my nose instead of my eye. Rest assured, you soon get the hang of it and embrace the feeling of a fresh drop in your eye. For a breakdown of the eyes drops please see below:

EyeDrops_LowRes

CILOXAN
This is an antibiotic eye drop used to prevent infection. It’s used three times daily and is applied 10 Mins before the Flarex.

FLAREX
This is a mild cortisone or steroid eye drop used to enhance healing of the eye after surgery. As with Ciloxan it’s applied three times daily and it makes sense to partner it up with Ciloxan so that you can knock them off simultaneously. It’s advised to apply Ciloxan first, then 10 Mins later apply Flarex so that each drop absorbs effectively into your eyes.

SYSTANE ULTRA
This is a lubricating eye drop designed to keep the eye moist. After surgery your eyes won’t produce the natural lubricating film as readily as you are used to and you will be left feeling irritated with dry eye. You can use these drops as much as you like, the goal is to keep your eyes comfortable. You will most likely run out of this eye drop especially if you use it a lot, fear not, it’s a non prescription eye drop which you can pick up at the chemist for around $7.

To make it simple I called them ‘Antibiotic Drops’ instead of Ciloxan which I labelled yellow and ‘Steroid Drops’ instead of Flarex which I labelled red. I found the best way to use these eye drops in combination is Antibiotic and Steroid around meal time, so breakfast, lunch and dinner. Apply the Antibiotic Drops first, then roughly 10 Mins later which usually timed well with finishing a meal , you apply the Steroid Drops. This pattern continues for 1 Week after surgery. The Systane Ultra which I dubbed ‘Lubricating Drops’ were used in between meals. How often you’d use them depends on your environment, if I was at home I found I didn’t need to use them that much but aimed to use them at least 2-3 Times a day. Sometimes when I was at work in an air conditioned environment I’d need to use them 2-3 Times between meals to keep my eyes comfortable. I also made a practice of using the Lubricating Drops before bed so my eyes were well primed for a solid night of healing.

If you’ve never used eye drops extensively before you’ll be interested to know that the eyes and tear ducts are connected to the nasal passage and thus the throat. This whole sinus system is joined so don’t be surprised when you can taste a funny taste in the back of your throat shortly after using the Antibiotic or Steroid Drops. It’s just the flavour of the eye drops and will soon disappear.

POST-OP CARE

One day after the procedure you head back into the clinic where both an optometrist and the eye surgeon look over your eye. You’re eyes are one of the fastest healing organs in your body which means that the LASIK Flap that was cut the day before should be well and truly healed even just 24 Hours after the surgery. Of course it isn’t fully healed to 100% strength for a few weeks but it’s immediate wounds are bonded and looking good. They remove your Eye Shields for the first time since your surgery and it’s great to be able to bask in clear vision without glasses. The optometrist runs an eye test as per your initial consultation and my eyes were actually better then 20/20 Vision which is what they call a ‘bonus zone’. The goal is 20/20 Vision but if you can read lines under the 20/20 Line on the Eye Chart then you’re in the realm of bonus vision. Both the surgeon and the optometrist were extremely happy with how my procedure turned out and looking under the magnifying scope they said ‘you could barely tell I had LASIK yesterday’.

You now have a few sets of rules to follow but it’s nothing too crazy:

  • Use Medicated Eye Drops as directed
  • Wear Eye Shields while sleeping for 2-3 Nights after surgery
  • Do not rub your eyes
  • Wear sunglasses when exposed to UV Light
  • Do not wear Eye Make-Up or Eye Masks for 7 Days following the procedure
  • Avoid Soap and Water in your eye for 2 Weeks
  • No swimming or water activities for 2 Weeks
  • Avoid dusty or smoky environments for 2 Weeks
  • No contact sport for 1 Month

I chose to wear the Eye Shields at night for 7 Days following the surgery as I was paranoid about rubbing my eyes in my sleep. There are a few variations that you need to make to how you sleep so that you can lay comfortable with the Eye Shields on, mainly head position and weight distribution but I found it pretty easy to adapt.

As a general rule I decided that the only thing that should touch my eyes are medicated eye drops and my eye lids. You’ll need to be particularly conscious about soap and water while showering and cleaning yourself. In the shower I made sure my eyes were closed when doing anything near my face and always washed my hair with my head backwards and water flowing towards my back, away from my face. At night when I washed my face before bed I used a warm flannel rather then running water and splashing it on my face, this gave me control and allowed me to keep water out of my eyes.

As you’ll be using so many eye drops it’s not uncommon for gunk or goo to build up in the corner of your eyes, especially after you have been sleeping. The best way to clear this out is to soak a flannel in warm water, wring it out and then precisely wipe your eye. It works best in front of a mirror as you can see what you are doing, only go as close to your eye as you need to in order to wipe the gunk out. This only needed to be done once or twice a day.

The rest are pretty easy to follow. No swimming or water sports for 2 Weeks and no contact sport for a month isn’t a huge ask. Wearing sunglasses while outside and not rubbing your eyes are just general eye health habits that should be followed. This is a perfect way to instil the habit in your system so you can continue them long after the surgery recovery period.

One additional suggestion that I would make would be sure to utilise your diet to leverage your recovery potential. If you take a look at research online it’s well stated that Omega-3s have proven to have a direct correlation to eye health. Many people supplement with Fish Oil to ensure they are getting adequate levels of EPA and DHA while recovering from LASIK, I was no different. Pick a good brand of Fish Oil and start a daily routine of having it with your breakfast, even better, load up on Sardines, Salmon or any other fish that is high in Omega-3s. I have no comparison as to how effective this method is to healing my eyes after LASIK but seeing as 4 Months on my eyes are as good as new, I see no reason not to introduce a higher intake of Omega-3s into your diet especially with all of the other health benefits that they offer.

PROBLEMS

There were a few things that I noticed about my eyes in the days and weeks following my laser eye surgery. Thankfully these are common side effects and nothing to be overly worried about but I thought I’d run them by you anyway.

FLOATERS
Apparently everyone’s eyes have floaters but we never notice them. Floaters are little floating substances that you can see in the corner of your eye, but when you go to look at them they disappear. If I were you I would take notice of identifying them before your surgery so that you can compare it to after the surgery. I had what appeared as an increased presence of floaters in my eyes, I could see them in my peripheral vision and they were particularly noticeable when they were backlit while watching TV. They would seem very out of focus and again with a photography background, it seemed like bokeh floating around the corners of my eyes. Even my eyebrows and eyelashes would seem more prominent as out of focus elements in front of my vision. Now, almost four months later I don’t even notice them anymore and they have gone away.

GLOW/FLARING
I noticed a very intense glow or flare effect whenever looking at something that is backlit, be it a TV or traffic lights when driving at night or early morning. It would flare out quite a bit and I was confused if it was in focus or not as the glow creates the illusion of softness in focus. I was like ‘are my eyes not focusing properly, has the laser correction not worked or is it just flaring out’. I concluded that it was just flaring out as when I used my hand to cut the backlight I could see perfectly fine and everything in the distance was sharp. Again, almost four months on and this has settled down and is no longer an issue.

BLOODSHOT EYES
I never got bloodshot eyes during the day but every morning after the surgery I would wake up and my eyes would be red as. Not like exaggerated in one area type of red but general redness all over the white part of my eye. I found that if I put in my eye drops, be it Antibiotic, Steroid or Lubricating and then ate breakfast, by the time I finished eating my eyes were back to normal. This stopped being an issue around 4 Weeks after the procedure.

CLOSE FOCUS
Sometimes when looking at my phone I would find it difficult for my eyes to find close focus. Where I used to hold my iPhone or iPad to read it now no longer worked and I needed to hold it further away from me to see it in focus. I also found that it was easier to relax the muscles in my eyes and consciously drift them into a state of blurriness. This cleared up after a few weeks and now isn’t a problem.

VISION QUALITY FLUCTUATIONS
It is completely normal to have some fluctuations in your vision while your eyes a fully healing. I found that some days my eyes would be better then others, sometimes my right eye wouldn’t focus very well but the left would be fine. It went up and down over the weeks, I’d have back to back days of perfect vision, then a day of slightly out of focus vision but nowhere near as bad as when I needed to wear glasses. Some days I’d have great vision in the morning but find by the afternoon what would normally be in focus was a little soft. You’re eyes take time to heal and to adapt, it wasn’t until roughly the 2-3 Month Period that this had fully settled and I was getting consistent performance from my eyes. From time to time I’ll notice that only one eye isn’t performing as well as it should, so I’ll pop in a Lubricating Eye Drop and take a few blinks and my vision will generally back to peak condition.

RESULTS

I must say, I am so glad that I went forward with the LASIK Procedure. It’s now almost been four months and I have vision that is better then 20/20. I can see in the distance perfectly, often better then my friends. I no longer have to deal with the woes of wearing glasses such as cleaning them, swapping from normal to sunnies when going from inside to out, looking down when it’s raining to stop raindrops getting on them, steaming up whenever you open the oven, the list goes on. I now wake up in the morning and everything is super clear with no issues, from time to time I will need to use some Lubricating Eyedrops for comfort and clarity but my need for them is becoming less and less.

For the first time the other week I went to a theme park in Japan and was able to ride a rollercoaster and enjoy clear, focused vision of the thrillride that befell me. Amazing!

I also visited an outdoor onsen while in Japan and totally appreciated the fact that I could walk outside at night in the cold, make my way to the hot springs of the onsen and bathe there with my face inches from the water and not have to deal with any fogging or bluriness. Amazing!

Another nice moment is when you take a look at yourself in the mirror from a distance, I realised that I hadn’t been able to see myself clearly from a distance without glasses on for years. Amazing!

In day to day life the benefits are paramount, clear vision really is a blessing and it’s so great to see clearly again without glasses!

Hopefully this post has helped you and educated you in some way, shape or form. If you have any other questions about my experience with LASIK please hit me up in the comments below.

Thanks!

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