A few days ago I got lasik eye surgery. I’ve had a few people ask what it was like so thought I’d write about my experience.
But first, some background. I’m short-sighted. If I held my hand out in front of me, everything went blurry at my fingertips. I got glasses when I was 12 and then contact lenses when I was 16. I’m now 30. The moment I got my contacts I put away my glasses and until this year I hadn’t worn them again. I’d thought about lasik for a while but had been told your eyes need to settle down, that it cost a lot, that it took a lot of time… basically that I should wait. Now I wish I’d got onto this sooner.
There were a whole lot of changes in my personal life that finally gave me the push to get lasik. After making some online and phone enquiries I discovered the first thing I had to do was get an optometrist. I’ve moved a lot in the last 10 years so the last time I actually saw someone was back in 2007ish. I’ve been getting contacts through the internet since then. In May I went into Specsavers and it was easy as. I’m an AA member so I got a free exam, they put me in contact with the Laser Eye Centre and I had an appointment within the week.
Potentially I could have been booked in to get lasik within another week or so, but I picked up an eye infection doing a charity event the weekend before my appointment so unfortunately it pushed things out a few months. But otherwise everything moved really quickly.
I got a Q Card – something I had when I first moved out on my own and needed to buy a fridge and washing machine and all that. I found out that the Laser Eye Centre lets you put the cost of lasik on a Q Card and pay it off interest free for up to 24 months. Yes please.
So once booked in for surgery there’s the pre-op appointment, usually done on the day of your surgery. You watch a 10 minute video about the procedure. It explains what they’re going to do and the risks that come with it. I met the surgeon, he did a few eye checks and confirmed I’d be getting lasik (as opposed to PRK).
I took two days off work – Thursday for the op, Friday for recovery. Ideally you should also rest on the weekend. I had to make sure I hadn’t been wearing contacts for a few days, and on the day of the op I had to have clean hair, clean face, no make up. Also no sprays – hairspray, deodorant, perfume etc.
I was taken through to the room where I had watched the video. They put a gown over my clothes, little booties over my shoes and a cap over my hair then put me in the most comfortable armchair. They talked through everything that would happen and the instructions for afterwards and administered a cocktail of eye drops.
It’s a weird sensation when your eyes start to become numb but overall this part was quite relaxing.
Taken through to surgery, this was probably the first time I got nervous about what was about to happen.
I lay down on the operating bed under the watchful eyes of two nurses. By this time the hardest thing was keeping my eyes open. The bed shifted clockwise and I looked up at some lights. One eye was closed and tape put over it. The other eye had a suction attached. This, I was told, would be the worst part. It just felt like there was a bit of pressure on my eye and my vision quickly disappeared. I actually found that to be relieving (especially when the surgeon confirmed lost vision usually happens in this part). It was nice not to see what was coming at me.
The surgeon explained the laser was starting up… a third done… a few more seconds… and complete. I hadn’t really had time to register that anything much had happened before the suction was taken off, tape placed over my quickly-closed eye, and the next eye started on.
Once both eyes had been through the same procedure, the bed moved anti-clockwise and I was again under another set of lights. More eye drops were administered and one eye taped up again, while the other was held open with some sort of (non-painful) clamp on my eyelids. They prodded my open eye with something and I continued to focus on the lights, and then they must have lifted the corneal flap off. The lights dispersed – it was a bit like looking through a kaleidoscope – it was hard to know what shape I was meant to focus on at this point. Then there was what felt like cold air being blown into my eye for a few seconds. After that the flap was put back on and they used a small tool that seemed to smooth it over, before removing the clamp. My eye naturally closed and was taped. They began on the next eye.
After that the bed swung back clockwise again to its starting position, I wriggled down the bed a bit before sitting up and being helped to the examination room. My vision was blurry on the walk, but by time I’d sat down, it had become clear. I could see.
The surgeon came through about a minute later and did some eye tests before they placed some plastic shields over each eye. I was told to relax while they went to get my mum, and I left about ten minutes later.
It had been quick, and I was surprised how easy and totally not-painful it was. For those that have read my posts and tweets, you may be aware that I have an issue with pain as I have Fibromyalgia. But there was no pain with this at all.
I was extremely light sensitive when I stepped outside and put my sunglasses over the shields (they had also provided me with some sunglasses – I’ve mostly been using them at home in the evenings). Once home I took a sleeping pill they’d given me and went to bed. This was the first time I started to get some pain.
You know when your eyes have been open too long, like if you’ve been staring at a computer screen or something, and then when you finally close them, they hurt? It was like that for a few minutes until I fell asleep.
I slept for a few hours, then got up, had dinner, even watched some TV. Then I went to bed at a normal time of night, aided by another sleeping pill.
In the morning, I took off the shields (the tape holding them on clings to your skin – there’s three nights of this), gently washed my face with a damp washcloth (no soap – and nowhere near my eyes) and administered my own set of eye drops – three different types to take four times a day (a minute apart) for one week. Then mum drove me back to the Laser Eye Centre.
I filled in some forms about my experience and then had another eye exam and was given the ok to drive.
I’m booked in to see them again in one week. I could potentially see them again in a month and then 3-6 months time.
For me, the eye drops are the worst part.
It’s not so bad if you’re sitting still for the next 10 minutes after putting them in, but if you’re moving around or you lie down or anything, you can then feel them through your nasal passage and at the back of your throat. Awful. The taste is disgusting.
It’s still early days for me, so I’m still light sensitive – I wear sunglasses at all times outside and sometimes inside too.
Tonight will be the first night I can sleep without the shields.
It cost under $5700 for both eyes. PRK is slightly less. Pricing throughout the country is pretty similar, and most (if not all) have out of town assistance.
I have to be careful washing my hair for the next week, and I’m not allowed to wear makeup or put anything near my eyes for a week too.
In the first week I’m fine to do low impact exercise like walking, but they recommend waiting two weeks before attempting gym, aerobics, weights, running, cycling, sailing, triathlons, and swimming. And wait four weeks before tennis, squash, netball, martial arts, hockey, cricket, touch and rugby union, and scuba diving.
The healing period is up to six weeks.
Vision fluctuates in this time, but rarely – kind of like when you just stop focusing on what you’re looking at. I don’t like bright lights but reading in low light is too hard. There’s also faint halos around lights.
My eyes get tired quickly too; it’s taken a two days to write this out as my eyes need a rest from the glow of the computer screen.
Hopefully this answers any questions you might have about getting lasik yourself. Honestly, don’t worry about the cost. Just make sure you’ve got the time and then go for it.