My Completely Honest Review On Laser Eye Surgery
Are you considering getting laser eye surgery? Perhaps you have even gone in for a consultation and found out you are not a suitable candidate. Or you may be undecided on this seemingly small, but life changing surgery. I took the plunge this past December and while most people are thoroughly satisfied with this eye-opening surgery, I have a love-hate relationship with my new set of eyes. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you need help deciding:
How Bad Is Your Prescription?
I have been wearing glasses since I was around nine years old. I’m near-sighted, which means I can see things up close clearly, but nothing in the distance including road signs or the chalk board (during my schooling years). My eyes have worsened over the years and by the time I hit 30 years old, I had a prescription of -6.00 in both eyes. If you have no idea what this means, it’s really bad. If I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contact lenses, everything was a complete blur. I would basically stumble around the house without any sort of lens on. Given how bad my prescription was and the associated costs of annual eye doctor visits, contact lenses and glasses, I felt that laser eye surgery would greatly enhance the quality of my life and simplify my eye care ritual. I should mention that I wore my contact lenses anytime I went out, and wore my glasses only at home. I didn’t love wearing glasses, so when my eyes started to dry out after having my second child, I was not happy that I could no longer tolerate wearing contact lenses anymore. If you are someone who does not mind wearing eye glasses, then I would consider if you really do need laser eye surgery. For instance, if you can function just fine with your glasses (exercise, read, work, etc.) and you are happy to wear them, then consider keeping them.
Do You Have Dry Eyes?
My eyes tolerate contact lenses pretty well, but if it’s been a long day of wearing them, they start to dry out and feel uncomfortable. I will say that I have gone to great lengths to find the most comfortable and breathable lenses for my eyes, which for the longest time was Acuvue Oasys. I had been wearing these contacts comfortably for the past five years or so all the way through my first and second pregnancy. Then about a month postpartum, I realized how uncomfortable they had gotten due to how dry my eyes were. My optometrist told me that pregnancy related hormones can often dry out womens’ eyes, so she advised me to stop wearing contact lenses altogether. A few months had passed and I wanted to try wearing contacts again. This time, I tried a few other brands that were considered the most hydrating lenses on the market. It made no difference; my eyes simply did not tolerate contacts anymore. On top of feeling overly dry, it always felt like I had something in my eyes, like dust particles or eyelashes. So I finally made an appointment with the Laser Eye Surgery Clinic in my area for a consultation. After a few tests and questions about my lifestyle, prescription changes, etc. they declared that I was an excellent candidate for laser eye surgery. They did say due to my high prescription, there was a higher chance that I would need corrective surgery to “top-up” my prescription years down the line. The good thing is that the surgery is relatively quick and painless, and top-up surgeries are free. Most laser eye surgeries have a lifetime guarantee given that you get regular check-ups. All of these “pros” sealed the deal for me so I set the date for lasik. While my eyes were unusually dry before the surgery due to my hormones, I didn’t think this would be an issue after the surgery since I wasn’t going to be wearing contacts anymore. Boy was I wrong!
What Are Your Expectations Post-Op?
The day of the surgery, my husband drove me to the clinic (since you are not allowed to drive yourself home afterwards). I had a few more check-ups to confirm and re-confirm my prescription before they took me into surgery. The actual surgery lasted about 15 minutes or so for both eyes. My eyes were numbed so I didn’t feel any pain, but there was a lot of pressure. I realized afterwards a couple of my blood vessels had popped, which they told me was completely normal and happens to about 50% of patients. I’ve popped blood vessels before (during childbirth) so I wasn’t surprised I was in the 50%. Immediately after surgery, I was given a pair of sunglasses to wear for the next 24 hours, even during sleep. I was also given a cocktail of eye drops to take every few hours. For the first day, they told me that I would have very blurry vision, and the best thing to do was to rest my eyes (ie. sleep). It was probably the most rest I had since before I had my kids. I slept all day and all night. The following day, my vision was nearly back, and things looked quite clear. I had a follow-up appointment with the clinic where they told me my eyes looked like they were healing well. I was not allowed to wear eye makeup, swim, or exercise for the first week. Certain contact sports like kickboxing were off limits for a full year (not that I was affected by that rule). I followed all the rules, and even swore off eye makeup for multiple weeks. I also tried to limit my screen time and let my eyes rest (aka nap) more than usual. However, as the first few weeks after surgery went by, I was feeling more and more anxious and upset about the results. You see, I had expected my vision to be more than restored, and my eyes to feel just as they would when I wore glasses (not dry and tight like they did when I wore contacts). But my vision was still somewhat blurry and my eyes felt even dryer and tighter than usual. I would see halos around every single light source, which made it impossible to drive at night. So after 7pm, I was under house arrest, which completely disrupted my daily flow. I wasn’t trying to arrange late night dinners or a night on the town with friends, but nighttime is my time to do my long list of things that I can’t do with the kids (or are much easier done without kids). I did my grocery shopping, trunk shows for my jewelry business and art classes at the library in the evenings – all things I really enjoyed and considered a form of self care. I never would have thought that I would have to stop doing those things as a result of my laser eye surgery. Additionally, my eyes just felt dry ALL. THE. TIME. It was worse than when I wore contacts. The dryness made my vision blurry, which meant I had dry eyes and blurry vision if I wasn’t constantly a) lubricating with eye drops or b) sleeping. I was going through eye drops faster than my baby was going through diapers. Seriously it was getting pricey. Even though most patients get the good ole 20/20 sign-off a few weeks after surgery, I was in the clinic for months afterwards trying to get to the bottom of my blurry vision and dryness. All of this really threw me off and frankly made me begin to regret that I had the surgery. From the success stories I was told by friends and family who had Lasik, I expected perfect vision mere weeks post-op, but all I got were halos and dry eyes.
It has been just over 6 months since I had the surgery and I feel that I am now in a healthy emotional and physical state to give a fair review of the final results. My vision did eventually stabilize to a level that I was happy with (i.e. better than pre-op me wearing glasses), the halos lessened (I can drive at night confidently), and the dryness is much less severe but does get worse when I don’t get enough sleep or spend too much time on screens/reading. I had an amazing team working with me at the laser eye clinic who reassured my doubts and fears by giving me thorough check-ups and sound reasons as to why I was getting the results that I was. Due to my stronger prescription, there was a higher chance of overly dry eyes in my case. Also, the dry winter weather and overload of indoor heating didn’t help my situation. The halos are normal for many people post-op, but tend to be worse for some people. They cannot predict which side effects each patient is going to experience, or if a patient will experience any at all, thus tend to err on the side of not emphasizing all the side effects a person could experience when explaining the procedure for the first time. In my case, I was on the extreme end of dryness and halos, which no one could have predicted, but if I am honest, I would have rather been told the long list of side effects in detail. Sure it may deter some folks from going through with the surgery, but I say knowledge is power. And for me, it would have helped me to manage my expectations better. If I had known to expect or look out for certain symptoms, I would not have felt so disappointed and downright depressed on the really bad days. In the end, I am very glad that I did have the surgery. It has been priceless not having to fumble around for my glasses in the middle of the night as I make my way to the baby’s room for a feeding. Also, I love that I can put on eye makeup like a normal person (and not an inch away from the mirror). But most of all, I love being able to join my boys for a swim without having to think about whether I can comfortably wear contacts long enough to do so (they love staying in the water until they’re prunes). So take it from me if you are considering laser eye surgery, ask many questions and get the long list of potential side effects to better learn how to manage your expectations. This can only help empower you to make the best choice for you and your health.