Every time we are backpacking in the woods I am more thankful than ever that I had lasik surgery. I don’t have to worry about breaking my glasses and being half blind in the woods. I don’t have to find a way to keep my contacts clean and taken care of. Instead, I wake each morning with perfect vision. I can see every crisp leaf, a tiny bug on the forest floor, and trees on a distant hillside. Perfect vision from Lasik is a true miracle that money actually can buy.
If you have bad vision, like I did, and enjoy any kind of active lifestyle, then you should get Lasik. Glasses make it so much harder to enjoy even basic things like swimming. They are a constant hassle, getting dirty, sliding down your nose, breaking, etc. Don’t let a fear of the procedure keep you from getting it done.
In an effort to take the mystery out of Lasik I will explain the whole process and hopefully ally any fears you may have.
Finding a Doctor
To find my doctor I searched online, read reviews, and made consultation appointments with those who seemed the most experienced. At the consultations they take measurements of your eyes to be sure you are a candidate. They are looking at a few things, the strength of the correction you need, the smoothness of the lens of your eye, and how thick your lens is. These all determine if you are a good candidate. Lasik reshapes your lens in your eye to match your prescription. If your lens is too thin or not smooth enough to accommodate that prescription you won’t be a candidate.
While at the consultations, I looked for doctors with a few criteria, experience, success rate, care, and technology. A lot of experience was my most important criteria. I wanted someone who had performed thousands of successful operations and had been in business long enough to develop a reputation.
Successful is a key word. With a lot of experience, you also want someone who’s success rate is very high. That will indicate not only the skill of the surgeon, but also that they take their screening seriously and will be honest about whether or not you are a good candidate.
I also looked for personal care in this. Some Lasik clinics may have lots of experience but are little more than assembly lines. Those types of clinics are more likely to tell you you are a good candidate when you are not. They may also be haphazard in their aftercare of you.
Finally, you want to make sure the doctor you pick uses the latest laser technology. When I got my procedure done two years ago many doctors were still cutting the flap in the eye by hand. The doctor I picked, had invested in a laser that cut the flap which ensured precision and minimized risk.
Once you pick your doctor and they determine you are a candidate, you will schedule your pre-surgery appointment. At the appointment they will double check that you are a candidate, make sure they have the most accurate prescription you need, and give you a prescription for some eye drops. You will also go home with your pre-surgery instructions which includes securing a ride to and from the doctors office on the day of surgery.
The Day of Surgery
In the morning before your surgery, you will put anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drops in your eyes. You will also thoroughly wash your eyes by soaking your eyelids with a warm, wet wash cloth for five minutes. Then you will massage your upper and lower lids and gently scrub away any debris with the washcloth.
After this, you are ready to catch your ride to the doctor’s office. Once you arrive, they will do one more examination of your eyes to make sure there’s nothing in them to prevent surgery and to explain your aftercare. My doctor also offered me a Valium in case I was extremely nervous. If your eyes pass muster, you put on surgical booties and a hairnet to keep hair away from your face. Then you go to the surgical suite where they prep your eyes for surgery. It is very cold in the room, a requirement of the lasers, so it is smart to bring a jacket. My doctor also had a blanket to throw over my legs but I was still a little chilly.
The surgery prep involved several different kinds of eye drops: anti-inflammatory drops, numbing drops, steroid drops, and saline drops. The nurse also washes your outer eyelids one more time.
Once the doctor arrives they will bring you to the laser machine that makes the flap in your lens. You will lay down on a comfortable reclined chair and then they will shift the laser over your eye. The doctor will instruct you to look into a ring of white lights with a green light in the center of it. As you look into the lights they will place a suction cup over your eye. This sounds like torture, but in reality it only feels like they are laying a lens on top of your eye and it is not uncomfortable.
Once the suction is in place, the laser is lowered and you will feel a little pressure as the laser cuts the flap. Once the first flap is done, they shift the laser and repeat the procedure on the other eye. Then you are shifted to the Lasik laser to have your prescription etched into your lens.
Here they put a metal clamp around your eyes, which again, is much scarier than it sounds. It’s two thin wires that loop over your eyelids and push them back holding your eye open. They are not uncomfortable at all. Once the clamp is in position, they will tell you to look at a green light that you can see in the laser and to keep focusing on that.
You will hear a small buzzing sound as a laser begins cutting. Focus on the green light for 10 seconds and then the laser is all done. Don’t be alarmed if you smell burning, as my doctor said, that’s the smell of 2020 vision. Once the laser is done cutting everything is a little bit blurry as the doctor flips the flap back into place and rubs something over it with what appears to be a cotton swab. When he is done, he will shift the laser to your other eye and repeat the procedure.
Once both eyes have been done, the doctor will take you over to have a closer look in your eyes to make sure everything looks okay. You will spend the next half hour relaxing in a dark room with your eyes closed. After that they take one more look at your eyes to be sure everything still looking good. Then they place a couple more drops in your eyes and goggles over your head to protect your eyes. You will wear these when sleeping while your eyes are healing. Then home you go.
Immediately after surgery, you will have a little discomfort in your eyes. It will feel a bit like the residual feeling of burning you have after getting soap in your eyes and have rinsed it out. Your vision will be clear but it will seem like there is a white film over your eyes. So while your vision won’t be perfect it will be a vast improvement over your pre-surgery vision.
On the drive home, keep your eyes closed as much as possible. You will have been instructed to put rewetting drops in your eyes every 15 minutes to half an hour, or as often as you need them. This really assists in the healing by ensuring your eyelids don’t rub against your incisions, so it is best to put them in as often as possible.
When you get home it’s best to take, at least, a three hour nap and rest your eyes. Your doctor may have given you a sleeping pill to assist you in this. You will wake from your nap with the cloudiness in your vision mostly gone and you will be seeing as well as you did with your glasses before surgery. The rest of that day you will continue putting drops in every 15 minutes while you are awake and they will also have you put in your anti-inflammatory drops two more times before bed.
The next day you will drive yourself (yes you will be able to see!) to your doctors office. They will conduct a short exam just to check to make sure everything is going smoothly. After that it’s a matter of keeping your eyes moisturized whenever they feel dry. For me, the dryness faded after about a month and now I only need eye drops during allergy season. I’m approaching the two year anniversary of my surgery and my vision is still perfect. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how amazing it is to not need glasses anymore.