I recently got LASIK and I am SO happy I decided to do it. I had been thinking about it for years but never had the guts to do it until a couple coworkers and many blogs encouraged me to look into it again.
So here’s why I originally put it off: I had been told by one Optometrist that I’m good to go, just to be aware that I might need a redo in 10-15 years due to my astigmatism. Then, another Optometrist told me ABSOLUTELY NOT because I have Ulcerative Colitis (diagnosed at 15 years old, I’m 26 as of 2015) and my eyes could develop scar tissue as a result and cause me to go blind. Don’t freak out if you have Ulcerative Colitis (or Crohn’s) and are reading this…more later on!
There was a lot of research involved and a lot of questions I had that I couldn’t find in peoples’ experience stories and some minor things that I was never warned about. I decided to tell my own story and give my own warnings just in case there’s anyone out there that has the same questions I had. I’ll try to make this as detailed as possible!
Some tips on research:
- YouTube is a big help! I found a couple Vloggers’ experience videos including videos of them right before, during, and right after as well as some interviews with their doctors.
- Search “my LASIK experience” on Google and find blogs! I, of course, had my doctor to ask medical stuff but I wanted peer experiences as well, and I wanted them in detail (I’m a Type-A Firstborn, what can I say?)
Basics About Me
I’m (almost) 26 as of the writing of this post in 2015 (1 week after my surgery). I’m female. I first started needing vision correction about 11-12 years old. I’ve been wearing contacts about 10-12 years (I really can’t remember). My prescription before LASIK was -1.75 but I had been over corrected (more than once) by an optometrist so at the time of surgery I was wearing -2.00, resulting in frequent headaches. I was previously diagnosed with astigmatism and myopia (nearsightedness). As mentioned earlier, I have an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis. I never have smoked or used tobacco. I’m not a frequent alcohol drinker (1x-2x a month, if that). I work at a computer all day, every weekday. I’m relatively healthy (besides the UC).
My first consultations with the optometrists were several years ago. This consultation I’m about to describe was about 1 month before my LASIK and years after my previous consultations.
My consultation was combined with my yearly eye exam so I had a lot more extensive testing done. I found an Ophthalmologist nearby who had very good reviews and an extensive background. I chose to go to an Ophthalmologist because, personally, I trust them more than a LASIK center that is focused on getting people in and out with low prices and Groupons as their profit model (sorry, I’d rather not be treated like patient #13659). I also chose them because eye exams done by an Ophthalmologist are covered by my health insurance whereas Optometrists are only covered by my vision insurance (which isn’t nearly as good of coverage). My consultation consisted of a bunch of complicated machines that I honestly have no clue, nor did I ask, what they were. Not that I didn’t care but I’ve used them before in my eye exams and had a general idea of what they did just am not positive enough to describe them. Most of the tests consisted of staring into a light while they took images of my eyes. Lastly, they dilated my eyes. Now, I’m not sure which of those were strictly for my yearly checkup or if they were for my LASIK consult (they told me but I forgot lol) but, regardless, I recommend you do both anyway because why not? The consultation was free and my yearly checkup was covered in my $35 copay.
The biggest test that I remember was where they check the thickness of my eyes. My eyes, luckily were thick enough but they required more testing before the surgery without wearing contacts for 1-4 weeks to make sure my eyes were still the right shape and thickness. This was a machine that took a cool looking photo of your eyes and mapped out the thickness in different areas of your eyes.
After all the tests were done, I talked to the doctor and he said my eyes were super healthy. Even with wearing contacts my eyes were thick (contacts make your eyes thin) so they figured by the time I stopped wearing contacts (pre-req to surgery) they’d be even better. I asked about my Ulcerative Colitis (I was most concerned about this issue) since I had heard bad things from a previous Optometrist and he said as long as I’m in remission during the healing process of my LASIK and as long as my Gastroenterologist was okay with it then there are he has no problems performing LASIK on my eyes. The only real problems with autoimmune disorders are with those such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus because some symptoms of those diseases are dry eyes and LASIK could make them drier. I contacted my gastro and he approved as he hasn’t seen an issues with patients getting LASIK and because I’m currently in remission. My suggestion: If you have any health issues BE HONEST and TELL your doctor! Do not hide anything as you never know what could interfere with your health and healing process.
The total consultation (and exam) took about 1 hour including all the testing, talking to the doctor about the procedure and my eye health, then lastly talking to the LASIK consultant about different lasers to use, pricing, and financing.
My doctor is the only doctor in Texas that has the CZ Laser with Zeimer with Ultra-Precise Carl Zeiss Mel 80 Technology. It’s a more precise laser using a .7mm laser vs the .95mm on the Z-Lasik procedure and PRK procedure. I chose this option and with it I get 12 months of post-op coverage (every time I go in for a follow-up I pay nothing) and a 36-month assurance plan (meaning for 3 years if you need any touch-ups or fixes, it’s all included). There are many laser centers out there that offer lifetime coverage and at a very discounted rate. I had no need to shop around with prices and while the assurance tempted me, it more led me to believe that they had to offer that because they have a lower success rate…My doctor’s success rate is higher than the US average.
If you’re looking for the prices of LASIK you can message me privately for what I paid exactly but be advised they change frequently and vary with every doctor. For a good doctor, you’re looking at $3,500-$4.500 for both eyes dependent upon your doctor and the type of laser choices you choose (not sure if other doctors have multiple options – I had 3). Of course, if you want, you can shop around for cheapest prices but these are your eyes we’re talking about, if it doesn’t fit your budget right now- consider financing or saving. Is a Groupon for $1,400 for both eyes really worth the risk that you’re going to get a tired, over-worked doctor, and crappy post-op care? What I love about going to an ophthalmologist is that all my post-op care is with the same doctor’s office that performed my LASIK and not some other one that qualifies in post-LASIK care. Most laser centers have an affiliated doctor that you will see for your post-op care.
Disclaimer: I do not judge anyone who has gone a different route than me and if they’ve had success that is SO good for them. I’m just giving my thought process on why I went the route I chose and the best advice I can give based on my experience.
I was able to schedule my LASIK for the next Thursday (my doc only does LASIK on Thursday) but I was too nervous to do that as I’d be in Jamaica one week post-op that route (thank GOD I didn’t go before vacation! It’d have been too stressful!). They said I would be fine I’d just have to be really careful and I didn’t want to worry about it on vacation so I scheduled for about a month out. They advised me that I’d need to be dilated the day of (4-6 hours in advance) or the day before my dilation and that I needed to be in contacts for at least 1 week before my eye dilation. They told me it’s best to be in glasses 2-4 weeks but if I could only do 1 then it’d be acceptable. As the wannabe-perfect-patient that I am, I stayed out of my contacts and in my glasses for 2 weeks.
Despite having a finance degree and knowing cash is best, I opted for financing as it is 0% interest for 24 months and honestly I didn’t have the cash to pay up front. I plan and will pay it off much before that time frame. I put $400 down to lower my monthly payments. The financing was through Wells Fargo Health Advantage which approved me nearly instantly. I also made sure they have no penalty for paying off the balance before it is matured (make sure you do that!).
The day before my surgery they dilated my eyes and ran several more tests. These consisted of checking my eye pressure and thickness, testing for dryness, and checking my vision prescription again (twice this time- once by the Optometrist, once by the Ophthalmologist). There were some more machines involved but I can’t remember what they did (sorry!).
When they checked my eyes for dryness – it kind of sucked lol. They put these little paper tabs on my lower eyelids and I had to keep them there for 5 long minutes! At least my nurse was a talker and it went by quicker than it could have but it was certainly not comfortable.
At this appointment I received a prescription for two tablets of Diazepam (Valium) 2mg ($10 at Walgreens with United Healthcare), prescriptions for Prednisolone eye drops ($20 at Walgreens with United Healthcare), and Oflaxacin eye drops ($10 at Walgreens with United Healthcare) for post surgery, two lid scrubbers, and a 5-vial sample of Refresh Optive Advanced preservative-free eye moisturizing drops for post-op dryness.
They gave me my pre and post-op instructions at this appointment which was a major help as I wanted to know what to expect after and read it while I could. Pre-op consisted of using the lid scrubbers the night before the surgery and the morning of the surgery (no putting on eye makeup after), and instructions to take at least 1,000 mg/day of Vitamin C until the surgery and for a week after. The Vitamin C wasn’t required but recommended as corneas love Vitamin C. I already had Vitamin C so I didn’t worry about buying an extra. I also didn’t want to worry about not cleaning my lids enough so I didn’t wear any eye makeup for about a week before my surgery day.
My surgery was later in the day so I could miss minimal time at work. I scheduled my surgery for 5 pm and was instructed to be there at 4:30 and to take one of my 2mg Diazepam on my way over. I had to have someone drive me to and from surgery.
Once at the office, we went through signing all of the release forms (scary stuff, READ THEM). I had to apply for financing that day because the LASIK consultant mistakenly thought I had already done so. But that was no problem, Wells Fargo approved me quickly (helps to have awesome credit…hehe). After all that was said and done, someone came in and cleaned my eyelids once again. Then the doctor came in and went over exactly what would be done. They told me I could take my last Diazepam right then or wait until after the surgery to help with sleeping. I was still super nervous so I took it then…it really didn’t have much of an effect on me. I felt a little weird walking but I was still SO nervous.
The surgery room was FREEZING when I walked into it. Luckily, I had on a jacket and once I was laying down on my laser (I say it in the Dr. Evil voice every time) they gave me a nice big blanket.
The process was weird and, honestly, hard to explain. Once I laid down they started putting all kinds of drops in my eye for numbing. Then, they started taping my eye back. I’m sure what they were doing was different than what it felt like but it just felt like the put scotch tape all over my eye (lol), I’m guessing that was the speculum (picture attached). After the numbing set in and they put all the weird stuff on my eye (right first, always), they covered the other one so it wouldn’t be affected by the laser somehow. I was told to stare at a light and that it was going to fade then come back. Yes, I was terrified of possibly moving my eye ball and the laser cutting my eye open and going blind for life. Luckily, the tape and numbing drops help that and the laser follows your eye’s tiny movements. I actually did move my eye (out of fear) and the doctor said “keep looking at the light”. I have light eyes so the light was SUPER bright. He had the nurses turn the brightness down and I just stared. I felt pressure and they started counting down from 10 and by the time they counted down I was done with that eye and he started painting a bunch of stuff on my eye (putting the flap back, gross) and the nurses put a billion drops in my eye. Then, the next eye – same process.
Once done, they escorted me to the exam room to check my eyes again and I could see! It was hazy cause I probably had now half a billion drops left in my eye and the goggles they put on me probably weren’t HD quality plastic :). They looked at my eyes and they came out perfect! Time to leave!
Post Op (written 1 month after surgery)
Post op is where the worry and work come in. Once I left, I was just looking at EVERYTHING! I could see signs so perfectly, then within 10 minutes my eyes were burning and everything was bright. Understandable because my eyes were dilated still and I just had my eyes cut open, duh (lol). So my boyfriend stopped so I could get some food and I ate it with my eyes closed, fun. After I ate and was home, I immediately had to start my eye drops. I needed to put them in each eye before my nap and once I woke up. Warning: They burn like HELL at first. NO ONE warned me about that! There are two different drops (listed above) and each have to be put in 3-5 minutes apart from each other, which is super hard when you’re so sleepy! I did that then immediately went to bed still wearing my goggles from the office. The goggles I got were actually comfortable as they were thin and had lots of padding.
Normally, you’d only take a 4 hour nap or so but for me that would have been a nap until 10:30 pm so I just wanted to sleep through the whole night. I woke up at 10 pm and 2 am and put in my drops. I woke up at 8 am and felt amazing! I just stared out the window! Per instructions, I had to take the eye drops 3x a day and use the preservative-free moisturizing drops about every 15-30 minutes (for the first day, every 1 hr for the next). Warning: You will taste the Prednisolone drops because they have a strong flavor and drip down your throat. Drink lots of fluid when you do this to prevent tasting them, they taste BAD and I’m not exaggerating. Also, the Prednisolone drops leave a nasty white residue. You can’t rub your eyes so make sure you dab them or something to avoid your eyelashes getting nasty and crusty when they dry. No one warned me about this!
My first appointment post-op (day after) I was at 20/15 in one eye and 20/20 in the other! It was amazing. I took the day off and I was able to drive to the appointment myself and even do some grocery shopping. Everything was basically back to normal! Oh, my eyes were very bruised – that is normal.
The doctor will warn you and so must I DO NOT RUB YOUR EYES. This rule will cause SO much anxiety, trust me. I was so fearful that I would rub my eyes. I wore my goggles for 3 nights post-op to ensure I didn’t rub them in my sleep. Well, one night I woke up rubbing them and FREAKED out! But everything was just fine, phew.
I kept a routine for a week having alarms every hour to put in my moisturizing drops and alarms upon wake, lunch, and bedtime to put in my antibiotic and steroid drops. This proved to be very difficult as I was in New Jersey not even 2 days post-op. On the plane (I did check with the Dr. that I could fly), I slept with my goggles and kept lots of drops with me. Tip: Get the brand that I suggested in a link above. Yes, they’re more expensive but the caps are resealable which you’ll need as you won’t use every drop on your first application. You can get 3-5 uses out of those things! One the plane, I had a cheaper brand and it sucked because I would waste so many drops because they were open all the time and no longer sterile. The drops are preservative-free so you can only really reuse them for a couple days.
I will reiterate, do not rub your eyes! DAB them or lightly touch them. Your flap is still sensitive at this time.
1 week post-op I was at 20/20 in both eyes. I had been bad and not used many moisturizing drops beforehand so my eyes were super dry and I think it affected my vision. Still, 20/20 is amazing. At this point I was also cleared for wearing eye makeup. My eyes were so sensitive to touch and I hated not being able to rub them so I chose to stay makeup free. My eyes were still bruised at this appointment which is pretty normal. I’m an easy bruiser anyway.
I’m one month post-op and I’m still using the re-wetting drops when I go to bed and when I wake up (and after any naps). My eyes are still very dry when I wake up so that’s why I keep using them. Today is my 1 month post-op appointment so I’ll update you once I go in! By now, I should be cleared for using regular drops that don’t have to be preservative-free (I’m looking forward to that!).
I’m still not rubbing my eyes even 1 month post-op. In fact, I actually rarely even wear eye-makeup. It’s just too much of a hassle wondering if my eye is gonna fall out if I rub it or if a piece of mascara is gonna fall in and scratch my eye. These are just my fears though, I don’t think there’s truth to them. Plus, it saves time in the morning haha! Oh, and other benefit to going makeup free is not worrying about having mascara run down your face when you put in your eye drops!
Again, the office that performed my LASIK is the office that performs all my post-op appointments, that’s what I like most about going with the doctor I chose.
In summary, I’m SO glad I did it and I’d reocommend it to anyone! Yes, I should have done it sooner. That’s what most people who have had LASIK will tell you! I’m sure I’m missing so many details, I’m sorry! If you have any questions that I didn’t cover, I’d be happy to help!
I’ll be back to edit this after my 1 month appointment….
Talk to you soon!
Edit 9/22/2015: So I had my one month follow up yesterday and I’m seeing 20/15! That’s better than “perfect”! The doctor said my eyes look fantastic and I can now use regular eye drops instead of the annoying preservative-free drops. Woohoo!