My Lasik Experience

After 20 years of needing to wear glasses and contacts, I have decided to get Lasik and finally do away with them. I researched for weeks on what it is, how it works, what to expect, as well as other people’s personal experience with Lasik to help me decide if this was something that I did indeed want to pursue. Since so many people have posted their experience of their procedure that helped me, I thought I would contribute for anyone who is in the same place I was when I first started.

8/2/2013:

Today was my initial consultation to determine whether I was a candidate for the surgery. I went to White Eye Associates in Greenville, NC to see Jeffrey J. Viscardi, MD. When I scheduled the appointment they informed me of what I needed to do to prepare for initial consultation. The main thing they told me, since I wear soft contacts, to make sure I take them out at least three days PRIOR to the consultation. Just to be sure I took them out immediately and wore contacts for a little over a month. Going that long wasn’t necessary but I did it anyway.

The day of the initial consultation, I arrived at 1:00pm for my appointment was taken back right on time. The first thing they did was take a picture of my eyes. This consisted of sitting in a chair in a dark room with my eyes looking directly at a camera. Once those images were taken I was led into another room where my history was reviewed. I have been near-sighted for 20 years with no other problems/injuries which could potentially eliminate me as a candidate. Dr. Viscardi came in and went through what the options were and demonstrated on a model of an eye what each procedure did and how it corrects poor vision. I’ll let you look up the differences since I would only cause more confusion trying to explain it. He was very detailed and informed me that this procedure, while it has been highly successful, there was no guarantee that this will give me perfect vision. He made sure I understood that risk before he even asked whether this is what I wanted to do. I felt he was more concerned about making sure I was a good candidate as opposed to “making another sell.”

After we talked, he sent me for further tests which including numbing up my eyes to get the pressure as well as check the cornea thickness. Being a contact wearer for many years, having things touching my eye was a breeze and did not feel a thing. My eyes were then dilated and led to a small waiting room (which held a max of six people and I was the seventh). I was able to find a seat shortly after being led there and waited for my eyes to dilate. I was told it would take 20-30 minutes before they could do more tests. I had taken the entire day off of work and I didn’t make any plans for the afternoon since my eyes would be dilated and there is nothing that I would be able to actually do. I sat there for an hour waiting which I didn’t really get upset about it (I did make a few humorous jokes about it with another woman in the waiting room) since I had taken the day off.

By the time I got called back into the exam room, it was about 2:45 pm, where I was asked to read the letter off the chart with my perscription like I did pre-dilated to see if my vision was stable. Dr. Viscardi came back in to examine my eyes now that they were dilated and said I was a perfect candidate and asked if I had any questions. Of course my question is the same question I’m sure everyone going into this surgery: How long will it take for my eyes to recover? More specifically, how long will it be before I can return to work. He informed me that he sees no reason (if everything goes well) that I couldn’t be back to work the following week (surgeries are done on Thursdays) or even Friday if I feel up to it. I decided that I was going back to work the following Monday so I can carry over my vacation days.

After making my decision to go forward with the surgery, I went to actually schedule the appointment. I decided to go for the first available Thursday which happened to be the following Thursday, August 8, 2013. Once this was established, we went over cost and what to expect the day of the surgery. I was given a prescription for a couple of medications (I won’t mention the exact drugs) and was told to have them filled and not to take them prior to my appointment. They told me to take them with me to the appointment and they would then advise me when to take them. They also informed me I would need to bring someone who could drive me home after the procedure. After the surgery I was to go home, keeping my eyes closed the entire time. I am to take a nap for several hours to give my eyes time to heal. That seemed consistent with other’s experiences that I have read online. It was at this point where this conversation began to diverge from what I was expecting. The medication they are giving me are very strong and will most likely put me right out when I get home however, to add an interesting twist to this part I have to have eye drops added to my eyes every hour and I would likely be able to do it myself since the medications they give me will knock me out. OK. To summarize, I need to sleep for several hours, make sure I wake up every hour to add drops, go back to sleep and repeat for the next six hours. Did I mention I have trouble sleeping and I need to take medication to help me sleep through the night? Yeah, not looking forward to that part but I have to accept that as a necessity to get my desired result.

So, with appointment made, I was told the price and was sent on my way. I left and drove home eyes still dilated which wasn’t too difficult since I lived less then a half mile away from the place and was able to take residential routes (or the “back way” here) to reach my house avoiding heavy traffic in the process.

Now I make sure everything around the house is taken care of before my surgery so I don’t have to worry about it afterwards. I will update more after the surgery once my eyes feel up to it.

 

8-8-13: Day of surgery

Today was the day of the surgery. I got to the office around 10:00 am where I was first taken back to handle the financial stuff before the surgery since I would be heavily medicated and was sent back to the waiting room. Five minutes later I was called back and put in an exam room. It was then they had me sign a paper giving them permission to operate on my eyes and I was given two Valium. I had never had it before so I didn’t know what to expect. The nurse said it would take about 20-30 minutes to kick in and to wait until someone brought me to the operating room.

I was waiting for about 15 minutes and I could already tell the medication was starting to kick in. I was led to the operating room and laid down flat on a table with a device over my head. I had hoped to be a little more detailed with my experience but the medications made it difficult for me to remember everything. I will do my best to provide as much detail as I can.

The procedure started with a device that attaches to your eye through suction to prevent eye motions during the surgery. Reading other’s experiences prior to the surgery I knew that there was going to be a clamp to hold my eye lids open throughout the procedure so I had prepared myself for that.

I saw a green light that I was told to stare at but I also noticed some small red dots scattered around the green light in no particular order. I made a comment about it but I wasn’t really concerned but I guess it was my attempt at conversation. I do not remember if anyone responded to that but it really didn’t matter. I knew with the cutting started by the sound and by what I saw. It is true when the cutting occurs, the vision in that eye goes dark for about two seconds which I was prepared for and didn’t really scare me. It was more interesting than concerning.

I heard the laser which lasted around 25-30 seconds and did notice the slight burning smell which did not smell badly nor was I concerned (could be the medications). The other eye was done and I was led out of the room.

Like I said, I don’t remember the surgery from start to finish but I do remember some things. Everything had been taken care of prior to the surgery so I was free to walk straight out the door and go home.

I was advised to keep my eyes closed for the ride home and I was to take my medication and sleep as much as I could. If I couldn’t sleep, I was to keep my eyes closed. When I got home I was still somewhat out of it from the medication and went straight to bed. An hour after I came home, I was to apply eye drops and to continue applying eye drops every hour. This made sleep very difficult for someone, like myself, who already has problems sleeping without the assistance of my sleeping medication.

I didn’t have any pain after the surgery and when I opened my eyes, my vision was very clear. Some have said they experienced a haze after their surgeries but I did not notice any afterwards. I could tell right away my vision had already surpassed my expectation and had to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes closed as long as possible. So for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, I kept the TV on but kept my eyes closed until it was time to sleep that night. Prior to me going to sleep that night, I had to start adding other drops to my eyes that I believe are antibiotics but not 100% sure and use those four times a day for a week. The strong pain medication I was given was not needed after the initial dose shortly after the surgery and I haven’t experienced any major pain except for some slight pressure which I believe is from the strain on my eyes from not having rested them as much. This pressure went away if I laid with my eyes closed for 30 minutes or so.

 

8-9-13: Day 2

I woke up around the same time as I usually do 4:00 am and still had clear vision. No blurriness, pain, or irritation. My eyes were slightly dry but that was the case before the surgery so I can’t say it was a result of the surgery. I had the 24 hour follow-up at 8:00 am where my eyes were checked to see if they were healing fine. I was called into the exam room where they displayed the reading chart and I was able to read all the lines that were shown which corresponded to 20/20 vision in both eyes. I was very excited to have had a flawless surgery and responding with absolutely no problems what-so-ever. Dr. Viscardi took a close look at my eyes and said everything looked perfect and to check back in a week. That was it. I was free to go.

Now, there have been some small side-effects which usually comes with the surgery which is my night vision. I do see star bursts at night and a fuzzy halo around street lights, however these are not very distracting and hasn’t negatively impacted my vision at night (though to be fair my night vision wasn’t great to begin with). As I look out my window at 10:00 pm Friday night, I can tell the car model of every car that drives by so that should tell you how little my vision has been impacted.

So far, I am very happy I had this done and I’m even happier that I did not have any problems. I can see perfectly both distance and close up.

I must state that even though I did not have any problems with my surgery, everyone is different. If you decide to go through with it, make sure you don’t set your expectations too high. My highest expectation was to have good enough sight to be able to drive without corrective lenses, even if it meant with slightly less than perfect vision. My current results surpassed my expectations and I’m very happy and do not regret it one bit.

After a couple of paragraphs on the computer my eyes are starting to get a little tired so I will sign off for now and will be back on in the morning hoping to get back to work ASAP.

More will come as time goes by.

 

8-10-13: Day 3

Nothing has changed with my vision; I’m still seeing at 20/20. I still have to rest my eyes a couple of times a day when I’m on my computer for a length of time. I still have some issues with my night vision relating to lights but it isn’t bad and not enough to upset me any. I found I can live with this level though I think as time goes by it will become better so I will be patient. I feel well enough to go back to work Monday and do not anticipate any problems. I hope this is as helpful as some of the other stories I read prior to the surgery that led me to my decision.

 

8-15-13: One Week

So far everything has been going well. In my reading prior to the surgery I noticed that a lot of people said their vision change day-to-day some days being a little blurry or hazy to clear the next day. I can say my vision has not changed at all since the surgery which I never expected based on other’s experiences. I’ve been working every day this week without any limitations and day-time driving hasn’t been affected at all. The only thing that I’ve noticed is my night-time driving is pretty much gone for now. One of the side-effects was starburts which can be distracting under certain circumstances. To better explain this, the size of the starburst from the headlights of cars at night (sometimes even during the day) is 4 times larger than the light actually is. So when you pass a car on the road, all you see is the headlights. I knew this going into the surgery and was prepared for this which is why I’m not that disappointed or angry. If you frequently drive at night, this will be a problem for you and you should take that into consideration beforehand.

Otherwise, I am absolutely satisfied with the surgery. From not feeling any pain from beginning to now was a huge shock to me. I imagined at some point during the procedure I would freak out at least just a little, but I barely remember what happened and by what I was told I only said two things both were attempts to be funny which is normal for me. Now my experience went absolutely perfect but I would be wrong in stating that your results will be similar. Dr. Viscardi was professional and fully informed me on what to expect and was put at ease.

Tomorrow is the one week follow-up and as long as everything looks good physically with my eyes I expect to have another excellent visit.

 

8-31-13: Update

I thought my vision was pretty good a week ago but now things seem even clearer which I didn’t think was possible (this is a good thing). I still have a couple of minor inconveniences though nothing major. First, the starbursts are still there which makes night driving pretty much impossible which isn’t a big concern. During my research prior to the surgery I read that this was a common issue and I planned accordingly. I haven’t had to drive at night yet however as morning light comes later in the morning, things will become more difficult on my morning commute.

Second, I do see halos from time-to-time but they are so minor that I don’t even notice them unless I am looking for them. I consider this a non-issue.

Third, morning dryness is still ongoing but I had the same problem prior to the surgery so I can’t say that the surgery was the cause of my dry eyes. When I wake up I have to add drops to my eyes and after that I do not experience the dryness for the rest of the day which is great since I work in a dry cleanroom.

Finally, late at night my eyes become a little tired and I start noticing a slight reduction in vision mainly in my left eye but it is not bad enough to become a problem. Honestly, it is no worse than the contacts I use to wear.

So why did I decide to post so soon? I came across the LASIK Complications site and I wanted to address the issues they brought up. Before I go into any more details, the purpose of this isn’t to correct what they have posted but rather compare the issues they mentioned and compare it with my experience. I want to make it clear that the issues they bring up are known risks and most of the time could be avoided.

1. LASIK causes dry eye 
Dry eye is the most common complication of LASIK. Corneal nerves that are responsible for tear production are severed when the flap is cut. Medical studies have shown that these nerves never return to normal densities and patterns. Symptoms of dry eye include pain, burning, foreign body sensation, scratchiness, soreness and eyelid sticking to the eyeball. The FDA website warns that LASIK-induced dry eye may be permanent. Approximately 20% of patients in FDA clinical trials experienced “worse” or “significantly worse” dry eyes at six months after LASIK.

-I have addressed my dryness already so I won’t go into any more details however what they mention is something I experienced right after the surgery but got better in a few days.

2. LASIK results in loss of visual quality 
LASIK patients have more difficulty seeing detail in dim light (loss of contrast sensitivity) and experience an increase in visual distortion at night (multiple images, halos, and starbursts). A published review of data for FDA-approved lasers found that six months after LASIK, 17.5 percent of patients report halos, 19.7 percent report glare (starbursts), 19.3 percent report night-driving problems and 21 percent complain of eye dryness. The FDA website warns that patients with large pupils may suffer from debilitating visual symptoms at night. 

-To some degree this is something that I experience but not to the level that it majorly impacts my life. Dim lights make it more difficult to read and see with high quality but it’s not blinding. Most likely this is something that someone who does the surgery will experience and prior to making the decision, make sure you are prepared for the risk and prepare for it to alter your life if you are someone that will drive at nights.

3. The cornea is incapable of complete healing after LASIK 
The flap never heals. Researchers found that the tensile strength of the LASIK flap is only 2.4% of normal cornea.(2) LASIK flaps can be surgically lifted or accidentally dislodged for the remainder of a patient’s life. The FDA website warns that patients who participate in contact sports are not good candidates for LASIK.

-I knew this was another side-effect prior and while in the past I have played contact sports I don’t plan to do so in the future so this was not something that I really was concerned with. My boss elected to go with the PRK simply because he does participates in contact sports and was worried that the flap would dislodge. I recommend taking this into consideration.

I skip number 4 because this is speculative and I haven’t had a personal experience with this yet.

5. Bilateral simultaneous LASIK is not in patients’ best interest 
In a 2003 survey of American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) members, 91% of surgeons who responded did not offer patients the choice of having one eye done at a time. Performing LASIK on both eyes in the same day places patients at risk of vision loss in both eyes, and denies patients informed consent for the second eye. The FDA website warns that having LASIK on both eyes at the same time is riskier than having two separate surgeries.

-While this may be true, this goes back to what I have been saying the entire time which is make absolutely sure you are a good candidate and fully understand that there are risk to any surgery and be willing to accept the result whether good or bad before proceeding.

6. Serious complications of LASIK may emerge later 
The medical literature contains numerous reports of late-onset LASIK complications such as loss of the cornea due to biomechanical instability, inflammation resulting in corneal haze, flap dislocation, epithelial ingrowth, and retinal detachment.(8) The LASIK flap creates a permanent portal in the cornea for microorganisms to penetrate, exposing patients to lifelong increased risk of sight-threatening corneal infection. Complications may emerge weeks, months, or years after seemingly successful LASIK.

-This goes back to what I was saying before. Understand that this procedure is still relatively new and long-term studies are scarce so the long-term risk are still unknown. Make sure you are willing to accept the consequence of the surgery. In my opinion, I was willing to take the risk and it was successful but it could have easily gone the other way. Give this serious thought before proceeding.

7. LASIK does not eliminate the need for glasses 
Since LASIK does not eliminate the need for reading glasses after the age of 40 and studies show that visual outcomes of LASIK decline over time,(10) LASIK patients will likely end up back in glasses – sometimes sooner rather than later.

-Through prior research I knew this was another risk however when framed as something that happens regardless of have the surgery that the risk was the same without. If I’m going to need glasses as I age anyway, why worry about that now. Nothing I can do to stop it.

8. The true rate of LASIK complications is unknown 
There is no clearinghouse for reporting of LASIK complications. Moreover, there is no consensus among LASIK surgeons on the definition of a complication. The FDA allowed laser manufacturers to hide complications reported by LASIK patients in clinical trials by classifying dry eyes and night vision impairment as “symptoms” instead of complications.

-Once again, this goes back to you being willing to accept any complications that may arise. There are thousands of sources on the internet about LASIK and other’s experiences both good and bad. Take the time to research.

9. Rehabilitation options after LASIK are limited 
LASIK is irreversible, and treatment options for complications are extremely limited. Hard contact lenses may provide visual improvement if the patient can obtain a good fit and tolerate lenses. The post-LASIK contact lens fitting process can be time consuming, costly and ultimately unsuccessful. Many patients eventually give up on hard contacts and struggle to function with impaired vision. In extreme cases, a corneal transplant is the last resort and does not always result in improved vision.

-Starting to notice a pattern? This has not been an issue for me but it doesn’t mean that it won’t apply to me in the future. Know the risks.

10. Safer alternatives to LASIK exist 
Some leading surgeons have already abandoned LASIK for surface treatments, such as PRK, which do not involve cutting a corneal flap. It is important to remember that LASIK is elective surgery. There is no sound medical reason to risk vision loss from unnecessary surgery. Glasses and contact lenses are the safest alternatives.

-While I would like to see the numbers on the first part of this statement, I can’t say it isn’t true but since it doesn’t apply to my story I won’t address it. As for safer alternatives, this is dead on. This applies to many things in life. In skydiving, it would be safer to stay on the ground and not jump hoping the parachute works. In stock car racing, it would be safer to watch the race on TV and not actually drive one. In football, it’s safer to be in the stands than on the field.

Update 9/6/13:

Almost one month later and I still do not regret making this decision. Night driving is still out of the question but otherwise I feel fine, my vision is clearer than it ever has been before and the side effects (which aren’t that many) are waning. Starbursts still continue to be the main issue which does not impair my life. I don’t know if other people who have expressed concerns afterwards have it worse than I do but I don’t really see how this impacts their daily activities. Yes, I wouldn’t consider them insignificant and yes they do pose a slight inconvenience with regard to night driving or other night activities but I’m not  blind. I don’t mean this as an insult to those who have this issue but their expectations must be perfect vision right away without any imperfections. From the day after the surgery, other than night driving, I’ve pretty much been unlimited in the things I could do.

I guess to summarize my experience: I went in with reasonable expectations, researched the procedure thoroughly prior to the initial consultation, I had my questions ready for the doctor, I made plans for time off at work and let my supervisor know exactly what I was doing (he had the same procedure a year ago so he understood what my limitations could be), and I made sure that I was ready for the recovery process so I wouldn’t be scrambling around trying to get everything done. If you are considering Lasik and are on the fence, do what I did and schedule a consultation (usually free) to see if you qualify and ask any questions you may have. Dr. Viscardi was very nice and thorough with the examination so I felt comfortable come the day of the surgery. I had read what to expect the day of the surgery with all the details of what you see. I was a little nervous about it and wondered if I could make it through. The funny thing now is I remember very little about the procedure itself even to this day I don’t remember the majority of it. To be honest, after all the reading and getting worked up, I’m a little disappointed now that I couldn’t see for myself what it was like and because of that not being able to share that experience that others have. To some this might be a good thing.

I wrote this with information I was looking for when I was considering Lasik in hopes that someone with their decision.

Update 9/30/13:

A quick update, not much has changed over the past month. A couple of things I noticed is a strong correlation between my vision and my energy level. I’m sure there is a better medical description than that but since I don’t have the knowledge in that department I am going to have to make due without. To start I still have dry eyes in the mornings and long exposure time to the computer but the drops work well to relieve them in those situations. I’m using less drops than I did right after the surgery maybe using them only 2-3 times a day.

If I wake really tired in the morning, the starburst that I experience are more noticeable and towards the end of the day when I’m tired. This does not impact my vision during the day or indoors. The main problem comes in when I’m driving at night where I’m fine driving when there are no lights around where light is emanating from such as street lights, headlights, and stoplights. My vision isn’t impacted by seeing my headlights shine on objects in front of me or any light reflecting off of objects. While it’s something I still accept as a risk it has started getting in the way of doing some of the things I would normally do after dark especially now that winter is closely arriving.

As of today, I still say it was worth it.

Update 4/4/14:

It has been a while since my last update and I just want to recap everything that has been happening over the past few months. When I went back for the follow-up in January, my vision was 20/15 in the right eye and 20/30 in the left eye. I could tell that the left one seemed a little out of focus especially when I was tired. I was then scheduled to have the eye touched up which was two months away at that time. It wasn’t that much of an issue and I was happy with the situation and just went along with my everyday task. Truthfully the difference wasn’t that bad and most of the time I never noticed it but since I paid for the best vision possible and the touch up was already covered in the first payment I decided to have it done again.

I had worked out a schedule to allow some time off of work to have the procedure done. Unlike the last time, I only decided to take a few hours off. I went into work early that morning worked a good 7 hours, met up with the person who was going to be driving, and headed off to the appointment. Nothing different this time take two of these and wait 20 minutes. Once again the medication didn’t take too long to work. I remember a little more about this one than the last but not much more. This time they didn’t have to cut, just lift the flap. I was not really aware of what was going on around me at the time but I do remember feeling the pressure on my eye when they started working on it. I would have thought that would have been a bad experience but truthfully, even though I felt it, it wasn’t painful and knowing what I know now I would even hesitate to have it done again if I needed to.

Just like the first time, I went home and slept for the rest of the day which was nice coming off of a seven hour shift. The next morning I was up and drove to work for a full eight hour shift. That is how simple the procedure was. I worked seven hours on Thursday, had the procedure Thursday afternoon after work, and was back to work Friday morning on time (yes, I was able to drive great).

The next day at the check-up, my vision in my left eye was 20/15 and I haven’t had any problems with it since. I expected to experience some of the same side effects that I did immediately after the first procedure but I haven’t experienced them and if it hasn’t been a problem by now I don’t think it will.

So where do I stand today? I have perfect vision. During the day it’s amazing how clear everything is and I can see things clearly from a great distance. My night vision has gotten a little better but I still experience the starbursts and really bright lights at night are distracting. It does not disable me from seeing at night. After a while you just get used to it. I am to the point that if I’m not specifically looking for them, I won’t notice them. This may be a deal breaker for some and I fully understand that position. For me, what I gained from this procedure is worth the minor (in my opinion) side effects.

I give this experience and the great work that was done by my doctor a success and would do it again even with what I know now.

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