One of the biggest miracles I have personally witnessed thus far in life, is the gift of perfect eyesight. I chose to have LASIK back in 2011 and it was the most difficult, yet BEST decision of my life. Let me start by telling you about one of my fears: if someone wanted to kidnap or kill me… all they would’ve had to do was steal my glasses while I slept. I WAS BLIND.
This blog post is about my experience as a LASIK patient, and honestly I am no expert in ophthalmology. If you have specific medical questions regarding the procedure, consult with an ophthalmologist.
I was a medical student at the time, living in Columbus, OH. Luckily, I had access to an amazing panel of ophthalmologists that worked for The Ohio State University, where I was a student. I knew I wanted LASIK for a while, but the thought of a laser cutting into my eyeball scared the living daylight out of me! Truthfully, I’ve never been a fan of eyes, even as a doctor.
The process of finding the right doctor is crucial. I needed someone not just to fix my eyes, but coach me through the process. We’ve talked about this before… I am not the most ideal patient! Since I had friends in the field, they recommended someone and I knew he was the one the first time I met him. Dr. Amit Tandon was my LASIK surgeon and he definitely made the experience 100 times better than it could’ve been with a less personable and understanding physician.
In the time leading up to the procedure, I went through a series of tests to determine if I was a good candidate. The cornea needs to be thick enough to tolerate shaving off some layers (hope you’re not eating as you read this). Typically the eyesight should also be stable for a couple of years, to make the procedure worthwhile. Lucky for me, I passed all of the tests somehow!
As a medical student, I was lucky enough to be able to shadow the procedure. This definitely helped with my anxiety surrounding the actual steps of the surgery. I remember going on a cruise in the weeks prior to my surgery, as a celebration for finishing my Step 1 USMLE test, and I had to wear my glasses (they ask you to do this prior to your surgery) which I hated. That was when I said goodbye to my insanely thick Steve Urkel lenses!
What I started with
I wore glasses for nearsightedness as long as I could remember, and my prescription would worsen every year. Before I knew it, my glasses seemed to be an inch thick! I couldn’t see out of them well, so I wore contacts as much as I could. Over time my eyes became super irritated and dry with my contact lenses, and it was miserable. I tried drops, plugs, everything. I was a chronic studier and whether I wore my contacts or my glasses, I just couldn’t see very well.
For those of you that can relate, my prescription was -8.00 in both eyes. For those of you that have no idea what that means… it’s BAD.
Many patients with severely poor eyesight are not candidates for LASIK. Of course it depends on a multitude of factors but the worse your eyesight is, the less likely you will have a perfect result. I chose to ignore this. My doctor was confident, although he did warn me that we may not reach a perfect end result. Anything to me was better than the terrible eyesight I was dealing with.
Luckily I was given some valium prior to the procedure, it was necessary for me to sit still and keep my eyes open while a laser blazed through them! They place a suction cup-type device around your eye (like a BP cuff for the eye) and it hardens the surface so that the laser can make a clean cut. That part terrified me because it can temporarily occlude the artery and make your vision go dark. It doesn’t cause any lasting damage, but it scared me. So much so that I kept tensing up and it would pop off of my eye, which terrified me more! Once I got past that part it was smooth sailing and the procedure was totally painless. Overall it was quick, easy, and I was up and laughing within a few minutes.
I expected this part to be easy, because most patients I had spoken with said it was “painless and easy”. Unfortunately this part was not painless for me. After the procedure my eyes were very sensitive to light, which is typical. I wore big, thick sunglasses out and it helped. I forgot to bring my Tylenol PM to the procedure with me however, so by the time my dad got me home my eyes were on fire. It took a while to work with the pain being so severe, but once I fell asleep the most painful part was over. I’m told by many that this was not their experience, so it probably had something to do with my severe near sightedness. Below is raw, unfiltered footage of me immediately post-LASIK… before the fire in my eyes set in!
When I woke up a few hours later I could sort of see without glasses, but it was still very blurry. The average LASIK patient says they have perfect vision at this point. Again, not my experience. Over the next few days my vision became better and better, but I had trouble seeing up close; the reverse of what I had dealt with prior to the surgery. There was a short period of time in which I actually wore reading glasses. It seemed like my eyes were changing little by little, everyday. The typical story of patients being back to work and perfect within a day just wasn’t part of my journey.
I started my third year of medical school a few days after my procedure and my first rotation was internal medicine, so there was a lot of reading, note taking, and rounding on patients. I experienced headaches with my vision changes and went through a period of days where I felt like maybe I made a mistake. Dr. Tandon was super encouraging and remained optimistic, which helped of course. It took a period of weeks before I was able to ditch the reading glasses and all of a sudden noticed that my vision was pretty perfect!
LASIK Side Effects
My vision is fabulous in bright light/daylight however I do notice less clarity at night time. I have large pupils at baseline and in a dark setting, pupils dilate. I knew that a starburst or halo appearance around lighting at night was a potential likely side effect for me, because of my pupil size. While it has improved over the years, I still notice some of these effects at night. It doesn’t bother me unless I’m driving in a very dark area that I am unfamiliar with. There are eye drops that improve these symptoms, but I choose not to use them on a regular basis.
Dry eyes are another very common side effect of LASIK. I noticed this was moderate to severe for me after the procedure but has greatly improved over the years. I used to carry artificial tears with me and use them throughout the day, but I now only need them in the morning. Depending on the weather, I will notice increased dryness, but nothing that artificial tears can’t improve.
LASIK in hindsight
Overall, I had an interesting and slightly unusual experience with LASIK, unlike many others. I can still say that I am so grateful to have been given the gift of perfect eye sight! The past 10 years have been so much easier and more comfortable without the added stress of glasses or contacts. I still have 20/20 vision in both eyes, and only wear blue-light blocking glasses at night and sometimes at work. If you’re thinking about LASIK, my biggest piece of advice is to find a doctor that you LOVE. Don’t go for the “good deal”. When undergoing any elective procedure, you should feel comfortable and encouraged by your physician, never pressured. Also good news… it’s 2020 and there are many other vision correcting options available as well!
Have you had LASIK? Thinking about it? Send all your questions and comments my way!