Cindy had another LASIK follow up appointment this past week. Everything looks good so far and the both of us are happy and relieved. But we thought we would share, in more detail, the entire LASIK process and some of the things we wish we had known.
Consultations: The first step in the LASIK process is the consultations. Many companies offer free consultations where they do a few tests to determine if you are a good candidate for LASIK or not. This is, arguably, the most important step in the entire LASIK process. Ever since Cindy started wearing Ortho-K lenses (since 6th grade), she was set on getting LASIK when she was old enough. Admittedly, we did not spend a lot of time doing our research. We went with her Ortho-K optometrist’s referral and did not have any second thoughts or opinions. Fortunately, her LASIK surgeon is renowned and experienced and Cindy feels comfortable with all her pre/post-op doctors. However, we 100% believe anyone considering LASIK should get in a few consultations and really make sure they are a good candidate for the surgery. Online research is simply not enough, and even the most well-intentioned providers have an incentive to sell you their product.
Things to do to Prep for Surgery: In order to make sure your corneas are their natural, normal shape, you are not allowed to wear contacts for at least about 3 days prior to surgery. Since Cindy had Ortho-K lenses, she had to stop wearing those lenses for at least 6 months. The time from when she stopped wearing her Ortho-K lenses to surgery day was just a little under a year. In the thick of the process it seemed like a long time, but looking back it was not that long. The length of time definitely tempted us to rush the process and get it done and over with. Looking back, it wasn’t even a whole year and we could’ve waited and, like we mentioned earlier, gone to a few more consultations just to be extra safe and sure.
Surgery Day: On surgery day, Cindy had a few tests done just to make sure all the numbers were consistent and her eyes were in good health. If your eyes are still changing shape, it isn’t a good idea to proceed with the surgery. When we checked in, the front desk gave Cindy a huge consent packet. We read the first few pages but, admittedly, did not read through the entire packet. Looking back, we really should have read through the packet because it details all the possible risks and complications. It’s just nice to be fully informed.
The Surgery: Much of this information can be found online in more detail. But like everyone says, the surgery is really fast– around 15 minutes total for Cindy. During the first half of the surgery, a machine suctions your eye in place while the surgeon cuts a flap around your eye. During this part of the surgery, you have to stare at a focal point while the surgeon cuts your eye. You don’t feel any pain, but you may feel the pressure from the cutting. Then you are moved to the actual laser machine. The laser is programmed with all your test numbers and it shaves off part of the cornea. It smells like burning hair while it’s shaving. Because the laser never actually points into your eye, you can’t go blind from the laser.
Post Surgery: You can see results immediately after the surgery. Cindy remembers seeing her doctor’s face and all the laser machines, all of which was blurry when she first stepped in the room. Because we live an hour away from where we did the surgery, Cindy’s anesthetic was starting to wear off during the drive home. And the pain was real. It stung and burned and she could not stop tearing. But once she got home, she popped a sleeping pill she was prescribed and slept for about 6 hours. She woke up to eat dinner with Jake, who had been off doing his own thing the entire time she was out. By this time, the pain was gone. After dinner, she popped a second sleeping pill and slept till the next day.
Day After Surgery: The day after surgery, we were both pretty amazed at how clearly Cindy could see. Still, full recovery takes time. Her vision was pretty hazy and her left eye was a bit blurry. At the follow up appointment, we found out that her right eye was already at 20/20 and her left eye was at 20/40. Her eyes were extremely dry and stung. It’s a little unsettling to not be able to see 100% clearly the day after surgery, but the doctors do tell you that your eyes may take a while to heal and it may take a few weeks or even months for your vision to improve.
Three Weeks Post Surgery: At the three week post-op appointment, Cindy found out her left eye had improved to about 20/32. However, she developed epithelial ingrowth, which a pretty rare complication. This condition happens when epithelial cells find their way under the surgical flap (where they shouldn’t be) and begin to grow.
Six Weeks Post Surgery: At this most recent appointment, Cindy’s left eye had improved to about 20/25 and her epithelial ingrowth seemed contained. Luckily the ingrowth isn’t affecting her vision and she isn’t feeling any side effects from it.
Side Effects: The only side effects she’s really experienced are halos at night. But they are small and don’t impair her ability to drive. We are fortunate and happy that since the first day after surgery, she hasn’t experienced any severe dry eye symptoms. She also does not experience any sun sensitivity.
What we wish we had known or considered:
We don’t regret the surgery at all, but this entire process has made us realize many of the LASIK surgery stories we have heard in person or read online take the surgery lightly. Surgery on your eyes is still surgery. And while most people don’t have any complications, complications that do happen can really affect your quality of life.
The first thing on the FDA’s “When is LASIK not for me?” page is: you don’t like risks. And we joke that we should have read this. Because while we have good news now, we were a little worried of all the what-ifs. And if we are being honest, Cindy is not really someone who likes risk.
Because LASIK changes the shape of your corneas, pressure readings for Glaucoma testing will be affected. Additionally, it can also affect Cataract surgeries. It’s just important to have a record of your files from before and after the surgery so any future procedures or diagnoses can take this fact into account.
During the process, we felt this urgency to get it all done with. But that urgency was self-made. It’s important to slow down, take your time, and do your research.