Monday, September 10, 2007

Seeing The World With New (LASIK) Eyes

I first looked into LASIK nearly three years ago. I went to a mass-market cattle-car operation and was turned off. After that experience I decided I could live just fine with extended wear contacts.

This year my eyes stopped tolerating extended wear and I was back to daily wear. With my constant travel and exercise, juggling glasses and contacts became a major hassle. The final straw was last week in San Francisco when I went out partying and passed out had milk and cookies and fell asleep in my contacts. After peeling them off in the morning it took me 15 minutes to find my glasses, which I had to wear all day since my eyes couldn't tolerate new contacts for another day or so. That was it, I was ready for a lifestyle change.

This time I went to my private opthomologist, who offers the service but at a higher price than the mass-market guys (obviously). He spent a good 20 minutes going over the pluses, minuses and risks. I pulled the trigger and scheduled the operation for Friday. Since I was nervous, I asked him if they could give me a mild sedative before the procedure, which he said they usually do anyway.

I showed up on Friday and a nice nurse gave me a Valium AND a Xanax. Together. At the same time. This was supposed to be "mild". I then got a smock over my hair and a few series of eyedrops and was lead into the operating room.

I had all-laser, "custom cornea" LASIK, which has two steps: cutting a "porthole" flap in the cornea with a laser, and then the actual sculpting of the eye, which uses a different laser. After sculpting the flap is put back in place and takes a few weeks to heal completely.

I will tell you now that the porthole procedure sucks. Even with massive pharmaceuticals in my system it was unpleasant. The procedure puts a suction cup on your eye to hold it place while the laser cuts the porthole. You don't feel anything, but the suction cuts off blood circulation to your eye so your vision "grays out". So you are basically lying there watching yourself go blind in one eye for about 20 seconds. For me it was very unnerving and I hate to think what would have happened if I wasn't on drugs. The good news is that it was over pretty quickly and they rotated me to the other laser for the actual "shaping".

This was not a big deal. I could see throughout the procedure (if a bit blurred) and could actually see the blinking light become more in focus as the laser worked. The part some people might find unsettling is that there is a burning smell in the room as this laser works. I was thinking this was simply ozone being created by the high temperature of the laser, although I guess it could have the smell of my eye cooking as it was lasered away. This step took about 10 seconds per eye.

After each eye was done the flap was put back, and I was done. I got up to get examined, the doctor looked at my eyes, called the procedure a success, and sent me on my way. I was supposed to sleep for 3-4 hours to give my eyes time to rest, which wasn't a problem with the Xanax/Valium combo still going through my system.

I was warned the first 24 hours that I might have "Vaseline over the eyes" vision, and that is what I had. It is caused my corneal swelling from the procedure and takes some time to go down. The next day it was gone for long distance, and lasted another half day for near distance, and had disappeared in time for my post-op check-up 24 hours later.

ResultsNothing less than astounding. The 24 hour checkup had 20/20 in one eye and 20/25 in the other (previously I was over 20/100 in one eye and couldn't see the side of a barn with the other).

What is really jaw dropping is my distant vision. I can clearly see individual leaves in trees that are over 100 yards away. I can tell the models of cars passing through an intersection five blocks away. I wasn't corrected this well in my contacts. It's like walking around with binoculars compared to where I was before, meaning that I am really looking forward to my next outing to the beach.

The close-in vision is obviously good, and I can read the fine print on items that are over an arm's length away, the same as before with contacts, but obviously a lot better with just the naked eyes.

The only negative affect so far is that I have a "starburst" effect from point lights. This was very noticeable the first day, less severe the second, and a lot less today. This is caused by from the flap being cut and is supposed to go down over time as the cornea continues to heal, which seems to be the case so far.

Over the next few weeks I also have a series of drops I need to use religiously to help the healing process and have to sleep in goggles for two weeks to avoid poking myself in the eye while I sleep.

I'll post a one-month update, but so far I have to say that, for me, this was very much worth it and I am extremely happy with the results.

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