What it’s Like to Get Laser Eye Surgery

Have you been thinking about ditching the contacts and glasses and taking the leap to get LASIK? I feel that. After most of my life in contact lenses I made the rogue decision to optionally let someone shoot lasers in my eyeballs. Terrifying, right? Well I’m happy to share the experience in case you’re internally wrestling with the decision…

[Obvs I am not a Doctor and this is not professional advice; just my own experience. Talk to your doctor before undergoing any surgery.]

I’d thought about it for some time but, valuing my vision, I’d been far too nervous to even make an appointment. After all, I couldn’t get the “but what if I go blind” thought out of my head. That was until I moved to America and the price of my contact lenses tripled compared to the convenient and affordable service I had in the UK (I miss you, Specsavers!). I also couldn’t buy the same brand of oxygen loving lenses in the US and was forced to buy something I could almost always feel moving around on my eyeball… so I decided to do some research into laser eye surgery.

Contrary to my fears, I couldn’t find evidence that this procedure was going wrong a lot and blinding folks. I read reviews and asked people in my area for recommendations for which places to go to. And that’s how I ended up going for a consultation at The Mann Eye Institute. (No sponsored ad here – just genuine experience.)

CONSULTATION

With my consultation came a thorough (around 45mins – 1hr) set of examinations, photographs inside my eye, and the usual “which line can you read?”… I never know if it’s a D or an O… an F or a P… tricky little test. And there’s always that “Does it look better with lens 1 or 2? 3 or 4?” If you know, you know. And at the end, I was deemed to be a good candidate for LASIK (I’m told the thickness of your cornea is key).

I asked a million questions… Will it hurt? Can I go blind? Will I need reading glasses instead? How long is recovery time? And anything else I could think of. Oh and of course – the price. At the time of my consultation (February 2022) the price for advanced LASIK (most common) was $5,700. Eeek, right?! With a discount from a recent deal and a hefty contribution from my healthcare (thank you health benefits), I decided it was within my reach and would save me money in the long run.

BEFORE

Before the surgery I had to be out of my contact lenses for a week and attend all my work Zoom meetings in glasses no-one had ever seen me wear. At my pre-op appointment I had more screens and scans to determine what needed correcting. I paid my portion of the cost so that I couldn’t chicken out, and then spent the next couple of days Googling videos and pictures of the LASIK procedure… y’know – just to add to my anxiety.

DURING

Numbing eye drops, ibuprofen, and Valium. I’d never taken Valium before; they told me it was like feeling drunk. After sitting in the waiting room for 20mins for that to kick in, I didn’t feel quite as tipsy as I was promised so, they gave me more. Fab. I lay on the bed in the operating room with my head on a pillow and machines above me. You stare at a dot, and feel some pressure like someone is pushing on your eye. I didn’t love that part and grabbed the hand of an unsuspecting nurse who definitely had an actual job to do that didn’t involve having her hand crushed. The whole thing was over in around 5 minutes.

Some people told me I’d smell something… and lasers don’t smell… so it would be my eyeball being zapped. I didn’t smell anything. I thank the Valium for that.

AFTER

I was led out into the waiting room with eye guards and some free sunglasses, into the arms of my responsible driver for the day who took me home. I talked complete nonsense on the drive (I wish he’d filmed it) and my bravery was rewarded with a Sonic milkshake and Coney. Worst part? I don’t remember a thing about that delicious treat. Wasted calories. I went straight to sleep for 4 hours and then started eye drops every two hours once awake. You sleep with attractive eye guards for a week, wear sunglasses outside, and keep those drops flowing to avoid dry eyes. No eye make-up for around 5-7 days after though so don’t make plans that involve mascara.

I wasn’t feeling any pain or the scratchy sandpaper feeling I’d heard some other people talk about.

Afterwards there’s also lots of follow up appointments to check you’re healing well and, y’know – can see things. My vision was 20/15 the next day and I was told it only gets better. You may see some light halos at night… and when you age, you will probably still need reading glasses. The LASIK doesn’t make that happen – it just happens as it already would.

Would I do it again?

Yeah. Yeah, I would. It was a scary thought and an anxiety-inducing procedure, but it’s over before you know it and it’s so weird (but in the best way) to be able to see immediately when you wake up. I wish I’d done it before I went travelling – you should’ve seen the giant bag of contact lenses we had to lug with us. It’s still only been a few weeks but I’ll definitely update if my eyes start hating their life.

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