Farewell, Four-Eyes: What Google Didn’t Teach Me About LASIK Eye Surgery

My husband and I both recently decided to take the plunge and get LASIK Eye Surgery with the fantastic doctors over at Maida Custom Vision. They had excellent Google reviews, and (as I found out later) it is the place for many NFL Players to get their vision corrected, including the Jacksonville Jaguires. We were in excellent hands.

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My little green blur.

Pre-Lasik, I was near-sighted, meaning I could only see things semi-clearlyish if they were literally within six inches of my face; meanwhile, Jason was far-sighted, meaning he could see things far away clearly (but only if he squinted, like, a lot, which ironically causes astigmatism, so don’t do that), but not up close.

We also were an interesting couple for this “experiment” because our astigmatism was literally opposite each others’ — mine presented as vertical astigmatism, and Jason’s was horizontal in the colorful charts we were shown. Basically, our eyes were polar opposites in every way.

Why did I make the decision to go under the laser?

After one too many contact-induced eye infections (followed by a brutally ugly eye hemorrhage that looked way worse than it felt–yay for being a cyclops for Halloween?) and calling to get my contacts refilled just one or two weeks after my prescription expired yet again, I decided I’d absolutely HAD it with contacts. The risk for an eye infection with contacts is 1 in 100, and I’ve had three major contacts-related issues in the last decade; meanwhile, the estimated risk for an infection with LASIK is 1 in 10000, so I liked those odds better.

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Click me if you want to see the horror of what was behind the purple bangs. It was definitely caused by uncomfortable contacts (though they were new), which is why I decided to finally get LASIK.

My glasses were driving me crazy, constantly falling off my face whenever I would work out, go for a run, look too sharply away from my computer (ostensibly to save my kamikaze cockatiel from our new puppy… or perhaps the puppy from the cockatiel, not sure which).

I was DONE.

Meanwhile, Jason was convinced he wasn’t a contender for LASIK–his astigmatism was too strong, his vision so terrible that he simply wasn’t a candidate (the eye doctor himself literally poked a little fun at him: “Oh, I KNOW why you’d like LASIK,” he chuckled during Jason’s exam).

Jason decided to accompany me for funsies–and it turned out that, with the latest technology, yes, LASIK could help him too!

Things I didn’t know/Google didn’t tell me before I had LASIK:

(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, so if you have any concerns based on these, definitely talk to your actual eye surgeon. Not me. Really. This is just my experience and what I heard, not even necessarily what I was told!)

1. You must cry: the amount of tears you produce matters!

I’m a crier–one of the tests the doctors perform during your initial consultation is a test of how many tears you produce. The test itself is not my favorite–they numb your eye and basically put paper in it until it captures all of your delicious tears in its papery embrace. I’d filled my slip of paper within two minutes, half-ish the length of the test, so they were delighted to squeeze me in for surgery the next day.

Jason, meanwhile, needed some water therapy (dry eyes) and would not be able to have surgery for at least a week or two. Basically, a week or two prior to his surgery, he had to put preservative-free eyedrops (do NOT use any other kind, especially not the kind that clears up redness–they will irritate your eyes) in his eyes four times a day and go to sleep afterward using a gel eyedrop. The doctors also recommended that he take Omega 3 supplements, which apparently make your tears more viscous and nourishing. So, if you’re impatient like I am, that might be a thing to do for a week or two before you head in for your consultation.

2. If you and your partner are going to have it done, probably do it on different days–or have a really, really, really good friend to take care of you.

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Jason after LASIK.

The day of your surgery, you cannot open your eyes for eight hours. Listen to The Hobbit or something if you can’t sleep, though sleeping is better: Heal. This means you have to have someone drive you home, take care of all your various and sundry critters, feed you, and make sure you stay in bed. For LASIK, one of the things they do is slice up the surface of your eye, peel a flap back (imagine cutting a circular hole in the flesh of a grape and peeling it back–that’s what it looks like), and then they laser it like crazy. Which means you need to keep your eyes shut as much as possible for the next 8-12 hours. If we’d had surgery done on the same day, there was no way we could have taken care of our pack/flock, turned on NPR for each other, or fed each other–our two surgeries were definitely better spaced out, a few weeks apart.

3. Recovery time is different depending on what you need done.

If you’re near-sighted (can see things close up, not far away), your vision will likely be AMAZING within the week–basically, they trim a little extra off your cornea, and that’s that.

If you’re far-sighted, it will take you a few weeks longer to see clearly–for far-sightedness, doctors have to reshape the cornea (rather than just… slice some off, or whatnot) in some sciencey way that causes the eye to swell, and then it takes that swelling more time to relax–meaning it will take more time to see clearly. #notadoctor #askyourdoctor #imjustablogger

Lastly, when you have astigmatism (especially severe astig like us), you are also more likely to need a second, follow-up surgery to further clarify your vision. Fingers crossed neither of us do, but considering I’m seeing 20/15 and Jason was at 20/30 a mere week after his surgery, we may be in the clear!

4. Go for laser-everything. Apparently some LASIK doctors still use scalpels to cut open your eye flap. Having witnessed Jason’s surgery… no. Don’t. These are your eyes we’re talking about–The most modern lasers make incisions “about 160 microns thick” (for context, apparently a human hair is about 75 microns across). When it comes to LASIK eye surgery, the cheapest option is probably definitely not the best option. Go with the dudes with laser-everything. Really. I’m not a doctor, but you have to have a LOT of faith in the steadiness of someone’s hands for a surgery this delicate.

A LASIK patient sits with a doctor at a follow-up appointment.
Jason’s follow-up appointment with Dr. Maida.

5. Expect lots of doctors visits. You’ll go for the first initial consultation where they will measure every part of your eye, and again for the actual day of the surgery. Then, you have to go back the very next day (and you may or may not be able to drive yourself the day after), followed by showing up again a week after that. You’ll have another follow-up appointment a month after that, so be prepared to get really familiar with your doctor! At least with Dr. Maida’s practice, each of the consultations and follow-ups were free–including if you need additional correction to start seeing 20/20 (or, if you’re lucky like me, 20/15!) However, I cannot speak for all LASIK providers, so make sure to clarify on this point. You will miss a lot of work. 🙂

6. If you’re under the age of 40, even with LASIK, you’re probably going to need reading glasses when you get older. This really can’t be prevented–it has something to do with the weakening of the eye as you age; people over the age of 40 can have a procedure done where one of their eyes is operated on to see distances, and the other is adjusted to read close up. I, personally, probably wouldn’t have done that–cute reading glasses I wear on an adorable chain around my neck beat the hell out of the coke-bottle glasses that slipped off my sweat-slicked nose at the gym every other second.

7. Your aftercare is the most. important. thing. to achieve and keep your vision. After LASIK eye surgery, you are responsible for taking two different kinds of drops (a steroid for inflammation and an antibiotic to prevent infection) four times a day–you’ll have a lovely crust of white gunk on your eyelashes for at least a week. During this week, you must sleep with goggles or eye shields that are taped ever-so-elegantly to your face. You also are expected to use preservative-free wetting drops once an hour, every hour that you are awake, to help the healing process. You can’t work out for a week (and after that, you’re only allowed to work out lightly to prevent getting germy sweat in your eyes); you can’t scuba dive for three months. Avoid roller coasters at least for the first month (and wear sunglasses or goggles if you do decide to head over to Orlando).

And those are just the requirements I can think of off the top of my head.

Why is after-care so important? Basically, the flap they pull back to perform the surgery has to successfully seal shut, stay shut, and heal up. If you are cavalier with your drops or decide you just can’t live without your eyeliner for a few days (forbidden for three or four days after the surgery), you may get an infection; if you decide to go water skiing and catch an eye full of water, if the flaps don’t tear open, you’re likely to get dirt or other microscopic organisms in your actual eye (EW). And if, God Forbid, you rub your eyes, you may just pull your flaps out of place.

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I’ve seen Jason’s eyeball without the flap (I got to watch part of his surgery, which was awesomely scary). It’s not pretty. You don’t want your friends and family to see that (because if it happens to you, you will be seeing nothing but watercolor). You’ll look like a zombie, but one who can’t see at all. Don’t do it!

Was it worth it? Oh my goodness, abso-freaking-lutely. I can see clearly now my astig is gooooone. It was a bit of a PITA, but one I knew I was signing up for. And there were a few bonuses afterward too!

Amazing things that happened after LASIK that we didn’t expect:

  1. We are much more awake first-thing in the morning, when we open our eyes. Prior to LASIK, whenever I’d wear glasses, I never felt fully awake, and I only ever really felt like a person after I put in my contacts. With LASIK, the brain fog lifts almost immediately after my eyelashes flutter open, which is a big. deal. for me with my lovely hypothyroid/fatigue issues. I had no idea how much blurry vision impacted me in the morning; I am a new woman today and actually feel refreshed when I wake up.
  2. The light halos exist, but for us, aren’t NEARLY as bad as they were with our glasses/contacts. The light halos are listed as one of the major side-effects of LASIK, which is why I mention it. However, they don’t bother me at all. Maybe it’s because Jason and I both had pretty bad astigmatism (which meant halos and starbursts at night were just a given, even with contacts and glasses). We have zero idea what the night looks like without a starburst/halo effect anyway, and if these lovely sparkles of light do someday, somehow bug us, apparently they will likely go away with time.
  3. The dry eyes aren’t so bad–eye drops take care of discomfort. I have to admit, I was crazy worried about Jason; his eyes were significantly dryer than mine. However, a week and a half after surgery, he doesn’t feel the need to use eyedrops constantly like I had worried he might. He is not uncomfortable for the most part (though real talk, during the first week after LASIK, you will often feel like your eyes are tired and you need to take out your grimy contacts–but you can’t). Moreover, dry-eye with LASIK is SIGNIFICANTLY better than dry-eye with contacts. No more scratchy, peely, eye-blinking-sticky-plastic for us!

I feel absolutely fortunate we were in a place where we could afford this incredible luxury; that everything went so very well (knock on wood!); and that I can finally see clearly for the first time in twenty-two years.

I am so excited to actually be able to see during our next great adventure!

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Goodbye for now, Glasses!

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