September 16, 2004 5:31 PM   Subscribe

LASIK - I'd love to ditch both my glasses and contacts. Have any of you had the procedure performed? In particular, I'm wondering if you have experienced any adverse or unexpected effects, and how much it cost.
posted by shoos to Health & Fitness (22 answers total)
This is purely second-hand information, but it has kept me from taking the plunge and might influence your decision. With that out of the way...

I know three people who have gone through the procedure, all are from my small office and between the ages of 35-55. Each of them has told me that their near-vision suffered slightly after the procedure -- one enough that she now wears reading glasses. All said their long-distance vision improved enough to not have to wear glasses for driving.

My vision is great up close, not-terribly-bad for things far away. Since my "up close" vision far more important to me than far (photography, computer work, etc.) I've decided to put it off.

Also, and not that this would apply to you, but the Air Force doesn't allow their fighter pilots to have had LASIK, because there are risks of the tiny sutures rupturing in emergency (i.e., bail-out) situations. Again, not that you plan on jumping out of a plane at high velocities or pressures. I'm a bit concerned about the effects for SCUBA divers, however I don't have any information on the subject.

I've seen the costs range from $400 to $800 / eye.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:35 PM on September 16, 2004

A friend who had it for nearsightedness ended up with 20/20 vision, but he is now somewhat more sensitive to bright sunlight and must keep sunglasses near to hand.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:51 PM on September 16, 2004

Here's some more secondhand information. I've been considering it, but I'm not eligible for the surgery yet because my Rx hasn't stabilized yet...but I've pestered the hell out of one of my coworkers who's done it for details. The biggest surprise for me? For all the ads that tout the in-and-out aspect of the surgery, almost none mention the amount of 'care and feeding' required for the few weeks afterwards. Apparently, you need to be very good about doing a variety of drops every x hours for a few weeks post-surgery. I know that's small potatos for some, but I'd have a hard time remembering.
As for other unexpected effects - when Homer Simpson got laser eye surgery, he was blinded by the post-laser-surgery eye-crust.
posted by dicaxpuella at 6:53 PM on September 16, 2004

I had an acquaintance that got it done, and she's thrilled with it. Of course, her vision was probably not as far gone as mine is (still waiting for prescription to stabilize). I do recall, however, reading an article in Time or Newsweek years back about one of their editors/reporters who got LASIK done and she was one of those unlucky few who it didn't work out for, to the point where she couldn't even read anymore. I am sure methods, lasers, and training have improved since then, but just thought I'd bring that up.
posted by calistasm at 7:14 PM on September 16, 2004

I have not had the procedure done, although I am considering it. My brother did it a decade ago against the advice of our uncle, who is an eye surgeon. Our uncle didn't see that the risk was worth the possible benefit.

Brother's results were mixed: he didn't need correction for a while, now he does again; some issues with glare at night.

However, our uncle the eye doc says the technology has dramatically improved in the past ten years. So brother is thinking of going in for a tune-up, and I may well have the procedure done myself.

The one thing I take away from this is if your anecdotal research gives some negative feedback, find out how long ago the subject had the procedure done. If it's more than five years ago, the results are probably not relevant to the current state of the technology.
posted by bowline at 7:39 PM on September 16, 2004

This was an Ask Slashdot question recently. Lots of testimonials and some good insights into the latest technology.
posted by Galvatron at 7:43 PM on September 16, 2004

As an amateur astronomer and general lover of the night sky I'm much too worried about the glare and other night vision problems that are reported by some.
posted by Songdog at 7:49 PM on September 16, 2004

My dad had this done 5 years ago. For the first few weeks I could hit him in the back of the head and then run away, but in time he saw me coming. I ♥ my dad and he's had no side effects.
posted by holloway at 7:55 PM on September 16, 2004

I had PRK last week, not LASIK, due to corneas that were too thin. Yes, the care and feeding is something to consider, even moreso than for LASIK, but I love it so far, and my vision hasn't even stabilized entirely (PRK has a 7-10 day recovery and vision stabilization as opposed to LASIK's three to five). I have sensitivity to sunlight and will most likely have it to some degree forever, but that does not bother me as I wore sunglasses religiously anyhow. Everyone should...
My brother had LASIK 4 years ago and has had nothing but glowing reports. Again, night vision is a little different at first, but his settled within about 3 months. A friend who had PRK 10 years ago is still very satisfied, and another friend who had PRK three years ago is also glowing.
A lot of the night-vision issues can have a great deal to do with the aftercare. Many people are up and driving the day after LASIK. Really, that is not a good idea. Too many people sell it as an instant thing, but the first week is really crucial (PRK you have no choice, you cannot drive/exercise, etc.). YOu have to care for your eyes like babies, drink a TON of water, Vitamin C, and sleep sleep sleep.
I myself know a woman who was playng her usual *raquetball* two days later. Not suprisingly, she had a few night-vision problems.
posted by oflinkey at 8:09 PM on September 16, 2004

I had it done almost two years ago. I used to be able to read the tiniest print imaginable and see in the dark like a bat, and my abilities there have been reduced to normal. But I consider it a happy tradeoff for basically 20-20 long range vision. And I read tons, in books and on the computer screen, and have no more problems than I ever did. I do strongly recommend finding the best doctor with the most experience and best equipment to do the procedure...this is not the place to save a few bucks.
posted by rushmc at 11:22 PM on September 16, 2004

Don't know if it's the same procedure, but Boots (a massive British pharmacy) have recently stopped offering their laser eye treatment due to safety fears.

My opinion, lasers and eyes don't mix. Not worth the risk.
posted by derbs at 2:48 AM on September 17, 2004

Secondhand again: a friend in California had LASIK two years (-ish) ago and was one of the unfortunate ones whose tear ducts were temporarily affected so that he had to use eyedrops hourly until said tear ducts returned to normal - about 36 hours, from memory.

Another friend here in NZ had it done a couple of months ago and it went as well as could be expected - not perfect but close enough that she's happy.
posted by tracicle at 3:09 AM on September 17, 2004

Your mileage may vary, but here's my story.

Wish I never did it, but at least I don't need glasses all the time now. I just can't get to 20/20 ever again.
posted by adampsyche at 5:36 AM on September 17, 2004

Secondhand info: my father had LASIK maybe three years ago and it corrected his myopia and astigmatism fine - I think he said it wasn't quite 20/20 in both eyes, I seem to remember him saying one eye was a little worse than the other (20/40?), but it was close enough (although if you're like me and you get better than 20/20 with contacts that would be a bit of a disappointment!) - but then he needed to get glasses again anyway within a year afterwards, for reading. Apparently once most people get past 40, they start to go a bit farsighted. He got the procedure right around that age and so went from nearsighted to normal to farsighted and only got a little bit of time without glasses at all. He still seems fine with having had it done.
posted by Melinika at 7:56 AM on September 17, 2004

I had it in two stages earlier this year, one in January, one in March, at the Eye Center in Fairfax, VA. It’s not a cheap place. Total cost was $4400, but that included all followup visits and medications, everything. There are a lot of followup visits (I must have been in that office 12-15 times in the past year), but I never had to wait more than 10 minutes.

The worst part was having to wear glasses only for two months beforehand. Yes, it's scary surgery, and there is some pain during recovery, especially after the second step, but I've not had any negative effects, no bad night vision, nothing like that. Got me to 20/15.

I think it might depend on how bad your prescription is now. I was at something like 20/270, had to put on my glasses when I got up to pee at night, blind blind blind in the shower. I had to wear hard contacts to get good correction. So the hassle and discomfort of that far outweighed any hassle and discomfort of the surgery. I have no regrets at all.

If you have more questions, ask them here, or shoot me an email.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2004

Here is my answer from a previous AskMe thread about this:

I had eye surgery about 8 years ago, and I'm very happy with it. I was previously at -4 and -4.5, and I'm now better than 20/20. It makes a huge difference to be able to see in the middle of the night without having to fumble for glasses, and to be able to see under water without worrying about losing your contacts, and to not have to worry about occasional dust storms or solutions or any of that stuff.

Back when I did it, it was still the dark ages of eye surgery - I had one eye done at a time, 3 months apart, so they could monitor the rate of healing and all that. And they did use a knife to scrape off the top layer of cells. I also turned out to be allergic to the eyedrops I had to use after surgery, which was a pain - how would you know? But I would still do it again. Nowadays the whole thing is done in half an hour and you can see almost immediately afterwards. Just make sure you go to a reputable person - this is one area where the best price is absolutely secondary to the quality.

For me, I think I'd probably still have the surgery even with a prescription like yours because contacts and glasses got in the way of my pretty active lifestyle. I had my eyes done a month or so before going on a 2-month camping trip in Italy - and there's no way I would have been able to keep contacts properly clean on the trip.

The only 'side effect' I occasionally have is a light haze around bright lights when I'm tired at night. However, it usually goes away with a few blinks.
posted by widdershins at 8:08 AM on September 17, 2004

If you do decide to get the procedure, by all means go to a doctor that offers "CUSTOM" procedures.

"Custom" LASIK is the newest form of the procedure that is based on "wavefront" technology. In short, standard LASIK procedures use the same vision testing methods (read, antiquated, or not improved much in the last 100 years) as you would for getting a new pair of glasses or contacts.

Custom procedures that use wavefront technology are based on measurements from light, which basically means about 20x more accurate measurement. Instead of having 10-15 points of data to correct from, you get hundreds or thousands with wavefront. The result is a unique measurement of YOUR eyes, and not just a "closest match" that is probably the same prescription for thousands of other people in the world. Since the measurements are based on your eyes' individual characteristics, the results will yield the theoretical best vision your eyes are capable of achieving.

Custom procedures are also given to people that have had traditional LASIK in the past, but suffer from night halos. There typically isn't a problem with night halos when custom procedures are performed.

VISX (one of the pioneers of LASIK) offers a procedure called CustomVue, which should be offered by many certified professional surgeons in your area.

Custom procedures are more expensive than traditional LASIK but, hello, they're your EYES.
posted by robbie01 at 11:13 AM on September 17, 2004

i had it done over six years ago when it was still rare and cost $2000 for both with lifetime correction except for bifocals.
i had been following it since radial k and my doctor had done it for five years in china and other places before it was widely available in the US. I had been legally blind since high school with very expensive specially ground frames and gas permeable lenses i could no longer tolerate.
it took a minute, very kubrickian. at first it was clockwork orange and then i stared at hal. painless.
only one person was worse than me and he had a correction at the follow up. mine was 20/10
it is now 20/20 and 20/40 in my right eye. it can be corrected or i can just wait or i can get glasses.
my night vision is less distinct and my eyes are more sensitive to light but i'm not a big fan of the flaming sky ball and am a night creature anyway.
unlike gattaca, there is no trace i had any correction.
it was even that those prices much cheaper and better for me and it all worked out optimally.
even after years i occassionally grab for my glasses and think wow, i can see.
i had rather expected to be close to blind my now.
working in visual mediums, it's obviously great for me, and cheaper, but it's very subjective.
i think the younger you are the better with healing factor and other eye aging issues not being a factor, but the corneal ring works and is removeable.
i had a severe astygmatism that faceted my eyes (discovered while on acid) and myopia, so it was kind of made for people like me.
for me it was just finding the best doctor at the time.
posted by ethylene at 11:28 AM on September 17, 2004

My uncle, who has spent most of his 50 odd years in thick glasses recently (this year) got his eyes *fixed* and has been quite pleased. Of course, for him, it was a major change from what he was used to. A friend had it done a few years back and she has to wear glasses to read now, but that's the only negative she's ever mentioned. Like others have mentioned, I'm just waiting for my Rx to stabilize.
posted by shoepal at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your help. You guys are great.
posted by shoos at 2:45 PM on September 17, 2004

I had it done 3 years ago. It was 100% the best thing that ever happened to me.

I was -5.5 and -6, and contacts weren't a good solution for me. Once, when I was in college, I knocked my glasses off my nightstand while trying to turn off the alarm. After half an hour of looking, I had to call my boyfriend to come over and find them for me. I was *so* blind. I am now 20/20 and 20/25, and the change has been breathtaking. I had no idea what a difference it would make to everything... to driving, taking pictures, shaving my legs, making love, *everything*

The procedure was about $1800/eye, I had it done by Dr Bruce Koffler at the Kentucky Center for Vision. He is *wonderful* I can't recommend him enough.

Anyway, like everyone said above, there's a lot of care and feeding for weeks after. Lots of eyedrops multiple times a day. My tear ducts were fine, and I had no infections for issues.

For the first six months, I was still learning how not to need my glasses, my eyes got tired a lot faster. Using lubricated eye drops helped a lot. I don't need them much now, though I find that if I need to do anything close-up, etc, I'll use them, and it'll be easier.

Just as a note, the kind of vision degeneration that causes older people to need reading glasses is not related to the shape of the cornea. LASIK does not affect this in any way.

I have slight halo's at night. When I had glasses, I had enormous starbursts. As far as I'm concerned, it's not perfect, but it's better than it was before.

I find I need sunglasses now, where I often could do without before. I may be more light sensitive, but the biggest thing is that I used to getmy prescription lenses with anti-glare coating and a slight amber tint.

I've got to concur with everyone else, Don't shop on price, ask people you know who had it done, look up the doctors your thinking about. For example, the doctor I went to has published a lot of research about LASIK and eye surgery in general, and speaks at a lot of conferences etc. Also, ask and make sure they use a fresh blade to cut the flap, instead of sterilizing a multi-use blade. Clean cuts heal faster.
posted by antimony at 9:37 PM on September 17, 2004

Dunno if anyone is still following this thread, but I wanted to point out that most medical savings plans do include LASIK, so that'll save on the cost, about 40% in my case.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:34 AM on September 20, 2004

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