Advice on LASIK.
April 19, 2005 6:42 PM   Subscribe

I am scheduled for LASIK surgery on Thursday and wanted to hear from anyone who has had the surgery.

When I google, all I get are ads and bitter people, neither of whom I trust. I wanted to ask anyone here about their experience. I trust the doctor (he saved my Dad's eyesight via surgery when no one else would try and he comes with good recommendations from a few other opthamologists I spoke to) but his office was a little hazy on potential complications and after effects.

1. Was it successful and would you do it again?
2. What was your pain/discomfort level?
3. How soon could you "see" correctly?

I'm just a little nervous since this is really a one shot deal if they screw up.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. to Health & Fitness (24 answers total)
I have not had it. but my friend Daymented did, and blogged it to within an inch of its' life.
posted by mwhybark at 6:56 PM on April 19, 2005

1) I had it done about 4 years ago. I would do it again in a second (well, not really, cause my eyes are fine now, so doing it again wouldn't really accomplish anything for me, but, if I could go back 4 years I would still do it.)

2) I don't remember any discomfort (except for dry eyes for a couple of days)

3) I could see by the next day, I think.

Good luck with it, everyone I know who has done it has been very satisfied.
posted by HSWilson at 6:57 PM on April 19, 2005

A year and a half since surgery, no regrets whatsoever. I drove myself (comfortably) to the followup visit 48 hours after the surgery, this after having something like -5.25 vision (if I remember correctly). Some discomfort the day after surgery, but nothing worse than a bad contact day. I had the two-stage process, and the pain was considerably worse the second time around, but nothing terrible. My wife had the surgery a year after I did, same doc, so, yes, I'd do it again. TAKE THE VALIUM. Yes, it's creepy when they cut your cornea, but it doesn't hurt. Feel free to email me if you want more. No long-term side effects, and I have bad eye allergies.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:59 PM on April 19, 2005

I actually had PRK, the older and more intense procedure. No flap cutting, they actually blast your cornea (after removing epithelial cells), and then you wear contacts for a week to protect your eyes. With LASIK, you will have less pain, less of an issue with light sensitivity, etc., but here is what I can tell you:

Do not play basketball the next day (or anything else really strenuous). I knew someone who did that and had endless problems. He was surprised and confused by this, somehow. Just because you can see well does not mean your eyes are healed.

Be RELIGIOUS about your eyedrops and medications, vitamins, water consumption, etc. I was drinking absurd amounts of water, and I attribute my flawless healing to that and to my military-like observance of doctor's orders.

Wear UV blocking sunglasses whenever you go outside from now on. Even when it is cloudy.

Plan to rest your eyes a lot in the first week, and be gentle with them for several months afterwards. PRK forced me to do this (you can't really see for a week), but LASIK patients need it just as much.

If the doctor offers it, have the procedure done with the Wavefront Technology. This reduces starbursts, as well as other LASIK issues.

I would absolutely do it again. One of the best things I have ever done.
posted by oflinkey at 7:06 PM on April 19, 2005

I tell you right now - it left me with MAJOR problems. 5 years after and the last doctor I visited recommended corneal replacement surgery as an option. I have kerataconus. Hard contacts (rgp's) are the only thing which give me any quality of vision and they are a bitch to wear.

The ghosting, lack of edge definement, halos and starbursts are slightly better than a few years ago, but words cannot describe the feeling of having permanently destroyed my vision. Today, when I look at the moon, I see 6 ghosts moons around it. It is like a nightmare that you payed 5000 dollars to have done to you.

I did lots of research too. My doctor had done over 4000 operations and studied with the doctor who invented the procedure. My dad is a retired doctor (he advised against, as any elective surgery is risky) and I had him call all the eye doctors he knew in town to get a referral to a "good" doctor. So even if you are diligent to avoid the traps you could be one of the unlucky ones.

I know people who are satified with their results. But what if you fall into the 3-5 % who have problems? Without question it is the biggest regret in my life.

BTW - I had easily correctible eyesight before the surgery and fell in the 80% percent or better to get 20-20 vision from the surgery. In the back of my mind I thought that if it didn't do well, I could just go back to wearing glasses. WRONG. The vision problems you are left with are not correctible with glasses.

I know a lot of the people who you have been reading about sound bitter, but until you have experienced it, it is hard to describe how debilitating it is to lose your vision.

One last thing. The doctors are wonderful before the surgery, but if you have to go back with problems, they act like they never met you.

This is obviously something I feel strongly about, so fell free to email me if you have any other question. I wish you the best of luck with it.

ps -the images on this site are the best I have found on the web. They are not an exaggeration.
posted by vronsky at 7:14 PM on April 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

Good luck with the surgery. I am too chicken for this, but I am sure, and the odds confirm, that you should be fine.
posted by caddis at 7:19 PM on April 19, 2005

I posted a FPP about the site that vronsky links to. Check out the comments.
posted by Gyan at 7:21 PM on April 19, 2005

I had it done a few years ago. I came out with, and still have, better than 20/20 vision.

I have a slight dryness problem that I alleviate with eye drops (I actually had it prior to the surgery, I just didn't know itchy eyes and less than sharp vision was caused by dryness)

I don't need reading glasses for close up work, even though I use tiny little fonts at home and at work.

I also went to one of the best and most experienced doctors at the procedure (at the time he had done the most procedures in North America) who was already an emminent eye surgeon, it cost me quite a lot more than it would've elsewhere but I think it was worth it.

It took about a month for my vision to become crisp even though technically it was 20/20 or better right after the operation. It's hard to describe but afterwards I had 20/20 vision that wasn't crisp. Now I have 20/20 vision that's crisp.
posted by substrate at 7:53 PM on April 19, 2005

If you smoke, stop until your eyes have completely healed.
posted by SPrintF at 8:25 PM on April 19, 2005

A good friend of mine had it done about 3 years ago. The way he describes it, it was almost fun, it was so effortless. And his vision has been perfect since, no complaints at all.
posted by greasepig at 8:28 PM on April 19, 2005

vronsky certainly gives pause for thought. I've only heard anecdotally good reports but I don't get around much.
I think the complication rate is somewhere under 5% - all different types in that group no doubt.
The most important thing is informed consent. The 'haziness' of the Opthalmologist's staff is one thing - but more important is when the Doctor explains possible complications and gets you to sign a consent form. Of course this doesn't protect you from the possible negative outcomes, but, as it's always a gamble to one extent or another, it allows you to make the decision with (dare I say) open eyes.

You might want to look here and here for a little of the negative side (by no means comprehensive - didn't look around too much - there would be more around.

I'm in no way trying to scaremonger or cast spurious assertions but sight is a sacred thing. I don't have the money so the question hasn't arisen. I really can't say if I would or wouldn't. I would think a great part of a decision would rest on the annoyance factor of pre-surgery sight correction: if you don't mind glasses and contact lenses then a trip into the unknown may just not be worth it for you.
posted by peacay at 8:52 PM on April 19, 2005

Thanks everyone for the answers. They have all been helpful...good and bad experiences. If I can see, I'll let you know how it goes.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 8:53 PM on April 19, 2005

My wife had it done one month ago. She had her one-month evaluation a few days ago, and is at 20/10 vision now. She still has a little bit of the halo effect around light sources at night, but it's abating and not too bad. Her eyes were scratchy for a few days, and still are occasionally.

She still can't get over the profound change in her vision (at least in the daylight). We're both cyclists, and she says she's more confident on the bike than she was with contacts.

I watched the procedure. It's completely unnerving to watch (especially since I want to have it done as well), but she reported that it really wasn't bad, although she was startled when they fired up the laser--she started, and the surgeon said "you can't do that."

I appreciate hearing vronsky's experience (my sympathies)--one thing is for sure, you need all the information you can get to make an informed decision.
posted by adamrice at 9:46 PM on April 19, 2005

I had LASIK done about three years ago. At the time, my prescription was so bad that I almost couldn't have the procedure done (I was around a -8). I'm now seeing 20/20, no halos, no dryness, and I never even think about it unless someone asks. Couldn't be happier.

The most disconcerting part of the procedure for me was when they lock your eye into position for the initial incision. Pressure is applied to your eyeball, and over the course of a few seconds, things gradually fade to black. The doctor makes the incision and removes the lock, and your sight comes back.

Take the valium.
posted by cratchit at 10:54 PM on April 19, 2005

"What's that smell?"

"The Burning Flesh of your Eyes."
posted by Stan Chin at 12:31 AM on April 20, 2005

My wife got it done in Utah from some guy that has a laser that has only been in the country for two years. Her eyesight was so bad that she couldn't see her feet clearly in the bathtub, and now it's 20/20. There is very light ghosting at night, but it is gradually fading, as was the case with a neighbor who went to the same place.
posted by craniac at 3:47 AM on April 20, 2005

I had it done 2 years ago by one of the most experienced surgeons in the country. I spent over 4 hours getting evaluated at the LASIK center getting many different tests and maps of my eyes before I was considered a good candidate. The day of the surgery every input into the LASIK equipment was checked and verified by 3 different people to assure the settings were correct. I had been considering the surgery for years but held off until they came out with the new "bladeless" technique that uses the laser for cutting the flap also. From my research the majority of the problems are from less scrupulous doctors taking borderline cases and from the flap being cut poorly. I had minimal dry eye for about a week and ghosting at night for a month or so. It was never worse than what I had with my contacts. Now, at 2 years out, my vision is 20/20 in each eye and I couldn't be happier.
posted by white_devil at 5:14 AM on April 20, 2005

I had it done 6 weeks ago. I have had no side effects - and came out with 20/15 vision in both eyes. I went into the procedure assuming that at the worst, I could lose all vision in one eye. If you keep thinking worst case, you will either talk yourself out of it or resign yourself to following all instructions explicitly and getting it done anyway.

They warn you about the sound of the laser before you get in the room, and when you enter it sounds like a big fan, so I thought that was it, but NO, when they fire it up, you do jump and get yelled at like adamrice's wife. Also, the smell of the burning was awful. I got nauseous. Nothing worse than trying not to move and feeling sick. Because they mess with the pressure of your eyes, I got an awful sinus headache about 30 minutes after (though I'm sure not taking allergy medication for 7 days before the procedure didn't help my sinuses any). I also flew out of town 6 days after with no troubles.

If you made it through the testing procedures, you should be fine. Just don't forget to use the antibiotic eye drops that they prescribe - that could cause a world of hurt.
posted by blackkar at 5:57 AM on April 20, 2005

One of my eyes is worse than the other, and I've always thought I'd get that eye done first, and see how it goes. I wonder if anyone has experience with that...
posted by lorrer at 7:00 AM on April 20, 2005

I'm typing this the day before your surgery.

I don't know if my thinking on this situation will be of use to you, but at the moment, I can't foresee a point in time when I'd elect to have LASIK performed, for the simple fact that the possible complications -- even if they are improbable -- would just too massively affect my life.

Yes, clear vision the moment I wake up would be nice ... but it takes me all of three seconds to reach over and grab my glasses case, pop it open and put my glasses on.

If the error rate ever gets down to 0.1% or 0.01%, I'll reconsider it. 3-5% sounds small, but that's one out of every 20 patients. I'd prefer not to be the lucky 20th.
posted by WCityMike at 8:14 AM on April 20, 2005

My stepfather is wealthy. He had a really fancy technique done (about 7 years ago?). It was LASIK or something even further along than that. He is a very, very intelligent, well-connected, and prudent lawyer. He did months of research and decided on a doctor at UCLA (Los Angeles, California, USA) medical center. Money was not an object to him.

His eyesight is now ruined. He even went back when costly new technology was available to try and fix what went wrong and it did very little to nothing to improve his situation.

I'm sorry that I cannot provide more specifics, but please don't read this and think "oh, well that guy was just stupid" or "well, the doctors he went to were amateurs" or "there were probably complications because he was in a high-risk group of some kind". No, no, no. He went to the best, most experienced doctors money could buy in Los Angeles at the time. The simple truth is that his precious eyesight is nothing like it used to be. He is much worse off than he was before, and new glasses simply don't help.

I have terrible vision, but I don't mind contacts. I have several friends and acquaintances who have had this procedure done successfully and they are all very happy. But because of what happened to my stepfather, I will not have it done, period. My eyesight is holy to me. I don't gamble, and certainly not with my precious eyesight.

Sorry to be a downer. Good luck.
posted by redteam at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2005

I had it done four years ago in Canada. It's been amazing. I went from nearly blind (couldn't read my bedside clock at night) to better than 20/20.
posted by Staggering Jack at 8:45 AM on April 20, 2005

Ok, so for anyone still reading. Surgery got postponed a week until I recover from the bronchitis that hit me like a truck on Tuesday afternoon. I'll still post a follow up next week.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 11:10 PM on April 21, 2005

So the aftermath. Had the surgery yesterday, more relaxed after reading the experiences of some of you, the others made me a little more nervous. So in essence a wash. In any case, I went through with it, and am generally pleased so far. I went from a -9.0 correction in both eyes to about 20/40 vision as of this morning. The doc said he expects me to end up with 20/20 or 20/15 after seeing me this morning for the follow up. As of this morning, I no longer need to wear glasses to drive when before I couldn't clearly see my hand 1.5 inches from my face. So all in all, happy I decided to take the plunge.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 10:15 AM on April 29, 2005

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