Eye surgery
April 21, 2004 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Eye surgery: have you had it, or know someone who has? What type? How much? Most important...was it worth it?

(I myself am slightly nearsighted, -1.50 and -0.75, and I'm wondering if it's worth the out-of-pocket cash.)
posted by gottabefunky to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
I had surgery over 20 years ago to correct a "lazy eye." This involved going behind my eyeball, snipping part of two muscles, and sewing the muscles back together. It was largely successful, but not completely so: when I'm tired, I still have double vision.

As I was 8 at the time, I know very little about the cost, but my understanding is that it was largely covered by insurance.

The procedure was done under general anaesthesia, which is risky in and of itself and was the source of most of the complications I experienced.

Recovery was fairly routine. The sutures were self-dissolving, but itched like hell for weeks and weeks. There can be fewer frustrating irritations than an itch behind your eyeball.

As for focus-corrective surgery, I know two people who have undergone it, both using RK quite a few years ago. One patient lost most sight in one eye due to a botched procedure, the other has subsequently had to go back to using glasses as his myopia deteriorated over the years.
posted by majick at 11:35 AM on April 21, 2004

Are you asking about Lasik surgery or some other specific elective procedure? Otherwise, kind of a weird question. How could peoples' accounts of their various eye surgeries for their various ailments possible be useful to you? Not to snark, just wondering.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:37 AM on April 21, 2004

I'm at -6, and I've been searching for while now for someone that nearsighted who has had it done.
posted by fuzz at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2004

Here is some extremely elective eye surgery for you to consider.

My $0.02: unless you're a competitive swimmer or diver or you find contact lenses completely impractical for other serious reasons, I'd just consider myself lucky to have that mild a case of near-sightedness, and leave well-enough alone. If you're that desperate to pay a surgeon, give the money to someone with a real medical problem.
posted by stonerose at 11:52 AM on April 21, 2004

(I myself am slightly nearsighted, -1.50 and -0.75, and I'm wondering if it's worth the out-of-pocket cash.)

I have a friend that did the laser thing, and he ended up where you are now (maybe a hair better). He was close to me--around -4.00 before. I'd never do it--i find it too horrifying to think of lasers anywhere near my eyes.
posted by amberglow at 12:01 PM on April 21, 2004

I had over (under?) -7. Just had the second step of the two-step Custom View Lasik here. Very happy with the results. I don't think it'd be worth it for a relatively minor correction, though.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:02 PM on April 21, 2004

I know someone who had RK some years ago, where they cut the star pattern in the cornea. He says he can still see the star shape at night when headlights are shining at him while driving.

I know a few others who have had the laser surgery, all with good results. It's becoming almost commonplace in Austin, it seems. The way to go is the latest method, which uses lasers for all parts of the surgery so that a knife blade never touches the eye.

I'm considering it myself, but haven't scheduled it yet. The technology gets better as time goes on.
posted by Jonasio at 12:23 PM on April 21, 2004

I had surgery over 20 years ago to correct a "lazy eye." This involved going behind my eyeball, snipping part of two muscles, and sewing the muscles back together. It was largely successful, but not completely so: when I'm tired, I still have double vision.

I had the same surgery 20+ years ago (I was 4) and also suffer from double vision when tired or when there's an intense glare. The most annoying problem, however, is that my eye tends to be attracted to bold blocks on web sites (flashing or animated ads are the worst) making the page completely unreadable. After about 15-20 years without any significant problems, the double vision was frightening enough to send me to a specialist in order to address the issue. He and several others in his office were quite pleased to be looking in my eye as the original surgeon was known for his good work. While he felt that he would be successful in repairing the eye, at least temporarily, I ultimately decided that having the surgery would not be worth the risk for some slight inconveniences. If it becomes significantly worse in the next few years, I may reconsider.
posted by imbri at 12:27 PM on April 21, 2004

A short-sighted friend of mine had the laser treatment to correct his vision a couple of years ago. He says it was well worth the expense, in fact you can't shut him up on the damn topic.
posted by squealy at 12:31 PM on April 21, 2004

MrMoonPie, are you now 0/0? what did they correct you to?
posted by amberglow at 12:40 PM on April 21, 2004

I'm personally going to wait a few more years for the long-term effects to be better known. Contacts are great for now. I do know 3 people who've had it and liked it, though. (They went from wearing glasses/contacts to not wearing them, but I don't know about their actual measurements.)
posted by callmejay at 12:53 PM on April 21, 2004

I've (-8)~(-7). Which is the latest version of the Lasik procedure? Some wavefront thingy. How much does it cost and what's the success rate?
posted by Gyan at 12:56 PM on April 21, 2004

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 1:07 PM on April 21, 2004

I had laser eye surgery several months ago to correct a retinal tear and to (try and) prevent tears in my other eye. While it was short, it was unpleasant enough to make me realize that I'd never have laser surgery to correct my vision.
posted by aclevername at 1:20 PM on April 21, 2004

Response by poster: Oops - I should have said, I meant stuff like LASIK, RK, etc. I'm leery about how little we know about the long-term effects. Plus, not having that bad eyesight, I'm wondering if it's worth the cost, risk, and hassle.

I just hate glasses and contacts so much, especially since I do a lot of active stuff (climb, ski, dive, etc).

Also, I meant to ask: how do you choose a good doctor, if you're going to do it? I know you should ask for references, and their success rate, but is there some good way to get a short list ahead of time? And what's the general price range?
posted by gottabefunky at 1:34 PM on April 21, 2004

I'm -1.75 and -2.25 (so relatively mild).

When I asked about laser surgery, my optometrist strongly recommended against having it unless you have a very strong prescription. Apparently when you get older, your eyesight will be significantly worse having had the surgery than if you just stuck to wearing glasses/contacts. For someone with a strong prescription, the difference is not a big deal; for someone with a relatively mild prescription, it's a short term gain for possible longer-term drawbacks.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 1:50 PM on April 21, 2004

gottabefunky, you're the only one who can determine if it's worth it to you. FWIW, every single person I've spoken to directly who's had it done has been very happy - not a complaint in the bunch. However, I've of course heard the horror stories as well - I just haven't actually met anyone with one. If you're active enough that wearing contacts is an issue, then IMO, it's worth it.

One of the biggest reasons eyesight tends to get worse as we get older is that the muscles around the eye relax. So if you start out significantly nearsighted, you 'balance out' as you get older. Though there is limited research available because the procedure is relatively young, I found no good indication that people who have had eye surgery are at higher risk for later farsightedness than people who started out with normal vision. There are also excercises you can do to keep the muscles around the eyes in shape. What really decided me in terms of this issue was this: I figured I'd be a lot more active while I was young. So if I do end up having to wear glasses again when I get old - well, that's a price I'm happy to pay for perfect vision while I am hiking and diving and skyjumping and pulling all-nighters and all of those things I'm likely to do less of as I get older.

To be honest, I'm not sure what the best way of finding a qualified doctor is. Way back when I had it done there weren't a lot of doctors doing it in London, so I went with someone I liked when I met with him for a consultation and who had been practicing as an opthamologist for years. It didn't hurt that he was located on Harley Street. Here in the States, I'd personally avoid anyone advertising on TV or with a huge, splashy ad in the Yellow Pages - but that's me.
posted by widdershins at 2:21 PM on April 21, 2004

My experience sucked hard.

After reading some of the experiences at this discussion board, I got off easy.

Of those who I've talked to who have had it done and it worked, it's 100% worth every dime, and having to be awake while a suction machine is attached to your eyeball.

For those who have had problems, it can ruin your life. I am legal driving vision without glasses (barely), but can never be 20/20 again, short of a cornea transplant.
posted by adampsyche at 2:41 PM on April 21, 2004

I've had lasik by this guy . I'm now somewhat better than 20/20 so I am satisfied. I would say be careful. If a doctor says that you're not qualified for the procedure then don't go trolling for a doctor who will do it. For instance Tayfour won't do it to my sister but other local doctors would. She's erring on the side of caution and just not having it done.

In my case I've had my glasses shattered twice and have been lucky to avoid inury to my eyes. I tried contacts and they don't work for me (I don't tear enough and they literally fall off my eyes).

The one thing that I do have to do now is occasionally put lubricant (ph balanced water really) in my eyes. It turns out I should've been doing this even before lasik :P I just thought that visual acuity went down sometimes.
posted by substrate at 2:52 PM on April 21, 2004

Response by poster: Then there's the whole glasses-as-crutch argument, that they actually make your eyesight worse in the long run by letting your weak eye muscles stay lazy. And the bad effects of focusing close-up a lot, sitting in front of a computer or reading (the nerd-glasses stereotype), caused by our eyes being evolved, supposedly, to focus far on the horizon, to spot prey or whatever.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:45 PM on April 21, 2004

My wife has been an optometry technician for nearly 10 years. Several of our closest friends are optometrists. I work as a healthcare manager. In other words, we did our homework and knew exactly what the risks were when my wife decided to do it. The thing is -- her uncorrected vision since the age of 10 was -8.5/-9.5

In other words - it truly couldn't get much worse. That's what convinced her. She couldn't even SEE the bar of soap in the shower, or the large-numbered alarm clock that I bought for her.

So, three years ago she went to TLC - the largest "chain" and very reputable. Bottom line: she now sees 20/20 and couldn't be happier - other than marriage and our two kids, probably the greatest moment of her adult life.

Having said that: my wife and her opto friends usually counsel AGAINST having LASIK/PRK done for someone with your correction. I'm sure it doesn't seem "minor" to you, but your vision is pretty good, it seems. If you do it, the upside is that your vision might get a little better -- but it can't get a WHOLE LOT better; but the downside (remote as it is) could be disastrous. In my wife's case, her vision really couldn't get too much worse, but it could (and did) get a WHOLE lot better.

And Rule #1 if you do decide to go through with it: DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR DOCTOR BASED ON PRICE. Ask around - investigate the credentials, the experience, and the reputation of the doctor. Do not let your decision be guided by price -- because there is no amount of money that could restore your vision, if things don't go well.

Best wishes.
posted by davidmsc at 6:56 PM on April 21, 2004

davidmsc's advice seems very good to me. I decided against laser correction (I'm moderately nearsighted) for the same reasons that widdershins mentioned (up the thread) but wasn't swayed by. It's a judgment call.
posted by troutfishing at 10:18 PM on April 21, 2004

Sorry, returning late to the thread. A week after surgery, I tested a hair better than 20/20. It'll get a little better, as the eyedrops they have me on put a slight film on my eye.

No other problems. Yes, the surgery is icky. They put clamps on your eyes, then cut the surface of it. But it wasn't so icky that I dreaded going back for the second surgery. I looked forward to it. And I drove myself to the followup appointment the next day. The worst part of the whole experience was having to wear glasses for a month and a half before the surgery--I'd worn contacts (hard) for 20 years.

I went based on personal recommendations, people who'd been there before me. It was not cheap. $4400. We have pre-tax medical savings plans at work, so that cut off a good 40%, and it's done via payroll deduction, so I never actually have to see that money, but it was a pretty big hit. Way worth it, though.

Let me know if you have more questions, either here or via email.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:52 AM on April 22, 2004

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