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To anyone considering laser eye surgery

A short account of my experience

TL;DR: If you’ve considered it, do it.

Two months ago, my eyesight was considered 3x worse than legally blind. Today, I have perfect 20/15 uncorrected vision.

For 29 years (87% of my life), I’ve been beholden to corrective lenses. By the time I was 28, my eye stabilized at diopter strength of -8.50 in each eye, which needless to say, is really poor vision. For comparison sake, someone with -3.00 has a hard time reading the “big E” on the Snellen chart, which is the equivalent of 20/150. Meanwhile, -8.50 is more like ~20/800+.

I had a form of laser eye surgery called PRK. There are two popularized versions of laser surgery right now in the US: PRK and LASIK. The latter is actually more popular because healing time is faster due to the way the procedure is done. PRK involves cutting away part of the cornea with an excimer laser to to reshape the surface. On the other hand, LASIK creates a “flap” out of the cornea that is peeled back for the laser, and then placed back for healing. You can read more about the differences here.

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Because of the procedure, LASIK has a faster healing time and therefore often preferred. PRK, however, was the right choice for me because the “flap,” while healed, is still at risk of complication if you are likely to be hit in the head or eye. I box and spar almost daily, so PRK was the right choice for me.

In fact, boxing was the catalyst for me to call and get a free consultation at LaserVue Eye Center because my contact lenses were prone to being knocked out in the middle of sparring or fighting, which was annoying to say the least.

Day 1 — The procedure

The entire procedure took about 9 minutes. A few minutes for each eye. They dilated and numbed my eye, so there was no pain. There was a little bit of discomfort as it felt like they were scrubbing my eye (it was cutting the cornea), but it was short lived. Immediately after the procedure, my eyes were very sensitive to light and I was pretty tired (thanks Valium!) so I slept on the way home and took the day off. There was very little (if any) pain. I could already see much better than my previous vision without contacts. That was an amazing feeling.

For PRK, they adhere a “bandage contact lens” into your eye which is meant to last about a week and is taken out at your 1-week checkup assuming all is well.

Day 2 — A new world

Waking up was really strange, because I opened my eyes and I could actually see the clock. Every day, I had to put several drops in my eyes: steroids, antibiotics, and painkillers. But the most helpful thing were the tear-free, preservative-free eye drops. Keeping your eyes lubricated is the key to healing.

The day after my surgery, I had an early morning check up to make sure that everything went according to plan. It did, but my eyesight was very blurry. I would have pegged it around 20/100.

Days 3 to 6 — The struggle

These were the hardest days. I could barely work for 5 minutes without squinting or having to put drops in my eyes. I decreased the resolution on my Retina screen to the minimum amount just to see the text.

As a coder, this gets annoying really quick. I had to power through and just kept dosing my eyes with eye drops to get through the day. Some days felt worse than the previous, but I had faith that they would improve.

Day 7 — The one-week checkup

This was my one-week checkup. My eyes still weren’t fully healed and I still needed to use drops every 15–20 minutes. However, the doctor assured me that they were on track and that my eyes should continue improve over the next couple of weeks. My eyesight around this time was probably 20/50.

Week 2 — Steady improvement

Across week 2, I continued using lubricant drops, but stopped taking antibiotic and reduced the steroid drops. I started sparring again on day 8, which probably wasn’t the smartest thing, but I felt good about it. My eyesight felt stronger each and every day. I was able to comfortably increase the resolution on my monitors a step every day.

Occasionally, one eye would feel more blurry than the other. It took a fair amount of faith to trust that my eyes would continue improving.

Week 3 — Almost back to normal

At this point, my monitors were back to normal and I didn’t have the need to use eye drops nearly as often. The only strange sensation (which I still can’t seem to shake) is the inner voice that repeats the same thing every night as I get into bed and realize that I can still see the room, “Don’t forget to take your contacts out.” I guess it takes longer than a few weeks to reverse a ritual I performed over the past 8,000+ days.

Week 6 — 20/15

This morning, I had my checkup about 1.5 months after the procedure. According to the doctor, they expected my eyesight to settle around 20/25, but it actually is around 20/15. My eyes are completely healed and show absolutely zero signs of the fact that I had the surgery. I couldn’t be more happy and relieved.

Conclusion

I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. My eye sight went from “lost cause” to “perfect vision.” That’s a fair trade for a few weeks of discomfort/inconvenience.

If you’ve considered getting corrective laser eye surgery, do yourself a favor and call up LaserVue Eye Center (or any other reputable office) and schedule a consultation. Most of them are free and only take ~30 minutes. It’s one of the best gifts you could give yourself.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter. http://www.twitter.com/davidbyttow

Engineer by trade, artist at heart

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