Saturday, February 25, 2012

Everything you ever wanted to know about: LASIK

Ok, so now you know that I had LASIK, and now you know why I got LASIK.  Here come the billion other questions, right?  Hey, I understand.  I was once in that place too.

Let me start at the VERY beginning.

I called the doctor to set up the preliminary testing to see if I was even a candidate for LASIK.  Who knew?  You actually have to meet quite a few qualifications before you can get the surgery done.  First, you need to be the right age.  There’s not an actual number on this.  You just need to be a little older (and by that I mean, into your twenties/out of college age) because your vision needs to have leveled off.  When we’re plagued with inferior vision, it typically starts changing in our adolescence and by the time we’re out of college/that age, it typically becomes stable until we start getting in our 50s (think aging eye).  Plus, you really wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of surgery just to turn around and need it again the next year.

So, you need to be a good age.  Next, your eyes need to be moist enough.  If they aren’t, don’t panic.  Drink lots of water.  Start using eye drops.  The doctor might even give you a prescription.  There are lots of different ways to increase eye moisture.

You need to stop wearing contacts for at least 6 weeks.  Contacts, apparently, change the shape of your eye.  I stopped wearing mine months before surgery.  Not only were they terribly uncomfortable, but it took me a while to get up the nerve to make the call.

And last, the doctor needs to check the width of your cornea.  If your corneas are too thin, surgery can’t be performed.  Those are the basics you need to become a candidate.  So let the testing begin!

I’ll be honest.  The preliminary testing (to me at least) is WAY worse than the surgery itself.  …probably because testing lasts 2 to 2 ½ hours.  Surgery lasts … 8 minutes.  Yep.  That’s it!

When I started my tests, they diagnosed me with my eye conditions – farsightedness and astigmatism.  So many people want to know what my vision was before (as in the number).  I have no clue!  But those were the two things I know I had wrong.  Because I had both of those conditions, in order to test my eyes, they had to “super dilate” them.  As in, I couldn’t see jack for 24 hours.  24 HOURS!!  It was ridiculous.

Besides the ridiculous dilation, there were lots of “which is better, one or two.  Now two or four.”  And “put your chin here.  Look at that light.  Try not to blink.” And so on and so forth.  Nothing more than what you get at a standard eye doctor.  ..just much, much, MUCH longer.

This is me, coming home from my testing.  My eyes looked so creepy!!  No blue – just black.  Two important things: make sure you have someone to drive you, and very dark sunglasses.  :)  You’ll need these things again.

After the testing, they told me I was a candidate!!  So I scheduled my surgery for 10 days later.  All of this happens very quickly.  Or at least I thought.  I mean, boom you can get it done.  Like right now.  They actually offered to do it that very day!!  Are you kidding me!?  I need a moment to breathe.

So I scheduled my surgery, and I set up a payment plan.  This is what most people want to know about.  How much does it cost?  Let’s be honest.  It’s an elective surgery.  It can’t be cheap!
I had planned to pay somewhere around $2500 an eye, so 5 grand total, just judging on what other people (people who had obviously never had the surgery) had said.  And of course the other factor is that insurance won’t cover the surgery because it is elective.  Welllllllll the office I went to had a policy where IF you had a certain type of insurance (as in, insurance with a company that was on their list) they gave you a discount.  They don’t run it through your insurance, they just give you a discount.  So because my insurance company was on their magic list, my surgery came in for both eyes at … *drumroll please* $3300.  And I was pretty darn pleased!!  Better yet – they set me up on a payment plan.  2 years no interest.  So I just finished paying that puppy off a few days ago.  Thank you very much!  :)

A few days before my surgery: I made sure to get my hair cut.  The last thing you want is to have to get your hair cut within a month of having surgery.  The first month after is very crucial.  You can’t touch your eye.  You have to be very conscious of what could get in your eye.  No makeup.  No hair spray.  No perfume.  And I took that to mean no haircuts, because I inevitably get little cuts of hair in my eyes, every time!  And to make matters worse, I had long, sweep to the side bangs prior to surgery, which got in my eyes all the time.  So, I chopped them way short.  AND I had to go without make up.  It was pretty much torture.

The above picture is the day of surgery!  That’s the before.  [duh!]  I wore my “Joe Mamma” shirt because I was trying to “be brave” and it was the same shirt I had worn a few months before when I went skydiving.  Maybe I’ll talk about that on another flashback.  ;)

The day of the surgery went so fast!  My Dad and my Sister drove me to the surgery.  I made sure to wear very comfortable clothes, bring a pillow, the darkest sunglasses I could find, and a hat.  I got to the doctor’s office and met with the doctor for a few minutes.  He explained the risks to me, and what I would need to do after surgery.  He told me everything that would happen during surgery, and calmed my nerves quite a bit – surgery would last 4 minutes on each machine (there are two machines), he would talk me through everything, and don’t worry about blinking.  That was one of my biggest concerns.  You can blink the entire time!!  [in all reality, they have your eyes clamped open, but you really don’t feel it.  It feels just like you are blinking like normal!!!]  He gave me the numbing drops, put a hair net on my head, and led me into the operating room.

I have to say the doctors and nurses I had were the BEST!  They were so good at their job and really REALLY took care of me.  They led me to the first machine and I laid down on the table.  They put my head in a very comfortable head rest, and then swung a large piece of machinery over my head.  I had to look into a blue light at this point.  The machine came down to my face and the doctor explained that I would feel some pressure.  Have you ever been hit in the eye?  It was kind of like that – but not as strong. … meaning there was the same feeling of pressure, seeing stars, things going dark, but it was really gradual.  The doctor said that I would lose my eye sight for a bit but it was normal.  Things just went really dim and then I couldn’t see.  It wasn’t scary, really.  It just looked dark – like I had my eyes closed.  But to be honest, it was so dim in the room to being with that it really wasn’t too much different.  Then the machine moved to the second eye and did the same thing.  Later I realized this machine was the one that was cutting the flap in my cornea.  I promise you can’t feel it.  It sounds way crazier than it really is.

After that was done, I had a little bit of eye sight – it was just really really dark.  …like trying to walk around in the dark.  A nurse helped me get up from that table and move to another table.  The same thing happened at this table.   My head was put in a comfortable brace and a piece of machinery came over my head.  The doctor told me to look at the light ahead of me.  It was by far the COOLEST light show I’ve ever ever ever seen!!!  It was just something I could never fully describe.  What was happening at this point was the doctor had pulled the flap of cornea back and was “cutting” my eye with the laser – to reshape it back to a normal shape.  But what I saw was a display of beautiful colors and designs and just pure craziness!!  Again, it didn’t hurt.  …although there was a very faint scent of something burning.  Good bye bad vision!  And of course, they repeated it with the other eye.

After that, another nurse helped me up and walked me to a chair to sit in.  The doctor then examined my eyes.  Things were still very blurry and fuzzy, but I could already see better.  YEP!  The very minute after surgery (8 minutes after I had walked into the room) I could already see better!  They put lots of drops in my eyes, gave me some Tylenol PM and told me to go sleep for 4 hours.

I put on my dark glasses and hat and my family lead me to the car.  I slept the whole way home (nearly two hour ride) and then my sister stayed the night with me to make sure I could sleep some more.  I remember that it was raining that day, on the way home, so the skies were pretty dark.  But everything seemed so BRIGHT!  I couldn’t open my eyes when I was in the car or outside because they were so sensitive to the light.  They would just pour water out of them – it was like I was crying the whole way home.  Looking back on it, that was a good thing.  But at the time I feared I would never get better.

I woke up in my bed a few hours later and looked over at the clock.  It read a few minutes after 5 pm.  Wait.  It did what!?  I remember that very first time when I looked over and could actually read the clock from the bed.  I was FLOORED!  And I knew I had made the absolute best decision.  This was SOOOOOOO worth it!

This is me when I had gotten home after I had slept those four hours.  Keep in mind, your eyes are under so much pressure when you get the surgery that it is COMPLETELY NORMAL to have blood vessels pop.  My one eye was fine.  My other eye had two popped blood vessels.  I swear it didn’t hurt.  It just looked ugly:

That night I went to bed with my new after-LASIK attire – a new pair of goggles.  It is very important that you wear these until your doctor says you don’t have to anymore!!  It’s so easy to rub your eyes while you are sleeping without even realizing it.  But especially for the first week or two, you are not even supposed to touch your eye at all, so the cornea flap has plenty of time to heal back into place.  Make sure to wear them every time you sleep!  And if you’re like me, you might want to tape them to your face … because if not, you might wake up with them flung across the room ;)

Don't be hatin' you don't wake up looking this awesome.  haha!!  jk

The next few weeks involved a lot, I mean a LOT of eye drops – about every half an hour.  Some of the drops left a very nasty taste in my mouth.  So whenever I took the drops, I’d make sure to drink something yummy :)

Also, make sure you get eye drops that do not have preservatives in them.  You can find packs of these individual ones.  Buy the big pack.  …on second thought, but three of the big packs.  You’ll use them all!

These were Refresh drops, and the packages specifically said for use after LASIK.

It also involved a lot of follow up appointments to the doctor.  It was a little difficult to get used to brightness again.  When the doctor cleared me to go back to work (since I then worked on the computer all day) she told me to take lots of precautions.  So, I set up monitors as dark as I could, I wore sunglasses inside, and a hat to block the overhead lights I couldn’t turn off, took lots of breaks, and eased myself back into working a full day.

Getting ready to go back to my nerdy job ;)

Disclaimer, I am NOT a Maryland fan.  I just had to borrow a hat from a friend.  You will never again catch something like that on my head!  ;)
Other things you’ll want to avoid: swimming (no water in the eyes!), exercising, sweating, lifting heavy things (puts strain on your eyes, believe it or not), make up, hair spray, and you’ll want to use caution when you shower – not to open your eyes or get water in them.

So how good were the results?  It was clear that my vision had improved.  It was interesting to see how much it would improve.  The doctor had told me that I would at least have perfect vision.  I can’t remember a time when I had 20/20 vision, so I was excited!  When everything was all said and done, I was reading the 20/15 line like no body’s business.  …and if they showed me the 20/10 line, I could almost make the letters out.  Pure craziness!!!

One week after LASIK.

I knew when I went to all the follow up appointments that my eye sight was incredible – and that the doctor’s did an incredible job.  But sometimes you still can’t put that all in to perspective.  But one day, within a few weeks or two of surgery, it really hit me how well I could see.  The picture below is taken in my bathroom.  I’m sitting on the toilet (no, not using the bathroom, geeze!  Just sitting there).  On the sink up against the far wall is a gray bottle of hair spray with a teal top and teal words.  You know those tiny words written on the back of personal care products that are difficult to read (directions, ingredients, etc)?  I could read it.  All the way from there.  Every single word.  Never EVER in a million years would I have thought that was possible.

A few weeks later, my blood spots cleared up, my corneas heeled completely, and life as I knew it came back.  I wore make up again, I went swimming again, I got my hair cut again.  Life was incredible without glasses.  It took what seemed like forever for me to stop trying to push my glasses up on my nose … even though I wasn’t wearing them!  Ha!  That was a hard habit to break.

My last word of advice.  It has been about a year and a half since I had the surgery.  My doctor had told me to keep using “tears” drops even if I felt fine.  So I use them twice a day – even still.  I use them in the morning when I first wake up, because my eyes are a little dry (it was like that before I got surgery) and I use them at night after I take off my make up (just to make sure my eyes are cleaned out from make up residue).  At my one year appointment, my vision was just as good as my one week appointment – which apparently is very, very good.  The doctor said that a lot of patients will have better than 20/20 vision, but it eventually will degrade a little back to 20/20.  Mine didn’t.  Mine stayed at 20/15.  And she said she would bet money that it’s because I still use drops.  I don’t know if there’s any real truth to that, but I’m not willing to risk it ;)

LASIK is guaranteed for life.  $3300 and never again do I have to wear glasses or contacts.  If I keep going to a yearly check-up that guarantee remains.  If my eyes should ever revert back, the surgery to correct them again will be free.  [this does not count for “aging eye” since LASIK cannot fix that.  I may need reading glasses in the future, but for the next 30 years, I think I’m good].

Now that I’ve written you a novel, you should know everything you need to know.  But if I left something out, or if you have a question please PLEASE don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and if I can help you, I am more than happy to.


  1. April, I was looking up something for a tax return that had to do with qualifying medical expenses, and as I was scanning the info for what I needed, I noticed that LASIK is tax deductible. Since it isn't covered by insurance, the government allows LASIK undergoers to deduct it from their taxes, meaning that (depending on what other expenses they may be deducting) that severly large expense could possibly lower their taxes for the year in which it occurs, or even give them enough deductions to receive a refund given their amount of withholding & such (taxes are affected by everything as I'm sure you know lol!). For example, if someone is filing single, and is paying $5500 for the LASIK, and has let's say, $400 in dental expenses, then that $5900 amount is greater than the standard deduction of $5700. So their taxable income would be lowered by the remaining $200. And, SOOO many things are actually tax deductible that someone could easily increase the $5900 amount. Anyway, I just thought I'd share in case you wanted to pass it along to others who are considering LASIK. I know I definitely am, and since I can tax deduct it I fully intend to get LASIK in a few years when I have a better chance of qualifying! :)

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know, Denise!! I had NO idea! And thanks for posting it on the blog so others can see it too. I hope people can use this to their advantage. It sure helps having an accountant for a friend! ;)

  2. Wow, what a great article! I am almost 31 y/o and am getting Lasik tomorrow AM! I have had poor vision since I was 8 so you can imagine my excitement. :) Anyways, just wanted to say THANKS for writing up your experience w/ Lasik, and including so many details. I wasn't informed of anything like goggles at night, or bloodshot eyes, or major tearing on the way home, so now I feel so much more prepared. Yay for lasers!

    1. Erin - that's wonderful!! I'm sure everyone experiences something a little different, but the end result will be the same. This time tomorrow, you'll be seeing better than ever. Congratulations! ;) best of luck and prayers for a smooth surgery.