Sunday, 23 June 2013

My LASIK Experience

Hey everyone, 

Apologies I've been gone for so long but as I've said in my last post I have been busy with finals and was in the USA. About a week ago I got laser eye surgery (LASIK to  be specific) and thought it might be a good idea to share my experiences with you guys in case any of you were interested or considering it yourself.

So my whole journey to eye surgery really began when I was 8 and was told I needed to wear glasses. I remember being really upset by the fact I'd have to wear them for the rest of my life. Fast forward about 5 or 6 years when I discovered contact lenses. I was hesitant to try them at first as I was concerned they'd cause damage to my eyes but quickly got over this concern and had been alternating between glasses and contacts ever since. Really the majority of time I was out of my house I would wear contacts, and I would wear glasses all the time when I was staying in. My eyes apparently didn't produce a lot of tears when I wore contacts so they would become irritated after about 8 hours of wearing them and I was told that realistically I shouldn't be wearing them for more than 6 hours at a time. For the past year or so, contacts were irritating my eyes more and more, and it just became a hassle to put them in, so last summer I decided to look into getting laser eye surgery.

The first stage for laser surgery is to choose your surgeon. My optician recommended a doctor who was top of his field and I did my own research and found no negative reviews, so I decided to have a pre-op consultation with him. This consultation is very important as it determines whether or not you are a candidate for laser surgery. There are various reasons why you would not be a candidate such as too high a prescription, dry eyes, etc. Despite the fact that I had terrible eyesight (-7.00 in contacts), I was a candidate. I was told that I was not suitable for LASEK but was suitable for LASIK as I had very thick corneas and a high prescription. I decided not to go ahead with the surgery last summer just because I was very busy at the time and felt I hadn't researched enough about it, but this summer I decided it was time. 

I was absolutely terrified going into the surgery. I am one of those people who likes to know exactly what is going to happen so I had done a lot of googling and watching youtube videos. They both reassured me and made me even more worried at the same time. After my research I was very concerned about suction loss (which I will explain later), and so I asked about this during my preop. The surgeon told me not to worry as this only happened to 1 in 100 people and wasn't really much of a problem if it occurred. I had to check in for surgery an hour before the actual surgery would take place. On arrival, they gave me a valium which is part of standard procedure to ensure you are not too nervous going into surgery. I was hesitant to take the valium as I had read about people taking it being completely out of it, but let me just tell you, it didn't have any effect on me whatsoever. They offered 2mg, 5mg and 10mg. I took the 5mg but would recommend for people to take the 10mg to calm themselves.

When it was time for surgery I was brought into a little room where numbing drops were put into my eyes. This was a really odd feeling that I do not know how to describe. I was then brought into a slightly bigger room which had two huge machines. The clinic I had my surgery in uses intralase procedure (i.e. the flap is created with a laser as opposed to a mechanical device), and so one of these was the laser for the flap creation, and the other one (the eximer laser) was the one that actually does that treatment).  I lay down on a chair that reclines all the way and had my head secured by an inbuilt pillow sort of thing on each side. The nurse cleaned my eye area with antiseptic and put some antiseptic eye drops in my eyes. Then it was time.

I was moved under one of the machines and told to look up at a little red light. This was just to focus my eye on one area so the suction could be applied. After the procedure I was shown what exactly the suction is. It is a little plastic ring that they push gently onto your eye and is attached to a needle. When they have placed the suction ring, they release the needle so that it 'sucks' onto you eye. Having read about others experiences, I had no idea what to expect. Some say the suction feels like your eye being sucked out of your head and others say its like someone pressing the palm of their hand on your eye. What I experienced was absolutely nothing to be worrying about. It literally just felt slightly more forceful than the pressure I would put on my eye wiping off my eye makeup (keep in mind, I'm not exactly delicate taking my makeup off). If you press your finger firmly on your eye, that's what it feels like. However, there was an issue when it came to my suction (yes I was one of the hundred he was talking about...probably worse to be honest). When I was moved under the laser that creates the flap, they lost suction. I became nervous, worrying about the pain that I had read about when they have to reapply suction. It was a bit more uncomfortable the second time but I think that was because the numbing drops were starting to wear off and that my eye was swollen from the first suction. The surgeon applied suction again, but once again my eye lost suction. At this stage I was freaking out, not knowing why it wasn't working. 

The surgeon then decided to move onto my second eye (the right eye), before he tried the first one again. The second eye worked no problem the first time. When the crap is being created, I did not feel any change in pressure from when the suction was originally applied. Some people say your vision is lost during flap creation but I could see the whole time (obviously it was blurry considering how bad my sight was). When the flap was made, I was moved back under the first laser. The surgeon taped my eyelashes back but didn't even use that horrible clamp thing you see in photos of laser surgery. I could then feel him using an instrument to fold back the flap. There was no pain or discomfort at all. I was then asked to focus on the red light again, so the actually laser treatment could be done. All I will say for this is prepare yourself for noise. It sounds like a firing squad. I couldn't really feel anything though except a slight hot sensation at the end. I could however smell my eye burning which I found very odd. The surgeon then applied some drops in my eye and closed my flap over. He then placed a plastic patch over my eye to keep me from rubbing it.

Then it was time for the left eye again. To my dismay, once again suction was lost and so the doctor decided to hold off until the following week to try again as he said it was unlikely to keep suction as my eye was now quite swollen. Because of this, mixed with the valium I would say,  I came out of the procedure very upset which probably scared off any patients waiting to go in. I was brought into a pitch dark room with a reclining chair and told to wait there for 20. The salt from my tears really began stinging my eyes and it was not a comfortable 20 minutes. This was probably my own fault for crying though to be fair. After 20 minutes, I was brought back in to see the doctor so he could check on the eye that worked, which seemed to be doing well. He scheduled me in for the second eye for the next week. 

To be honest I don't remember much for the rest of that day. I was so distraught about having only one eye done that I wasn't really focused on pain or anything. The eye that wasn't done was actually more irritating than the one that was done because of all the swelling. I was told to go home and sleep for 2 hours which I did. I then dozed on and off for the rest of the day because I was so tired. I was given eye drops to use which I will explain later. The next day, I was brought back in for my post-op consultation and told that my right eye was healing well.

Let me just say the days leading up to my second attempt had me sick with worry. The right eye was recovering well and I found it fantastic how well I could see. But this was overshadowed by the fact I was extremely dizzy from having great eyesight in one eye and being legally blind in the other. I had to go and buy an eyepatch for one eye so that I could keep myself balanced. 

The day of the second surgery, I was a bundle of nerves. I was significantly more worried than I was the last time. All I kept thinking to myself was that this may not work, I may be stuck with one eye that can see and one eye that can't. Do they make special glasses for this? Will I need to use a contact in one eye? Everything possible was going through my head.  They were running an hour behind with surgery which was making me even more agitated. Once again I went into the room with the lasers and had my numbing drops. I was told this time they weren't using antiseptic drops in my eyes because that could cause loss of suction as they can leave a greasy residue. 

This time I was shaking quite badly I was that nervous. Once again, I was told to look at the red dot so they could place the suction on. I was moved over to the other laser and after what felt like forever, they lost suction again. I felt devastated. I really thought it had worked. The doctor told me they were 90% of the way there when it lost suction. He then said 'ok last try', which didn't really help my nerves to be honest. I asked him could he count down how long was left until the flap was created while the suction. He agreed and FINALLY it worked. I let out the biggest sigh of relief. It was finally done. I didn't even mind having to have the flap lifted or the laser used just because I knew it would work.

I had the biggest smile on my face when I was moved into the dark room again as finally, I had my laser surgery done and dusted. This time I paid more attention to pain etc as I knew I wanted to write this blog post. To be perfectly honest, what I felt like was that there was a bit of diluted shampoo in my eye. This only lasted from the time I was put in the dark room until the time I got home (which was about an hour in total). By the time I was to head to bed for my nap, the pain was gone. I could feel absolutely nothing for the rest of the day.

In terms of eyedrops, they are very important. For the first 2 days I needed to apply antibiotic drops and anti-inflammatory drops every 2 hours. On the second day, I had to introduce artificial tears every two hours. After a couple of days, the antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops were to be 4 times daily and the tears still every 2 hours. I am told to stop these drops (other than the tears) after a week, and that the artificial tears can be used as long as I feel I need them.

I feel like this has been a very long post so I will write a part 2 as to my recovery next week sometime.

I hope I didn't put anyone off the procedure too much. Really I was an exception to the rule and it should usually be much simpler than what I went through. If I didn't have the suction loss problem I would say it was a walk in the park. 

If anyone is thinking about getting it done, please don't hesitate to contact me, I'd be delighted to help and happy to give recommendations for any of you in the Dublin area.