Laser Eye Surgery - First Steps
If you’re interested in laser eye correction, schedule a consult with a few doctors. Almost every office I called or found on Yelp had a free consult. I highly recommend seeing multiple doctors. I had been approved for LASIK by 3 doctors before I met one who recommended PRK instead. I’m glad I did my research since my corneas could have been seriously damaged during or after the procedure. If a place makes you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, move on. There are dozens of others who will gladly accept your business. Don’t shop around for a deal; these are your eyes!
LASIK vs PRK - What’s the difference?
Both forms of treatment are laser eye surgery, the difference is how they surgeon gets to your eye. In LASIK, a flap is cut in the cornea and the eye underneath is fixed with lasers. While the recovery is much faster (1-2- days) there will always be a small scar where the flap healed. Depending on your lifestyle or other factors, your doctor may recommend a different procedure, like PRK.
In PRK (photo-refractive keratectomy), the entire cornea is brushed away to get to the eye underneath. Once healed, there is no scar. However, the recovery is much longer (2-3 weeks) since the entire cornea has to grow back.
Every PRK experience is different. You don’t know how your body is going to react or how you are going to heal. Are you going to able to see the next day? What’s the pain like? When can you drive or work again? Here’s my experience.
The Day of the Surgery
I was a little apprehensive, not necessarily about the procedure, more so about the recovery. However the doctor’s office I went to (shout out San Diego LASIK Institute) inspired complete confidence. You can see my San Diego LASIK Institute review on Yelp.
My surgery was in the morning so I had a light breakfast, as instructed, and my boyfriend drove me to the doctors office. Before the surgery, the clinicians ran several pre-ops eye tests and gave me numbing drops and a Xanax. I waited a few minutes before they took me back to the actual surgery room. My doctor and an assistant were the only ones in the room; my boyfriend had to wait outside but was able to watch the whole things through a viewing window and monitors. If you’re squeamish, skip ahead to the "Day 1" paragraph…
The doctor put more numbing drops in my eye and then inserted a device to keep my eye open. This is the part that would seem very science fiction torture, but I really didn’t feel a thing! My job was to focus on a red light in front of my eyes during the procedure. He then started the process of removing the cornea. This felt very strange more like pressure on my eye than actual pain. It was a little uncomfortable, but not unbearable. It probably took 30-45 seconds to remove the cornea. Then, once the cornea was gone, the actual laser correction started. I don’t know why I thought it would look like lasers at a rave, instead it was almost like a blue aura around my eye. I was zapped for maybe a minute and then that was it! They applied some medication with a sponge and then a clear contact lens as a bandage. They did the exact same thing on the other eye. The whole procedure took about 12 minutes for both eyes.
After the procedure, I took a valium and came home. My boyfriend maybe a sandwich and I literally fell asleep halfway through eating it. I went to bed for a couple of hours then woke up very briefly to take a second valium. I slept from 1 PM to 4 PM and woke up feeling amazing! I could see everything was in 20/20, no pain at all. It may have been a little ambitious, but I tried watching TV for the next couple hours. I felt good into the evening and decided to venture out to go grocery shopping. That night, I went to sleep around 8 PM. Woke up around 2 AM and took my first hydrocodone to help me fall back asleep.
PS. Post-procedure, you’re required to take mediated eye drops and pain pills every 4 hours. You are also prescribed narcotics, if needed.
Day 1: The next morning I would’ve happily slept for hours and hours but I had my first follow-up appointment in the morning. The appointment was very quick and confirmed that I had 20/20 vision…but not for long. My doctor explained that things would get a little bit worse as my eyes healed (literally, scabbed) over, but then they would come back to 20/20 and even better. I also ask her if it was normal to have a runny nose, she said yes. That afternoon I thought I would feel as amazing as I did yesterday but crashed pretty hard about an hour after the appointment. My boyfriend was running errands and I fell sleep in the car. I woke up about an hour later and was not in the best shape. I was tired and uncomfortable. After a 4 hour nap, I took my second hydrocodone and felt much better for the rest of the evening. I caught up on Scandal and was able to fall asleep early. I woke up around 1 AM to take my third hydrocodone.
Day 2: I woke up and attempted my first shower. You are not allowed to get your face wet for a week so I was a little nervous and wore my goggle in the shower. Washing my hair turned out not to be a problem (bonus beauty tip: use micellar water to cleanse your face without having to rinse). When I got out of the shower my eyes were very, very dry so I put an extra drops. I would say today was the driest and most uncomfortable with my eyes of been so far. I knew that this would happen but it was still a little frustrating to feel so good the first day. After this day, I started using the artificial tear drops as much as possible, every 30 minutes or so. I really think helped my recovery. I stayed awake for a couple of hours but eventually fell sleep again right around noon. I woke up a couple hours later in the most pain yet. The pain was more of a headache than actual eye pain. I took another hydrocodone and felt better within a couple of hours. I had a hard time seeing close up. I couldn’t read any of my text messages; the text was very blurry and the light hurt my eyes.
Diet: I have been eating as much fish oil and healthy fats as I can along with carrot juice, oranges, vitamin C, and flax seed supplements. Anything that promotes healthy eyes!
Day 3: I had been taking 2 hydrocodone a day, one in the wee hours of morning and the other sometime in the afternoon. It definitely helped. A couple friends came to see me and invited me to a speaking event that evening. I figured, because it would be a dim auditorium that didn’t require seeing close up, I would be fine. I was pretty sleepy during the event, but wasn’t in much pain. Plus, it felt nice to get out of the house! I could squint to make out text messages, zoom in on my computer, and watch TV for 15-20 minutes at a time without issue.
Day 4-7: About a week in now! My vision was still pretty good, much better than it was before without glasses. Occasionally, it would become blurry throughout the day. The more I rest, the clearer it became. I wore my very cool sunglasses everywhere during the day, even in the house and watching TV. I tried answering some work emails but had to take breaks every hour or so. I was down to only 1 hydrocodone a day, I didn't want to get too used to those… and was taking a 2-4 hour nap during the day.
I had a one week follow up appointment and the doctor was very pleased with my results! Apparently, I’m already starting to recover and my vision won’t get any worse from here. Only better! She said that I was healing better than most patients. I think it’s a combination or diet, naps, and excessive artificial tear use.
Day 7-14: My vision has gradually gotten better every day. It tends to get blurry after I put in drops and after long periods of use. I still wear my sunglasses everywhere during the day, and even at night if I’m watching TV. I went back to work on day 10. Days 12-14, my contact really started bothering me. They were very dry and it felt difficult to focus, like I really had to strain my eyes to see. I used artificial tears every 15 minutes and that seemed to help, but only for a short time.
I drove to my 2 week check up. Technically, I was approved to drive after my 1 week check up because I was 20/20, but light sensitivity was still bothering me. The doctor finally removed the contact lenses. She said that some patients are totally fine and comfortable after the contact comes off, and some feel like their eyelid is sandpaper…great. Luckily, I felt great, no pain or discomfort! This was also the first night I was instructed to use night ointment in my eye before bed.
My eyes were still dry and tired when I got home, I think I overused them during the day staring at a computer screen without my sunglasses. The ointment was…interesting. Pretty much exactly what you would think putting ointment your lower eyelid is like. A little strange, not really uncomfortable, but everything becomes blurry.
Day 15: Wow! My eyes feel amazing today. I rinsed off the excess ointment on my eyelids in the morning and poured in more artificial tears. I gave in and wore my sunglasses to work. I think the combination of not having to strain/squint combined with the fact that the contacts are gone has resulted in feeling really good. Minimal dryness and no tension headache! Fingers crossed things are better and better from here.
Day 16-28: My eyesight is getting better every day and I’ve experienced little to no discomfort after the contacts were removed. My eyes don’t even feel dry anymore!
My vision was a little blurry in the morning after I woke up and in the evening when driving home after work. I finally figured out that it is because my eyes were dry. They didn’t feel dry, but I checked with my doctor and she said that dry eyes/not using drops for a while may affect my vision. After I put in drops, I could see much better!
I went in for my 4 week post-op check up and my vision is already 20/15. My next check up is in 6 months. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to get laser eye surgery. I find the little things the most surreal (i.e., I don’t have to worry about packing contact solution when I fly, I can go swimming or take a shower and actually see, I can lay down and watch TV without my glasses digging into my ear, I can workout/sweat without having to worry about glasses slipping off my face or irritated contacts, I can actually wear sunglasses that aren’t prescription, the list goes on…)
Best of luck on your vision journey!