I thought I'd write up my experiences for anybody that is considering having it done / has considered it in the past but not gone through with it for some reason.
I chose Optical Express for my surgery, but other providers are available! (UltraLase for example)
Step 1: Consultation
Booking this could not have been easier. I sent for an information pack on the company's website, and within a week they had phoned me at work to arrange a time and location.
There are locations everywhere in the UK - my closest was actually in Bristol at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway. We booked a time and date (4pm on a Saturday) and then they rang me a couple of days before just to check everything was still OK.
When I went in for the consultation, everybody was very friendly and professsional as you might expect. The waiting area was quite nice with leather sofas and a tea/coffee machine (and TV), but we didn't have to wait long before being seen.
I went in with my dad - they say you cannot drive after the consultation, so you need a parent or friend to accompany you! (or a taxi, but that might not be the best idea as will become apparent).
Also - BRING SUNGLASSES.
The first part of the consultation involved hopping between three machines in a darkened room. These machines took readings and measurements of my eyes (including the awful 'puff of air' test) to give an accurate map of them, including how light diffracts once it enters the eye.
This takes about five minutes, then back to the waiting room.
The second part involved a fairly standard eye test, to confirm my prescription (which they ask you to bring) and to further investigate suitability for surgery.
I was told that, happily, I was a good candidate. The optometrist then put some drops in my eyes to dilate and fix my pupils (apparently I have 'lovely big pupils', hehe) so that she could look inside the eye with maximum detail - this also lets them predict how your prescription might change over the coming years, I think.
Whilst the drops took effect, she talked us through the various different types of treatment available, and the prices.
I was recommended LASIK with WaveForm and Intralase, at a cost of £1595 per eye.
LASIK is the type of corrective surgery (the alternative being LASEK)
In basic terms, LASIK is newer, less invasive and has a much quicker healing time (2 to 3 days) than LASEK.
WaveForm deals with the mapping of the eye, allowing much greater precision when the laser is doing it's job. Using WaveForm, the possibility of eliminating "halo-ing" or glare during night driving, for example, is greatly increased. I drive a lot, and hate driving at night for that very reason, so I was very keen to have this done.
Intralase is the method of cutting the flap in the front of the eye, which needs to be removed before the corrective laser can be applied.
This costs an additional £200 per eye. The cheaper alternative is the Microkeratome, basically a tiny saw.
I had read about the Microkeratome, which involved putting a ring over the eye and applying suction, and thought "Hells no", so I went for the Intralase. A little misleading, as you will discover. However the precision is that much better with the laser.
Once all the questions were done with, the drops had taken effect and everything had gone blurry as my eyes were unable to focus. The optometrist took a look in the eyes, declared everything fine, and then I went into another room to discuss treatment and payment details.
Apparently Fridays are very busy, because people don't want to take too much time off work - having the weekend as the healing days is a popular choice. So I booked for the end of May as that was the earliest opportunity, paid a £200 deposit, and was on my way.
They advised me that they would be in touch approx. 3 weeks before surgery to arrange the rest of the payment.
At this point, I should point out a few things.
YES, over £3000 is a lot of money. However, there are a few things to consider:
1. The state of your eyes.
I was in the middle bracket for prescriptions, having a -3.50 and -5.00 for my right and left eye respectively. I also have astigmatism and lazy eye.
The most expensive "per eye" cost is £1795 so I wasn't far off.
2. Payment options.
I chose to pay upfront, because that's how I prefer to do things. You can also pay over 10 months at 0% interest, or 24, 36 or 48 months at 9.6%
3. The quality of life is an unquantifiable cost. You make your own decisions, but for me, £3000 for not having to worry about glasses was a small price to pay.
Note: They didn't actually call me - I dropped by the store last weekend to pay by card.
Next up: Treatment Day!