So it's about ~45 hours since I underwent laser eye surgery. This is becoming quite a common procedure (judging by the amount of people in the waiting room!) but is still quite a scary prospect to a lot of people.
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!
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31-05-2009 10:42 AM #1
Laser Eye Surgery (Caution: Long!)
Last edited by Eddish; 31-05-2009 at 04:29 PM. Reason: Fixed IntraLase company name to UltraLase
31-05-2009 10:52 AM #2
Interesting stuff, I was going to have mine done when i was 17, but was too young.
Ive recently started thinking about it again. Only I always find something else to spend the money on.
31-05-2009 11:11 AM #3
It is an interesting one.
I went for the consultation and was very much given the hard sell. They were very helpful, bending over backwards, and keep coming back to me with offers, and it's starting to do my head in.
During the consultation it became apparent to me that laser eye surgery wasn't going to be suitable for me because I swim and do a lot of other water sports. Any of the options would require at least a 2 week total break from all of it and significantly longer from the watersports and lifesaving training which I'm not keen to do at the moment.
They then decided that none of the processes were suitable if I wanted to stick with the sports, but kept trying to talk me into it.
It really felt that their interest was solely getting people signed up, regardless of whether or not it was what they really wanted.Growls
31-05-2009 11:11 AM #4
I will have it too. Don't know when, since I'm a bit tight on the cash, but I made this decision already years ago. Even saw two documentaries about it. There is a very renominated clinic in turkey and a lot of German people travel there to have it done. It's a lot cheaper there too. (Not because, the procedure is "cheaper" it's just that people earn much less there, since everything is cheaper, but I think you understood that already). It was a bit scary to see the eye and the cutting and the (very small) bleeding, but everyone was fine.
I have -3, -4 respectively and the thought of not needing anymore glasses (and just regular sunglasses, no optical ones) is very appealing.
Thanks for the summary.
31-05-2009 11:22 AM #5
Step 2: Treatment Day
May 29th: 1300 hours
I actually went into work that morning. Only for 2.75 hours but money's money, and I had some stuff I wanted to get out of the way. I got back home at 12:15 (damn slow drivers in my way), picked up my dad (my designated driver again) and went into Bristol.
We got there for just after 1 (damn traffic on the M5) but it then transpired that they were running late. Scrubs was on the TV though, so not all bad
My first call was for a repeat of the "dark room" tests from the consultation, minus the puff of air test (thank god).
These were just to confirm my eyes weren't changing for the surgeon. This took minutes, and then I was back into the waiting room again.
The second call was to see the surgeon, an Australian bloke who was built not dissimilar to a tree. He was actually quite intimidating, and I almost felt like I was a curiosity to him, which pissed me off a bit (I masked this as I do all uncomfortable situations with self-deprecating jokes in a Chandler-esque fashion).
I have a lazy eye, which only presents itself if I focus with my right eye (which I never do). I have always had a slight head-tilt to the left, which I now know is my body naturally compensating for the sight deficiency.
The surgeon got me to try a load of different things whilst he observed with some kind of delighted intrigue, before noting that I'd be a perfect final question on an optical surgeon's exam paper, because they wouldn't have a clue what to do.
It's one of the more unique things I've had said about me, I'll give him that.
Anyway, at this point I was feeling quite self conscious and hopeful that the ground might swallow me up, but was relieved to hear him say that none of this bizarreness would be a problem for surgery.
I went across the hall and had the eyedrops explained to me, along with goggles that I would have to wear for a week whilst sleeping.
Click for sexiness.
Back out into the waiting area, before finally being called in by a very pretty nurse to undergo The Treatment.
At this point it was about 14:20.
I was introduced to the other nurse, who explained the machinery to me, and put in the anaesthetising eyedrops.
It's at this point where - if you're like me - you'll start getting uncomfortable.
I HATE having things put in or near my eyes. And that's HATE spelt with an emphatic "ARGHOHMIGOD get that the fuck away from me!"
So I was a bit shaky when she put them in, then mistakenly asked if I'd ever worn contact lenses, before realising that my reaction said all it needed to say
Onto the machinery. I lay on a bed, in between the two lasers. The one on my left was the 'cutting' laser. She swung the bed underneath it so I could take a look. It was a large black hole, with white LEDs around the edge of it. This was where she explained how the surgeon would put a ring around the eyeball, apply pressure and I would lose my vision in that eye, then feel some pressure as the laser cut a flap in the eye.
My brain screamed at me "YOU LIED!", as I had thought that IntraLase == no ring around eyeball, etc. Ah well, too late to back out now!!
She then swung the bed under the machine to the right, which looked a lot less cool and sci-fi than the cutting machine. There was an orange light, which I would be required to look at. The machine would tick loudly as the laser fired, and I would smell a smell like burning hair, as the particles coming off my eye were burnt up by the laser. Mmmmm toasty.
I was swung back into the middle, more drops applied, and the surgeon entered.
After exchanging pleasentries, and asking if I wouldn't mind signing up to "Optical Freak of the Week" magazine (note: this part may be a total fabrication), he got to work.
Swinging the bed under the left-hand machinery, he instructed me to "relax as much as possible" and then brought over a plastic ring. At this point, my eyes were completely anaesthetised. The skin around however, could feel, and my brain knew what was going on.
So I was ... shaky, to put it mildly, as he put this plastic ring around my eyeball. It felt weird, because I could feel things against my face, yet not against my eye at all. With a big plaster over my left eye, something hooked up to the plastic ring, and then I felt some pressure, and everything went black.
This actually helped, and I calmed a bit. I felt the laser actually cutting away the flap in my eye - like pinpricks, but without pain. This took a minute, and the nurses counted down in a very calming, soothing voice.
The right eye done, the ring came out and we went through the rigmarole for the left eye. More pressure and blackness, then bam, it was done.
I was swung out to the right-hand machine now. By this point, my vision was super-blurry. The surgeon attached a clip to my right eyelids to keep them wide (I again attempted to resist this, despite my best efforts to resist myself resisting it ...) and then started prodding around with the thinnest surgical instrument I'd ever seen. It wasn't for half a minute before I realised that he was actually opening the flap on my eye. I couldn't feel a thing.
Once it was open, I could just make out lights and nothing else. He said 'just look at the orange light' and then the laser started.
When they say it ticks, it really does. Loudly. This didn't bother me though, neither did the smell. I tried to focus on the light and they interesting shapes and patterns it was making as it flashed away with the laser.
Annoyingly, my entire body was still shaking. I couldn't stop it! I tried breathing deeply, I tried thinking of other things (being a bloke, I thought abour oral sex ... it didn't really help. Made me happier though )
Literally a minute later (if that) the laser shut off, the teeny surgical instrument was back, and the flap was closed - everything suddenly came into slight focus. Still very blurry, but better than before when I didn't have glasses on. Drops were applied (which made me jump).
Time for the left eye - my worst eye and the one I mainly focus with.
Again the clip was applied, and the flap removed. For some reason I was shaking more this time, to the point where the laser actually refused to fire and the surgeon had to say "too much movement!"
If anything, this is a good thing to demonstrate - the laser will NOT fire if your eye moves, so there's no worries about it doing something it shouldn't.
I calmed myself, and it started ticking away. Another minute, and it was done. More drops, and I sat up. The nurses were concerned that I was OK, but I was just embarrassed more than anything. I knew I hated things going in my eyes, but not to such a ridiculously jumpy extent.
Either way, it was done. The surgeon looked at my eyes in an exam room with a microscope, I went and picked up my eye drops, then we were off and away, with sunglasses on.
The actual surgery took hardly any time at all. The longest bit was the waiting around, and waiting for the anasthetic drops to take effect.
I am incredibly jumpy and squeamish about my eyes. People who have worn contact lenses shouldn't have an issue - people who aren't that bothered about things going in their eyes shouldn't have an issue!
Hell, even being incredibly jumpy, I still got it done
Next up: Post-Op
31-05-2009 11:34 AM #6
Step 3: Post-Op
Well, those last posts are huge. I'll try this one with more brevity.
By the time I got home on Friday, my eyes were sore. I had a headache behind my eyes and they felt sensitive, so I went straight upstairs and shut the curtains.
I put the goggles on, fired up my iPod on the "Chillout" playlist and fell into a kind of half-sleep (after taking some co-dridamol for the headache/pain)
I got up around 6-ish and put the first set of drops in.
You get three kinds:
- Anti-bacterial to prevent infection. 6 times a day for 1 week
- Anti-inflammatory. 4 times a day for 1 week
- Saline drops to prevent dryness and speed healing. Minimum 4 times a day for 1 week or more as required.
I've gotten good at doing these now. I don't have an issue doing it myself, as opposed to other people doing it (it's a control thing. I hate not being in control)
That night, I could already focus perfectly on the picture at the other end of my room, and watch TV from my bed. It was a good feeling
My eyes were still really hazy, and everything light (whites are the worst) had a halo effect to it.
I went to sleep, and had a crap night with those damn stupid goggles.
Saturday I was up, and disappointed that I couldn't read anything up close.
However, by 11am I was chilling out in the lounge reading F1 Racing, my eyes improving by the hour
I've spent almost all weekend with my sunglasses on. My eyes are still sensitive to light (doesn't help that it's a glorious weekend out there) so wearing them helps a lot.
I had my Day 1 appointment at 4.30, so we drove back to Bristol (I couldn't drive yet) and had a check. It was very brief - I read some letters off a chart and she took a look at my eyes with the microscope. As of then, I had "almost 20/20 vision" but it was still improving at the time, and the healing process was going fine
I was told that the halo-ing was normal and would reduce over a period of weeks, as the inflammation went down. Same with the hazyness and lack of focus.
By the end of the day, the vision was actually getting a little worse, but I was very tired.
This morning, things hadn't noticeably improved and I was a little annoyed/worried, but I've been sitting here writing all of this for a while now, and yesterday I could barely read what was on the screen, so I'm still improving.
Fingers crossed by tomorrow morning I'll be OK to drive, and I can get into work.
31-05-2009 11:36 AM #7
I was told - no swimming for 2 weeks, after that it's fine.
No contact sports for 4 weeks, after that it's fine.
They do use LASEK for people who do contact sports, with a bandage contact lense applied for the first week. Healing time is longer but supposedly the end result is tougher in a shorter timespan overall.
31-05-2009 12:01 PM #8
Consulation was just before Christmas.
LASEK was looking like the better option for my lifestyle, but even that was going to mean a big break from training.
I might go back in a few years and see how things have moved on.Growls
31-05-2009 01:41 PM #9TheSite Graduate
- Join Date
- Aug 2000
When I worked at UL we used to advise four weeks swimming and gym work, up to 12 weeks for contact sports and anything upto 6 months for martial arts etc.
Not had it done myself but I will say that watching it is probably worse than having it done.Voted Poster of the Year: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
31-05-2009 04:04 PM #10
There are cases coming to light in the U.S. now (they've had it longer than us) of complications years after surgey. Personally i wouldn't. You get 1 pair of eyes and i'm not gonna fuck with them.I've got plenty of baggage and i don't expect anyone to carry it for me. But you can have a good rummage through it if you'd like.
katralla - That's right, I am Kev, and I am a slut.
Munkey, Ruudy & Friends
31-05-2009 04:09 PM #11
There was a woman in when I had mine done who was there for a "top up" - she had it done 10 years ago and things had worsened gradually (though she was about the right age for the natural deterioration to set in) but other than that, no issues to report
31-05-2009 05:18 PM #12TheSite Graduate
- Join Date
- Aug 2000
The company I worked for started treatments in around 1990 and the come back rate was low despite the lifetime guarantee.
I think a lot of people dont realise the healing proccess is quite long and its usual to have good days and bad days. I think some of the statistics can be a bit misleading. In my experience there are two types of patients, those who have a quick recovery and never heard from again, and the minority for which it doesn't work and the recovery can be long and frustrating.Voted Poster of the Year: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
31-05-2009 06:21 PM #13
Certainly a lot of people in the waiting room (coming back for post-op checks) were very happy at the time! Even the one who was back 10 years later (and had had the original LASEK treatment) was thrilled with how it had changed her life back then.
Currently, my right eye (which had less corrective action done on it) is almost perfect. My left eye has good hours and bad hours - as I get more tired it starts to suffer a bit (like now, text starting to go a bit fuzzy) but in general is improving constantly.
I reckon I will be able to drive tomorrow, but it might be a shorter day (leave later once I've fully woken up and leave work early if things aren't 100%) as opposed to my usual thing of falling out of bed into the car, then driving home when I'm almost dead
31-05-2009 07:29 PM #14TheSite Graduate
- Join Date
- Aug 2000
Tiredness will make the vision reduce, plenty of rest will fix that.
As for working, definately take your sunglasses with you, office style lighting and monitors can give your eyes light issues. Have your moisture/saline eye drops with you too, monitors and air conditioned environments will proper dry your eyes outVoted Poster of the Year: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
31-05-2009 07:36 PM #15
Yep, sunnies will be in evidence (given the weather I'd need them for driving anyway) and I'm going to keep a timetable of when I need to take the drops throughout the day.
We don't have AC in our office, which is good (no drying out) but at the same time, it's going to be unbearably hot due to that, so I think that'll have the same sort of effect. I don't think sweat dripping into the eyes is quite the same as saline drops ...