A few months back, Consumer Reports Health released a survey that said 55% of people who had LASIK - the corrective eye-laser surgery - are still wearing glasses or contacts some of the time. 22% of patients still had the annoying side-effects (halos, starburst around lights) six months afterwards. The first statistic amazes me, the second does not.
I was one of the first LASIK patients in America. A girl I was seeing in 1998 worked for one of the head opthamologists at the University of Southern California's Doheny Eye Institute, and he was beginning his LASIK practice, with the lasers that had just been approved by the FDA. Lots of people had already undergone an older, less-reliable treatment called RK (radial keratotomy), but my doctor was anxious to get the word out about the new technique. He asked his assistant to find a good patient who could be a success story, and she brought me to the office.
He offered to do my eyes for free, and in return, I agreed to be interviewed by the newspaper, and have before/after pictures taken. At this point, there's one thing you should already understand - if there's a bizarre side-effect, I'm your guy. When I got my wisdom teeth out, they made us watch a video about how there's a .01% chance of the surgery hitting your jaw nerve and paralyzing half your face. Cut to me, writing this right now, with barely any feeling on the left side of my chin (which, admittedly, makes shaving easier).
But my terrible eyesight was one of my Four Major Fights With God (the others being acne, depression, and lethargy) and when you see a chance like this to get the upper hand, you bloody well take it. I signed the forms without even looking, strapped myself into the chair, and like Queen Victoria, lay back and thought of England.
After the surgery, I definitely saw better - my previous vision had been -7 and -7.5 with severe astigmatism, which is a short step away from being totally non-functional - but after two weeks, I went back in for another corrective round. You can't open your eyes for the first hour or so after the event, so I didn't do so until I got back home.
And that's when the clouds parted, and the sun shone through. Somebody was watching a television two rooms away, and I could read the credits. I nearly started crying. From that day forward, I could read the spines of books through windows across the street. As of a couple of years ago, I'm still better than 20/20. Sometimes I walk outside and look to the horizon of the ocean and spot distant boats, just because I remember a time when I couldn't have distinguished the sea from a parking lot.
Yes, I saw pretty noticeable halos around lights at night, especially while driving (caused by your pupil dilating past the treated area) and I did have annoyingly dry eyes for about a year or two (caused by the tiny laser scar keeping your tears from spreading uniformly) but those abated, and I can't BEGIN to tell you how thankful and blessed I feel.
To go back to my original statement, I find it hard to believe 55% of people still use glasses or contacts after LASIK, unless they had a disreputable doctor - or didn't go back for another correction, like I did. As for the halos and starbursts... man oh man it was worth it. No more losing glasses, no more walking into a party and having them steam up, no more contact lens solution, no more eye migraines, and no more random bursts of helplessness.
I have a statistics counter that shows how people end up on this site through Google searches - among plenty of other things, many of you are looking for Olympic volleyball goddess Misty May and her awesome ass, my wonderful stepsister Cyia, or our old friend Laurie Dhue... but lots of you got here looking for LASIK stories. Here's mine in a nutshell: find a doctor with a ton of experience (thousands of eyeballs with virtually no infection rate), plan ahead for a possible 2nd surgery, and go for it. Then throw your glasses off the nearest bridge, and watch them hit the water in glorious detail.
Posted by Ian Williams at January 26, 2010 11:37 PM