Wednesday, August 15, 2012

PRK Laser Eye Surgery

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from friends lately, asking me how my experience with laser eye surgery was. I had PRK done over a year ago and I’m still in love with the fact that I can see without glasses. I kept a journal at the time of the surgery so that I could help others understand exactly what to expect. It’s the not knowing, that is so scary. The actual surgery takes less than 15 minutes and is pain free or was for me.

I had my eye surgery done at the Coal Harbour Eye Centre in Vancouver. They were able to provide pre and post op exams in Nanaimo and then the actual surgery took place in Vancouver. When I went, I had gone on a Groupon, which was $1500 for both eyes (at 50% off), including some special tissue saving lens option. They have since dropped their prices to $1700 for both eyes: I had a good experience with them and would recommend them (they are not aware of this article I’m writing).  Also, I’d like to mention that even though I did purchase the Groupon, I researched Coal Harbour Eye Centre as thoroughly as I possibly could before purchasing it. I did not want to mess around with my eyes.
(Photo Credit: Brad Scromeda)

There are two types of Lasik Eye Surgery … one is actually Lasik and the other is PRK. Lasik eye surgery uses the laser to create a flap in your. They lift the flap and then use the laser on your cornea. Once the adjustments are made they lower the flap and you can see right away. There is no ‘blurry’ phase because there is nothing to heal. The flap of your is, however, just held in place by gravity, so it can be knocked loose or prone to infection.

PRK is what I had done because at -6 in both eyes, I didn’t have enough eyeballs to do Lasik. My only option was PRK. I’m glad I chose it though, because even though you have a longer recovery, you can still play high impact sports and not have to worry about your eye flap coming loose because you don’t have one. Instead of making a flap, they chemically burn a thin layer of cells from your eyeballs before using the laser. This is why there is the longer recovery, because you have to wait for the cells in your eyes to grow back before you see 100%.   In the meantime they can’t give you prescription lenses because your prescription is changing daily.

After my surgery I had to wear sunglasses outside (no matter if it was sunny or not) for 6 months. So, if you choose this option, invest in a good pair of sunglasses. I wore mine as prescribed and only recently would willingly go outside without them. My eyes are more sensitive to light even now, but nothing like when I first had my surgery. When I first had my eyes done I couldn’t watch TV because the light was too bright. I couldn’t see to read either, so entertainment was an issue. I listened to audio books and slept a lot. Even during the second week when I was getting closer to being able to drive, I tried riding my bike to get around. The wind on my eyes (with the sunglasses on) was too much and I didn’t even make it a block. Be prepared to be pretty much helpless for 2 weeks solid. After that you will be able to go back to work, but you will have to squint and make the fonts bigger and possibly only work half days, if your job involves a lot of computer work. Your eyes will get tired (never knew they could) and you will have to rest them every day for another few weeks afterwards. That is something to consider when planning the timing of your surgery too.

When I first wrote my journal I had the font size up quite large and had the font white with a black background. I was very light sensitive and that was the only way I could stare at a screen long enough to write my journal. The light sensitivity lessens greatly after a few weeks.

Here is a journal of my experience …

PRK Surgery

Day 1:

The morning leading up to my eye surgery was nerve racking to say the least. I was making myself nauseous with anxiety about the whole thing, but like they say … it wasn’t all that bad.

My appointment was fro 2:45 – 4:45 and only ran 5 minutes late. The Coal Harbour Lasik Eye Care Centre that performed my surgery runs like a well-oiled machine. I sat in the waiting room and then my name was called. I thought … here we go here’s the end of my life, as I know it. But little did I know it was just the start of my name being called several times. The first was to take images of my cornea, then back to the waiting room. Next I was called in for images of the outside of my eyeballs on a few various machines and then back to the waiting room. Next it was going over all the waivers signing your eyes away in case anything goes wrong and payment and back to the waiting room. Finally you get called in for eye exams, which get done by multiple doctors to ensure accuracy. Then smiling surgeon comes in and greets you. He goes over all the data and information they’ve collected on you, looks at your eyes and tells you that he will see you in 15 minutes. Then they send you to a quiet room with couches and water and you wait.

While you wait you can hear the laser working on the current victim and it’s a bit disconcerting. The noise is chilling to my ears. Which didn’t help my nerves at all.  After about 10 minutes one of the helpers comes in and helps you with a hair net and booties for your shoes. Five minutes she’s back and leading me into the big laser room.  I put my stuff down on chair and then lay on the table provided. They squirt lots of drops into your eyes; some of them numbing and then cover one with gauze. They also stuff something squishy by your ears, which I figured out later is to catch all the cold water they dump on your eyes. One eye covered they slide you under the machine and tell you to look at the red light. They say you will feel pressure and I do. It’s them putting the eyelid clamps in place. Luckily they do it in such a way that you don’t ever see them, as I think that would just make it too terrifying. They don’t hurt like I imagined they would. They just stop you from blinking. I can feel my eye twitching against it and then it settles down. More drops in the eye and then the doctor lowers a ring down. You can see it coming but it’s strange as you don’t feel it and it looks like it’s just hovering there. More drops … these ones are the chemical that is burning your eye although you can’t feel it burning, then gauze and q-tip to wipe away the fluid and dead cells. Amazingly it all just looks like you are watching it happen to someone else because it still looks like they aren’t actually touching your eye and you can’t feel it. More drops then stare at the little red light. I think the noise of the laser scared me more then the laser itself. I think I can feel a tiny pressure but not really … all I see is the little dot go from a tiny blinking light to an ever growing blurry star of multiple red lights. It’s far easier to stair in one spot then I thought, especially when the spot is getting bigger and bigger. Then the noise stops and they cover your eye with gauze and then splash it down with lots of cold water. It’s a bit shocking but feels good after the initial shock and just ignore it all dripping off the side of your face. Now they place a protective lens on your eye to wear for two weeks. Then they cover up that eye and move on to the next. They count down from 30 while it’s happing in case you are freaking out, you know how many seconds you have left. Then you are done! I was shaking uncontrollably after but I think just because I had built it up to be a much scarier event than it really was. Once it’s done you go into a quiet room and put drops in your eyes every 5 minutes for 15-20 minutes. Then that’s it. Go home and follow your drops schedule. I felt no pain at all and only started to feel discomfort a few hours later. Conveniently every time it was getting bad it would be time for more drops and then I’d feel better again.  Oh and I saw better right away. They say you come out with blurry vision, which is true … it’s like looking through a shower curtain or frosted window, but when you had vision as bad as mine to start even the blurry you end up with is a huge improvement. Every time I put drops in, things become crystal clear for a few seconds and apparently that’s what I have to look forward to. It’s because the drops fill in the space of your missing cells and make the surface of your eyeball smooth for a split second. So once your eyes have healed it should look like that split second … and that split second is glorious.

Day 2:

My right eye has no issue; it’s still blurry, but no discomfort. My left eye is driving me nuts. It feels scratched to hell and like there is something stuck in it. Have you ever put in contacts that had a piece of grit on them and then took them out right away to rinse them? Well it feels exactly like that only you can’t take them out and rinse them. You have to put up with it, and at one point I was contemplating digging around my eyeball with spoon to take it out. Then all of a sudden it stopped. The discomfort was still there; it was just far milder and far more tolerable.  I am noticing as the day goes on and my eyes get more and more tired that my vision is getting blurrier and blurrier. But I’m certain it will be better after a good nights sleep.

Day 3 

Today is a rather uneventful day. No major discomfort. My left eye started out being a bit hazy in the bottom left corner and grew hazier throughout the day. My right eye took much longer to start hazing over. It has been very sunny and I’ve become super light sensitive, however. I have taken to wearing a ball cap and sunglasses inside and nearly dying outside. I’m staying at my boyfriends parents so not everything I would normally have access to is readily available, so it’s their ball cap I’m borrowing. I think I would wear a sleep mask outside just to lie in the sun but not bother my eyes. My eyes get really dry and blurry after about 12 hours, so I’ve been going to bed early. First listening to an audio book for about an hour before actually going to sleep.

Day 4 

This morning my left eye was hazy right off the bat. My right eye was seeing double! I felt like my eyes were more swollen and poufy (lids more then eyeballs) then previously, and more so on the left eye, but that feeling is gone by the afternoon and so is the double vision. I can certainly see better amongst all the haze and random vision changes. I can read what I’m typing now, where on day one I couldn’t; some days I see better out of different eyes. In fact yesterday I could read better with the hazy left eye then I could with my right. Today my right eye is way better then the left for reading. I attribute all the changes to the cells growing back differently and am presuming it’s all good news. I still see crystal clear after a good night sleep and drops first thing in the morning for a few minutes at least.

Day 5-7

No pain or grainy feeling at all during the days. Day 6 and 7 my eyes clear of all haze and I can almost see perfectly. Hurray! Still some slight blurriness for reading and the occasional very far away thing but pretty darn amazing.

Day 8  

Today I got my protective lenses removed. What a drag! The process is easy and quick, however, my nearly perfect vision took a torpedo dive instantly. I also felt like my eyes were made of sandpaper. Kind of depressing really, but I was warned that would happen. I was seeing double and halos and blurry, but can still read large font. I have to lean in close and squint for small stuff.  I think I’m basically back to Day 4, all over again.

Day 9 

The gritty sandpaper feeling persists until about noon. I took some Cod Liver Oil and will continue to take it, in hopes that it will speed up the healing in my eyes. I’m assuming the Omega 3’s will help and it’s also known to be anti-inflammatory which is what most of my drops are doing anyways.  Again today is quite blurry and now my eyes tend towards the dry side, but at least they feel much better than last night.

Day 10 and on – I stopped actually journaling my experience after day 10. I was told that I would go through a period of time where my eyes would appear to get worse and then slowly get better; and I was told that I would be depressed during that time because it would take longer than I’d want it to. That is exactly what happened. I could see a million times better than before the surgery, however, I couldn’t see as clearly as I could when I had been wearing glasses. This time period seemed to take forever (about 2-3 months) because each day was so gradual I couldn’t really tell that I was improving. Really, if you think about it, I had to wait for my body to regenerate the cells on my eyeballs and that is going to take some time.

For the first 2-3 months I saw double or halos of some things and not others. Most things that were halo like were signs, lights and the white lines on the roads. I could see them; there were just two of the same line, one would hover above the other. These effects lessened gradually and I would say are completely gone, except for neon lit signs at night.

Finally after 3 months I was told I had 20/15 vision, which is just a little better than 20/20.

The only down fall that I have noticed is slightly poorer night vision. I did not feel that my night vision was all that great before the surgery, but afterwards it is a little worse. I can still drive at night, but I do try and avoid it. It’s not the darkness; it’s all the lights. Any light (at night), including stars, neon signs, streetlights, etc glow brighter than they used to. Car lights/street lights are starrier … they actually look like twinkling stars with the thin strips of light emanating from them instead of a solid circle of light. Stars in the night sky twinkle even more than they used to and I like that. It makes the night seem to have more magic … but that is definitely a downfall for driving.

If you are still looking for more information, try reading this person’s journal. It’s even more descriptive then mine:


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  4. There is an array of laser eye surgery that can be used to help correct many conditions suffered by the eye. From trivial conditions to grave eye illnesses, laser eye surgery can be useful to restore sight or even save it. Anyone suffering from some sort of long or lack of forethought can have their vision corrected with a perfect lasik surgery.

  5. LASIK eye surgery is the most common type of refractive surgery. Refractive surgery changes the shape of your cornea — the dome-shaped transparent tissue at the front of your eye.

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  6. Absolutely indited written content, Really enjoyed reading through.

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  8. What is the difference between lasik and lasek?

    1. Hi, I didn't research the difference at the time I had PRK done, however, I just looked it up and this website: describes lasik being the traditional surgical eyeflap and lasek having an eyeflap made via alcohol. I hope that helps :)

  9. Incredible post! It is showing us the steps and the improvements of Lasik Eye Surgery step by step. Thanks for sharing

  10. Thank you so much for this - it has really helped me feel better about getting surgery!

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