Life As An Orthoptist

My experience with Laser refractive surgery

I think it’s about time to share my experience with laser refractive surgery and I’m very sad to say that it was not a positive one.

4 months ago I made the brave decision to become glasses-free.

Since I was 18 and onwards, my glasses script kept changing until recently when it has finally stabilized. Great! I can finally do the surgery! I’ve got 10-15 more years to go before I start using glasses again (this time for reading).
Being an orthoptist, I know all about what’s involved in the actual procedure, what makes you eligible, and what it takes for recovery. Then, for the cherry on top of the icing, I’ve got a collection of positive patient testimonials. Technically, it’s not even surgery! The entire procedure takes about 10-15 minutes and the actual lasering lasts for about 30 seconds in each eye. But I don’t tolerate pain very well, I guess my pain threshold is super low, that is where it went downhill.

Laser eye surgery has become increasingly popular over the years, with countless individuals opting for the procedure to improve their vision. While there are various types of laser eye surgery, including LASIK and PRK, both have been proven to be safe and effective. However, not all individuals may be suitable for laser refractive surgery and not all individuals may have the same experience with the surgery.

PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy, is a type of laser eye surgery that involves reshaping the cornea to improve vision.  Unlike LASIK, PRK does not involve the creation of a flap in the cornea, making it a more suitable option for people with very thin corneas that you can’t make a flap. Instead, the surgeon removes the outer layer of the cornea, known as the epithelium, before applying the laser to reshape the cornea. Because no flap is created, PRK is saved from the complications that may arise from it. Over the long run, PRK is also proven to be better for eyes. It is also cheaper than the latter option (LASIK). However, the recovery period is longer than LASIK being 7-10 days rather than 3-4. It is also thought to be slightly more painful.

My experience during the procedure

For me, the surgery itself was relatively quick and painless, I was nicely numbed using only topical anesthetics. It was my first time to experience a speculum in my eye and that wasn’t comfortable. I was also trying so hard to keep staring at the green light ahead of me (my fixation target). But shortly that went out of vision and I was trying so hard not to move my eye given that I knew what could happen if I did. Seconds later I could smell the smoke coming off my cornea as it got lasered. Yes, I expected the smell and I’m used to it. Yes, it was painless but I could still feel my corneas being burnt and that was super weird. The bright side is that the burning smell means we are almost done. Yay!!  I got off the procedure bed vaguely seeing clearer things.
Next, I definitely needed a driver for my ride back home. I had a special kind of sunnies on and couldn’t open my eyes at all. No pain yet!

My experience during the first week

The first few days following the surgery were excruciatingly painful. I experienced severe pain and discomfort, along with a burning sensation in my eyes. It was literally a burning sensation, I could feel the heat come of my eyes. It was also challenging to keep them open for more than a few seconds at a time. For the first time, I knew the real meaning of glare. Of course I had to wear those sunnies indoors too, but even with them on, the glare was annoying. I could see glare reflecting off our kitchen counter, plant leaves, and coffee table!

It wasn’t until about a week post-surgery that my pain started to subside, and my vision began to improve. I didn’t have a vision chart at home and so I referred to the wall clock as a vision reference. It was amazingly encouraging to see something new on that clock every day. It took several weeks for my vision to stabilize, and I had to continue using eye drops regularly. Today, my vision is as clear as it could be. I have to say that I do have some residual astigmatism, which I eventually got used to. Additionally, every now and then, especially when I first open my eyes in the morning I get this rough poke-in-the-eye sensation, which is also painful lasting for about 10 minutes with a lot of weeping. This could mean that my eyes are very dry (although I’m using a ton amount of eye lubricants), a very common side effect, but with all honesty, I haven’t got them checked yet!

Given my experience with PRK laser and the amount of pain I felt, I would actually not recommend it to anyone. However, today my vision is crystal clear and I’m absolutely enjoying walking around with no glasses on. In the long run, the week of pain seems to be very negligible, so it may be worth it.

It’s important to note that not everyone will have the same experience. Pain and discomfort are common side effects of PRK, but they usually subside within a few weeks. If you do get it done, congratulations on your courage and I wish you a very smooth recovery.

My advice is to enjoy a beautiful rest at home, away from any chores during the first week and definitely avoid any temptations to rub your eye. Finally, wear your sunglasses outdoors for at least 2 months following your release! It’s crucial to follow all post-operative instructions provided by your doctor to minimize any potential complications and ensure a smooth recovery.

I welcome your questions in the comment box below. If you would like to know more about the difference between the different types of laser refractive surgery or what makes you eligible please let me know. Or if you’ve already had your surgery done kindly share your experiences.


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