Here’s my account of having my eyes lasered by Lasek procedure. If you’re considering eye surgery, I hope the following is of some use, especially if you opt for Lasek:

I’ve been considering Laser eye treatment for years but as it’s a relatively new surgical procedure, I have been waiting some time – just to be sure it was as safe as it could be. However, since NASA allegedly started using it for their personnel I decided: if it’s good enough for NASA, it’ll probably be good enough for me.
So after another load of research, particularly reading patient reviews at www.lasik-eyes.co.uk I started the ball rolling.

Consultancy – 15/09/08

I booked a consultancy at Optical Express in the Trafford Centre. There are 3–4 tests to go through and it takes a good hour or so for the appointment. Someone is needed to drive you home from the consultancy as some of the drops administered really relax the eye muscles, making vision a little blurry for the next 24 hours (this test is to give some indication of the future changes in the eye as muscles degrade).
‘From £395 per eye’ is a sales line that gets a lot of stick on the various laser eye forums but despite people telling you it never happens, I was offered that treatment/price. However, I opted instead for the Wavefront treatment (extra £400 per eye) as Laser surgery wasn’t a procedure I wanted to repeat – wanting the best chance of success first time out. After a few weeks of procrastination and researching the surgeon (Mr Aziz in my case) I went ahead and booked my treatment.
There were many moments of changing my mind and when only 4 days away, if I could have canceled without losing my deposit, I would have. Why? There is such a thing as too much research. No matter how good something seems, online you can always find plenty of people who will tell you it is the worst thing you could possibly do.

Differing treatments

There are currently two main ‘types’ of laser eye surgery: Las__ik__ and Las__ek__. LASIK works by cutting a flap in the surface of the eye, peeling back the outer surface/layer and re-shaping the inner surface of the eye. Despite sounding dramatic, this method actually offers a far faster recovery time and is therefore the most popular type of treatment. The majority of people receiving laser correction will be receiving Lasik.
However, if you have thin corneas and/or play contact sports (like me), there is a danger this flap can be dislodged in the weeks following treatment. In the event of this happening, the flap can be re-positioned but is a complication that non-the-less is best avoided. For patients more at risk of this, Lasek is the preferred option. With Lasek, instead of cutting a flap in the surface of the eye, an alcohol solution is used to loosen the outer epithelial layer of cells (the very outer layer of the eye), move this layer aside and then use a laser to reshape the outer surface of the eye. This layer of cells then re-grows over the next 7 days or so. The recovery time with Lasek is more prolonged, although the outcome, surgically, is eventually no different to Lasik.

Surgery day 10/11/08

My prescription was mild (about 1.25 in both eyes with astigmatism in the left eye). As I’d had to wear glasses the previous 7 days (even soft lenses can distort the shape of the eye and abstaining from wearing them for 7 days ensures the eyes are a normal shape prior to treatment) I was at least looking forward to ditching them. I’ve always hated wearing contact lenses and glasses.

My surgery was booked for 11am at the Trafford Centre branch of Optical Express. I was more than a little apprehensive as I sat in the waiting room with about another 10–12 people, also having treatment that day. Before surgery a few tests were re-run and this gave me time to re-ask some questions: would there be enough eye left for re-treatment in the future if I needed it? Will I still be able to wear contact lenses in future if I needed them? Can you confirm you won’t use Mitomycin C (this is a anti cancer drug sometimes used topically to reduce chances of hazing on the eye from scars – something I wasn’t comfortable with). There were plenty more and they answered them all again for me…
It was around an hour later that I was finally asked to go through to the surgery room.

The surgery room is a single big room, with a huge laser in the centre. There were 5 people there for the surgery: Mr Aziz (surgeon), his assistant, a laser technician and two nurses. All very clean and professional.
Any reservations I had over discomfort during the procedure were completely unfounded. I didn’t feel any pain whatsoever and it was literally about 60 seconds per eye for the treatment and it is all performed with military precision and organisation. The procedure went something like this:

  1. A few anaesthetic drops are put in each eye
  2. One eye has a thin eyelid retainer placed on, the other eye is covered
  3. Alcohol drops are put it
  4. Epithelial layer is moved
  5. Told to look up at the laser and concentrate on the blinking light
  6. Countdown begins, asked to keep looking at the light, then clicking is heard from the laser as it does its thing. Countdown completes
  7. Epithelial layer is re-placed
  8. More drops are added
  9. Bandage contact lens is inserted

The procedure is then repeated for the other eye.

I was in and out of the surgery room in 5 minutes, then led across the hall to another room with seats and dimmed lighting for a few minutes. A nurse came in, bringing all the aftercare instructions and solutions. She checked all was well and that I had some sunglasses (the eyes can be very light sensitive after) and then sent me on my way.

Immediately, making my way to the car, I could read number-plates I couldn’t unaided by glasses/lenses before. However, testing the results of my treatment didn’t last long as the compulsion to close my eyes became overwhelming on the way home…

Recovery

In the first 24 hours my eyes stung. Badly. Like I’d been cutting very strong onions. Unfortunately as my eyes had swollen, until someone returned home I couldn’t open them to see how many painkillers I needed to take.

It was an uncomfortable first day and as you might expect it was around this time I was wondering if it was worth the trouble. Painkillers were the saviour in the first few days. Every 4 hours I would dose up and it would allow me to sleep. On the subject of sleeping – goggles are provided to be worn when sleeping for the first 7 days. As my eyes were streaming constantly they became a major irritation during that first week and was extremely happy to do without them.
The 24 hour post surgery check at Optical Express revealed all was fine. My eyes remained puffed (as you can see from the photos) for a good few days but all was well.

2

As I waited for my first check up, a man entered from the day before who had had Lasik treatment. You couldn’t even tell to look at him, whilst I looked like I’d done a few rounds with Ricky Hatton. Suffice to say, if you don’t need Lasek, Lasik seems like a far easier experience.

3 days post-op I stopped needing the painkillers and the constant streaming stopped and by the Friday I was feeling pretty much back to normal. For Lasek, on my experience, I would clear 5 working days for recovery.

Now

At present the only slight imperfection with my vision is a 0.25 astigmatism in one eye. I was told that when my eyes are fully healed this may go but if this is all that is left, it will still have been a very good result.
Personally I have almost forgotten I had it done. It’s great to wake up and get straight on with the day. Lenses getting dry late at night isn’t a problem. I can go swimming and read the clock, play football without worrying about my lens getting knocked out etc.
Night vision problems, something laser correction has historically been associated with, are non-existent for me. If anything I would say my night vision is marginally better now than it was with lenses/glasses. I also have no problems with dry eyes or the like although this problem is more commonly associated with Lasik (due to the the cutting of some nerves during the flap creation).

3

Payment

You can obviously pay for surgery outright. But there was payment options for deposit then interest free payments over 10 months, or deposit and then interest bearing payments over 24, 36 or 48 months. The APR rate for the interest bearing options was competitive for the relatively small loan amount.
My laser treatment cost was the equivalent of 8 years of contact lens payments. So, if in eight years my prescription hasn’t changed, I will consider it well worth it.

4

Like any surgical procedure I would encourage anyone looking to go ahead with laser eye surgery to perform as much research as they need to make them self comfortable. Despite the discomfort of those first few days I feel the procedure was well worth it for me. Lots more patient experiences can be found at the very helpful Lasik Eyes forum

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