LASIK corrective eye surgery is a common elective surgery to correct myopia (nearsightedness). Millions of people go under the proverbial knife (or laser, in this case) annually. The procedure amazingly takes only a few minutes for both eyes. In simple terms, successful surgery looks like this: The laser (or blade) cuts a small flap on the cornea and it is flipped open. The laser then burns the cornea flatter; correcting the refracting error and actually reshaping the cornea. Often correcting myopia back to nearly perfect 20/20 (or close) eyesight. The flap is then closed and the healing begins immediately.
After taking a nap post-surgery (the Valium helps), the patient wakes up as if a miracle has occurred. For the first time in years, he can look across the room without the aid of contacts or glasses and see sharp images rather than the blurry blobs.
I experienced this very miracle, which left me exhilarated for years afterward! However, I believe for everything you do to “positively” change what is supposed to happen naturally to your body, there tends to be a negative reaction. And this proved to be true for me.
Back in the early 2000’s, I worked at a top-rated, aging rock and roll radio station in Austin. It was all the rage for employees to take advantage of doctors advertising staff discounts on all sorts of surgeries from liposuction, to implants into all sorts of body parts, to LASIK.
I had myopia since grade school and my nearsightedness increased annually to the point where squinting at the blackboard was fruitless. By the time I was in high school, I looked across a room and all I could see were blurry shapeless blobs. As soon as my parents allowed, I ditched the glasses and began wearing contact lenses. I loved my new appearance but hated the care, solutions and ongoing expenses. So eventually when LASIK came down to an “affordable” threshold, I decided it was right for me.
During my preop meetings with my fabulous doctor, he tested my vision, studied my cornea shape, went over the possible complications (blindness being one of them!), and calmed my nerves with the incredibly positive stats. But there were a couple of things he didn’t tell me.
The surgery went off without a hitch and I became a LASIK disciple recommending it to everyone who was nearsighted. However, after 3-4 years of my (nearly) perfect 20/30 vision I noticed my eyes were getting dry easily due to lack of ability to produce tears (a negative side effect of the LASIK). After another year I needed to use eye drops regularly. By 10 years post-surgery I had to use drops so often, I now keep a vial of eye drops in my bathroom, by my bedside, in my purse, my travel bag, my beach bag, and basically anywhere I spend time. I now have a difficult time in windy weather or dry air conditions. Even fans are torture machines. That is one of the reasons I moved to a humid location. I was given a sample of Restasis by my USA ophthalmologist. I applied the drops daily for a month and it was like the second miracle. My eyes returned to their normal pre-surgery moisture level. However, this prescription drug is not available in many places in the world and in the USA the price ranges (at the time of researching it in 2015) from $600-$800 a month! In my opinion, these prices are a travesty. Without eye care insurance, I simply could not justify that kind of cost annually for the rest of my life.
But that’s not all. One day about 10-11 years post-surgery I found myself squinting to look at something. I soon realized I was squinting more often than I could remember. I had my vision tested and much to my horror discovered my eyesight was reverting back further into that damn myopia I thought I had left behind forever. He told me this was one of the risks of the surgery and a good number of patients return to some stage of myopia. There were no guarantees. But, but, but, they did not warn me about that back in 2002! Perhaps LASIK had not been around long enough to see what could happen decades later. He told me many patients consider “touch up” surgery to shave more cells off their corneas again. The kicker was I did not qualify because my corneas were already too thin.
And so I live in my dry-eyed myopic state using glasses for driving and watching movies or whenever I need my vision to be sharp. Contact lenses are no longer an option since they create even more eye dryness. I was asked if I would have the surgery all over again knowing what I know now. I can’t say for sure because the first 10 years post-surgery were, undoubtedly, miraculous. My vision is still not nearly as bad as is it was before the surgery….yet. But I bet if you check in with me in another 10-20 years the answer would most likely be hell no!
***Disclaimer: This blog covers my personal story. Many others I know who have had this same surgery have not experienced the same side effects. I simply want you to be an informed consumer. Consider everything and do your research before deciding to go under the knife.