I’ve been considering getting LASIK performed on my eyes for many years… Now, I think, is that time: the technology is advanced enough, my eyes are stable enough, and I’m financially sound enough. Read on for my deliberations and ramblings about the procedure, finding a reputable surgeon and more!

First, lets get one thing out of the way: LASIK is scary to me. The idea of having elective surgery has never sat that right with me, most of it (face lifts, etc) being (a) a sign of excess vanity and (b) kind of sad for some reason I can never articulate well. LASIK, on one hand, is surely elective– through the magic of contacts and glasses, I can see just fine. On top of that, LASIK is just creepy, no matter how they try to spin it: They will cut open the protective layer of your eye with a blade, then burn away parts of your cornea with a laser, then flop the protective layer back down and hope it all heals all right. Except for the ~1% of cases where the laser didn’t burn just right or the eye healed poorly, and the whole thing has to be repeated. And did I mention that (clearly) it thins your cornea, which means it can’t be done more than a few times in your life? Scary.

On the other hand– LASIK isn’t really an elective surgery. Right now I got every day wearing plastic lenses in my eyes, which rub against my protective tissues and my eyelids, causing soreness, eye fatigue, and in one case a few years ago, sever irritation of my eyelids. What’s more, they block the natural flow of oxygen, so my eye grows extra veins and has yet more eyestrain. By the end of the day, my eyes ache. I wonder how much long term damage I do to my eyes from wearing them day in and day out. Plus, they carry, over a lifetime, a severe risk of infection. So to remove contacts from my life via LASIK seems like a good deal.

Then, the side benefits: being able to see an alarm clock when I wake up. Not trying to somehow clean my grubby hands to put in contacts while camping. Not worrying about forgetting contacts, spare contacts, and cleaning solution everytime I go somewhere. Being able to take naps (can’t keep my eyes closed with contacts in, hurts too much). The list goes on… So, LASIK it is.

That is, if I can find the right solution for me. I want a reasonable (>95%) chance that after the procedure I won’t need vision correction devices at all (what good is giving up contacts but needing, say, reading glasses?). I want to know that it will last me until I’m 40 or 50 without severe regression back to a poor prescription. I want a skilled surgeon using state-of-the-art equipment that’s capable of correcting my vision (I have -6.00 diopter in my left eye, -4.25 in my right (That’s roughly 20/2000 and 20/1000…. I could have 20/20 after LASIK).

So I did what anyone would do– I called out for opinions. I posted a call for info on the University Biology News mailing list, and have received about 20 responses so far (21 at the time of this writing). By far and away the highest recommended surgeon is Dr. Winthrop, who happens to be a renowned specialist in Corneal surgery and maintains a LASIK clinic right in Santa Barbara. He has the credentials, he has a state-of-the-art laser system that can correct high aberration eyes (like mine!) with high precision, and he has good references. So, it’s time to schedule a consultation. The only downside? My procedure will likely cost about $5200. Ouch. But, for my eyes, I think it’s worth it.

10 Responses to “LASIK”

for vision this bad, LASIK surgery could save your life some day in an emergency situation…. This straddles the line between ‘elective’ and necessary surgery, now that we have the means to do this kind of optic correction. (I wouldn’t be surprised if in another 10 years or so LASIK is covered under medical insurance when the patient’s vision is bad enough….)
Good luck, Andrew! Let us know when the date is set.

Meg - October 17th, 2006 at 9:56 am

I’ve been meaning to comment to this for many, many days now…I know, I’m a slacker.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but no matter how you look at it, LASIK is most definitely an elective surgery. Your points about contact lenses are good ones and true, but there are always glasses. I know…I had to give up my contacts when I got my job b/c my eyes just couldn’t handle the strain of staring at the damn computer monitor all day.

The good news is that there’s an even better way to justify LASIK — do a cost benefit analysis. Amoritize the cost of the surgery over, say, 40 years and compare it to the cost of glasses for the same period. Most medical plans estimate that you’ll buy a new pair of glasses (~$100 if you go cheap) every two years. Double that if you get prescription sunglasses (reasonable, although I managed to put a pair of plastic sunglasses ON TOP of my eyeglasses for two years. But then again, I’m an engineer and no one expects much fashion sense from me :-P).

Since you seem to be wearing your glasses out in public (based on your halloween pictures), I’m assuming that you’ve had your consultation and have the surgery all scheduled already (when is it?). So you probably already know all this, but… I like the sound of my own typing, so indulge me 😛

Unless they REALLY screw something up in your surgery, you won’t need reading glasses afterwards. That’s a different phenomenon that’ll hit you when you turn about 40 anyhow. The muscles that focus your eyes get old and tired and don’t focus as well. But by the time we hit 40, they may have found a solution for that too!

There’s a chance that you’ll still need distance vision glasses though. That’s the part that worries me too. Most places seem to offer free (or reduced cost) enhacement surgeries in the first few years though. And my mom (who’s already had LASIK) assures me that it actually fixes your vision so that it doesn’t continue to degrade over the years. I don’t quite understand that last part — it sounds too good to be true! But regardless, you’re young, healthy, have a stable, average prescription and (I’m assuming?) no family history of eye disease — you shouldn’t have any problems getting your >95%!

As far as the price… yea, that’s about what I’ve been getting too. The place I’m actually going to have it done in Denver will be $4800. The place here in St. Louis quoted me $5100, but had such terrible service that I cancelled my appointment. For 5 grand I expect top-of-the-line service and attention.

So my surgery is scheduled for December 21st…

Oh! And the other good news (which again, you probably already know about) is that they can do surgery up to -12 diopters — so you and I are just about average!

Anyway, that’s my long-winded reply with information you’re already probably well aware of! Good luck and be sure to let me know how it goes!

Mallorn - October 30th, 2006 at 6:05 pm

Heya Mallorn! It’s great to see such a long response from you, and to hear that you’re going through the same process. 🙂

I sent out a call to the mailing lists I’m on for grad school, and got about 30 responses about local surgeons worth their stuff— and got 6 or 7 positive’s about the same guy. After investigating, he’s performed over 25,000 procedures with not a single blind eye, and has top of the line equipment. Because I have large pupils and a fairly bad prescription (-6.5 in my left eye), and because I want top of the line, I’m going with Wavefront LASIK. So $5200 down the drain. But I’m confident it’ll be worth it. Plus, if I need enhancement in the first year, it’s gratis. Congrats on you making the same decision!

… My surgery is this Friday morning. *shivers* At least it’ll be over soon.

When I next see you (Christmas?) I should be contact-less and proud!

(P.S. Good deductive skills figuring out that the only reason I’d wear glasses on Halloween, much less in public, was because I’m getting prepped for surgery. Nice to know I have friends who understand me out there.)

Paradoxdruid - October 30th, 2006 at 9:53 pm

We may be spread far and wide, but we’re out here 😉

We’ll have to compare surgery notes over Christmas — I should be glasses free and proud by then too!

Mallorn - October 31st, 2006 at 9:23 am

It’s like a big glasses-wearing club here. And soon to be a glasses-free crowd! Andrew, best of luck with the LASIK, you’re probably getting it right this moment! After yours turns out incredibly well, I’m going to plan a voyage out to SB to get my eyes fixed up, too. And to visit you, Teisha, and the lovely weather out yonder.

And you’ll be in CO for Christmas?

Fleepy - November 3rd, 2006 at 7:32 am

Just a quick status update for folks in internet land-

I had my LASIK this morning (which was creepy but quick and painless), came home and slept for 5 hours, and already, my vision is 80-90% perfect (and it’s supposed to improve all week as my corneas heal and my eyes adjust)!

Assuming that no other complications result, I’d recommend this procedure (and my doctor) to anyone.

Paradoxdruid - November 3rd, 2006 at 5:34 pm


Ooo, now I’m really excited!

Mallorn - November 5th, 2006 at 9:24 am

The updates continue:

Just had my one week follow-up visit… My concerns about my left eye’s vision not being as crisp as my rights were unfounded, in a way. The thing is, my right eye is now better than “perfect”, checking in at 20/15 right now (and might get a little better. So my still-healing left eye’s vision of 20/25 looks bad in comparison (the left eye should improve to 20/20 or perhaps a little better over the next month).

The only other news is that my eyes are healing rapidly enough that I can stop my anti-inflammation eye drops a week early. 🙂

Paradoxdruid - November 9th, 2006 at 8:39 pm

I am one week out from Lasik. While my distance vision is wonderful, I found that losing my near vision (because my myopia was compensating for my mid life presbyopia) was a real shock, even though I knew it would happen.

I also have been struggling with dry eyes, especially my left, which was initially the weaker eye, and eye strain. By the end of the day, my eyes are exhausted, having spent all day learning to function in new ways.

At this point, I would not do the surgery again, or at least not until I had aged a bit more and lost my near vision. Then the surgery would have given me distance, but I would not have the feeling I had lost something.

The surgery is great when you are young, too, as you just get the great distance vision and don’t have to worry about needing reading glasses for a couple of decades.

I hope I heal up comfortably and that, when my vision stabilizes, custom reading glasses give me crisp near vision (the ones they send you home with are pretty bad).

I would sure hate to have this dry eye permanently, that’s for sure.

My advice…think long and hard. I was too impulsive.

WesternWilson - February 1st, 2007 at 10:51 am

Gosh, I completely forgot to post my experiences here!

On the whole, I’m extremely pleased. Colorado Laser Surgeons provided exceptional service, even going so far as to find me a post-op doctor here in Missouri. I had my 1 month post-op on Monday and am 20/20 in my left eye (which is dominant and used to be my bad eye) and 20/30 in my right eye. Granted, they still have a month or two before being completely healed, but I can’t imagine they’ll change much.

Although the quantity of my vision is good, I’m a bit disappointed in the quality. Everything is a bit blurrier (even though I can make it out) than my best corrected vision was prior to the surgery. I have a sneaking suspicion that my pre-surgery corrected vision was corrected to better than 20/20 😛 I’m getting new lenses in my old glasses, primarily because I’m a perfectionist and want things *crystal* clear. I should only need them for driving and class though.

I still marvel at being able to go to bed and still see everything in my room. I feel like actually decorating now that I can see it! And seeing the clock when I wake up…and dancing! The dancing is the best — my glasses don’t fly off and I have peripheral vision!

So, I’m content. With the 25 page consent form I had to read and sign, I went into the whole thing with very clear expectations.

Besides, my glasses are cute. Now they’re like a purse or earrings 😛

Mallorn - February 2nd, 2007 at 9:24 am

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