Fun times with Laser Eye Treatment
I had wanted laser eye surgery since I first put on a pair of glasses back in my high school daze. Bad vision was the ultimate nuisance, only somewhat mitigated by having to poke around in your eyes with contacts, with can fall all over the place and get stuck behind your eyeballs, and you have to spend enormous amounts of money on them if you think about how you'll be needing them for life.
Needless to say, as soon as I obtained a respectable income I called up a few place and set up an appointment.
Lasik or PRK
These procedures are nearly identical, and of little consequence to the patient in terms of price, comfort, vision improvement or recovery time. The Lasik eye surgery procedure starts with opening a small flap in the upper surface of the eye, folding it back, and using the laser to remove small bits of the back of the eye, then the flap is folded back down and it seals itself back up. With PRK, the flap is removed entirely, the same procedure performed, and the flap simply regrows in about a week. Protective contacts are worn during the healing process to cover the sensitive area. I was a candidate for PRK, because my corneas were a little thinner than average, so regrowth is preferable to sticking the flap back down.
You'll be paying different prices based on prescription. Other factors include location, the machine being used, and the doctors themselves. My contact lenses were -3.5, and my laser eye surgery came to $3400, for both eyes, including all medications, so that should give you a basic idea of what you're going to pay. Just know that the advertised prices of $299 per eye are for people with a very weak prescription, and if glasses are a necessity for you, you'll be paying something closer to what I paid.
My procedure was done with Custom WaveFront, which is a new Lasik machine, more accurate device that works better than older procedures, though this does not necessarily apply to everyone. But remember, you don't want to go looking for cheap laser eye surgery. You want a quality, reputable physician.
Of course, I can only describe my own experience with a single laser eye surgery clinic, so I can't give you a personal review of 30 different facilities, but mine was done at the Lasik Vision Institute and I was pleased with the results. They even had a little teddy bear to hold onto while the procedure was being done.
Preparation, surgery, and aftermath
Contacts alter the curvature of the surface of your eyes, so you have to wear glasses for a few weeks prior to surgery to return your eyes to their normal state. My glasses were from back in high school, and I would say...not fashionable.
The procedure itself was done one after another with other people, as the doctor simply invites the patient into the room and 5 minutes later everything is taken care of. An enormous amount of eyedrops are administered, as well as a few painkillers, and I was given a pair of oversized sunglasses. There was no pain whatsoever, but I was kind of aware my eyes were being played with, but the sensation was kind of like someone touching your arm with his finger. I knew it was there, but there was no pain at all.
For a week or two you have to keep up with some pain medication, and as the surface of the eye regrows, vision can be blurry a day or two after the procedure. I took a few days off work and relaxed. One eye's surface regrew immediately, but the other eye was somewhat blurry for a while, taking a month before it was as good as the other, but then both eyes were perfect, better than normal vision at 20/15.
You're not allowed to play contact sports, swim, or rub your eyes. I did mine in winter, so swimming was out of the question, and I'm pretty lazy, so that took care of the athletic activities.
You may have heard of "halos," which some people experience when looking at bright lights at night. Imagine a larger, much dimmer circle of light surrounding the first one. This can be something of a distraction, but I never felt it was a real problem. But it's certainly something to be aware of when making the decision.
I've been very satisfied with my decision. It was a lot of money, but I looked at how much I was spending on contacts and solution and it worked out to breaking even in 20 years. I figure if you're going to spend the money either way, just be contact-free.
Remember that a lot of people need glasses again once they get to something around age 50. Lasik doesn't always last forever. But if you get the surgery in your 20s or 30s you can break even, but you can give yourself a glasses-free decade or two if you feel the money is worth spending.
Take a look at whether you're a candidate, and see if it's for you. I'm quite happy never having to wear glasses or contacts, and the teddy bear made the surgery all worthwhile.