Monday, May 05, 2008

Laser Eye Surgery

It's been over a week since I had my laser eye correction done at the Lasik Vision Institute on Friday, April 25th. The healing/recovery process has been rough, yet I'm confident that I'll be happy with the end result.

Due to some irregularities in the shape of my cornea, I was not a candidate for the Lasik procedure, where they cut a flap through your epithelial layer and into the corneal tissue. They didn't want to cut into my corneal tissue at all. Instead, they did a different procedure (called EK or PRK) where they use an alcohol solution to dissove and scrape away the epithelial layer to access the cornea. Once the epithelial tissue is out of the way, the laser can get to the cornea to correct the vision problems, exactly the same as Lasik. Since the epithelial layer is removed with EK (rather than preseved as a flap that lays back down on the eyeball with Lasik), you have to wait for it to grow back. In the meantime, they place contact lenses on your eyes to act as bandages while the tissue is growing back, which usually takes about a week.

They told me that EK recovery is longer and more painful than traditional Lasik. They weren't kidding! I experienced tons of tearing in the beginning, throbbing pain, burning, scratching, dryness, and major light sensitivity.

The afternoon and evening of the surgery I could barely open my eyes. I was a wreck. I could barely open my lids and Kyle would try to get the prescription eye drops in there before they closed shut again a moment later. The next day wasn't much better. However, at my follow up appointment the morning after the surgery they told me that I was seeing better than most people who get EK done. That consoled me a little, but it didn't take away the pain.

For the four days following the procedure, I was doing much of nothing. I had very strong light sensitivity, so although the weather was great, I couldn't be outside for very long at all. It was hard to keep my eyes open for long, so laying in bed was my main activity. I watched some tv, but that wasn't so easy to see because my eyes were still healing and my vision was blurry (which also meant reading wasn't an option). I took several naps because resting my eyes and keeping them closed was the easiest thing to do. Also keep in mind that my vision was too bad to drive myself anywhere, so I was basically confined to my house. Through everything, Kyle has been wonderful. I couln't get myself anywhere, so it seemed like he was my personal chaffeur for the week.

I went to work on Wednesday, but it was a struggle. I had to get about six inches from the computer monitor in order to read the screen. My light sensitivity was still there, so it was tough to go out and tour the properties. I only made it half a day; by 1:00 my eyes hurt so badly I had to go home and rest them.

My one week follow up appointment was on Friday, May 2nd. By that day, my vision was getting a lot better and I probably could have driven myself but we didn't know what would happen when they removed the contact lens bandages. So, faithful Kyle drove me down to Denver. Again.

They removed the contact lens bandages and tested my vision. The right eye was 20/25 and the left eye was 20/40. It turns out my right eye (which, incidentally, has the sharper vision) wasn't fully healed, so they had to put a contact lens bandage back on it. I need to return to their office (again) on Tueday to have it removed.

I expressed concern about my left eye still being so blurry and the doctor told me that although the epithelial tissue is healed, the cornea is still healing internally and I should expect to wait for the vision to improve. He reminded me that it was only one week after the surgery and with EK they can expect full vision improvement to take several weeks. He said I should see improvement each day.

He was right; it has become somewhat better since then and by Saturday I was driving. However, my left eye is still far behind my right eye, which is a bit frustrating. Yet, I can say that it's amazing to be able to wake up in the mornings and see as soon as I open my eyes. For the first time in my life, everything in the shower is visible!

If I need an enhancement procedure to further correct the vision in my left eye, they will be able to determine that in about four months. Fortunately, I got the lifetime assurance package, which enables me to go back for any necessary enhancement surgeries for as long as I live. I just hope it doesn't come to that because I don't want to go through this process again! I asked if this surgery corrected those problem inconsistencies in my cornea, potentially making me elegible for Lasik in the future. The doctor said no, once they do EK on a patient, they are very unlikely to switch to Lasik at a later time. Bummer.

I am pleased that I went through with the surgery, but boy do I envy those Lasik patients! I saw some of those people the day after their Lasik procedure and they were walking around like normal. They probably went back to work the next day. I, on the other hand, had my sunglasses on inside and could barely open my eyes because it was too painful and I was basically out of comission for a full week.

I'm so grateful that my boss let me take the time I needed to heal, and that there were people to cover for me when I couldn't be at work. I think that this will be wonderful in the end and well worth it, but that first week was certainly not fun!

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