- Laser eye surgery for vision correction has been around for more than 20 years and can cost at least $US1,500 per eye.
- Business Insider’s Michelle Yan was offered two options: Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) and laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK).
- This video follows her through all the steps involved with the procedure: consultation, surgery, and recovery.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Michelle Yan: It definitely hurts. Hi, I’m Michelle, and I’ve been wearing glasses for 16 years and contacts for about nine. I was always hesitant about getting LASIK because it’s expensive, and the idea of lasers cutting up my cornea scares me. But recently, my contacts have been getting really uncomfortable, and I just got to a point where I was mentally and financially prepared to take this next step.
Ideally, doing this surgery would mean I could see perfectly clearly without glasses or contacts for the rest of my life. And that would be so amazing because I wouldn’t have to deal with dry eyes from wearing contacts all day, spend money on contacts and solution every year, and the inconvenience when I travel. But first, I needed to see if I even qualify for laser eye surgery.
So, I went to my eye doctor for a free consultation, and he told me that there were four things that he looks for during the examination: a stabilised prescription, how much treatment is necessary, the curve and thickness of my cornea, and how moist the eye is. The good news is I am eligible for eye surgery. Instead of LASIK, the doctor recommends that I do something called PRK.
Dr. Harry Koster: Some patients, instead of having a flap, have the surgery directly on their cornea. That’s called PRK surgery.
Michelle: Because my eyes were on the drier side, the doctor recommended that I do PRK instead of LASIK, because with LASIK, there’s an increased chance for me to get chronic dry eyes. So I decided to go with PRK even though it might take up to a month to get 20/20, while with LASIK it takes only a few days.
The next pre-surgery step is dilation, which allows the technician to obtain a more precise measurement of my prescription.
Finally, surgery day!
I just took some Valium, and we’re waiting for that to kick in. Sherri, my surgical counselor, was telling me how it should feel like I drank three to four cups of wine, but it’s supposed to calm me down and stuff like that.
The first thing the technician did was sanitize my eyes. Then Dr. Koster added a piece of tape to keep my eye open. After that, he applied some medication on the surface of my eye to relax it as well as some drops to moisturize it. Dr. Koster said this was like a little spa for my eyes. While he was doing this, I couldn’t feel anything or really see anything. Just colours of the red and green light.
After eye prep, it was laser time! I had to focus on the green light for 10 seconds. I didn’t see any movement of the laser or feel it cut my cornea, but I did smell a little bit of burning. I tried not to think about what was happening while it was happening so that I wouldn’t freak out. And before I knew it, the surgery was done! Dr. Koster added some medication over my eye to prevent it from healing more than it should, and he put some medical contacts on my eye to protect the cornea while it heals, with a final touch of eye drops. Once he finished with the left eye, he repeated the same process for the right eye, and that was it! All of this took about 15 minutes.
‘It just happened so fast. So now I have to do my part in taking care of this and recovering.
One hour later
So, I just got home. I’m getting a little tired. My left eye is definitely feeling a little bit of sting. Currently gonna take some Tylenol as well for the pain. But so far not too much pain.
I ended up falling asleep before I took the Tylenol, and that was a big mistake, and I definitely suffered the consequences.
I just woke up from, I don’t know, a short nap, and my eyes are beginning to hurt a little bit. It definitely hurts.
The pain, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being really painful, it was a solid 11. It felt like someone shaved my eyes, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
Good morning. It’s currently 7 a.m. Man, yesterday night, it was pretty unbearable. I don’t know if this is normal, but I also felt hot and cold at the same time. But today it’s a lot better. I also had to stick to a very specific schedule of various eye drops: The antibiotic eye drops, the anti-inflammatory eye drops, and the preservative-free artificial tears.
My eyes are still very sensitive to light, so they’re kinda closed. Even as I’m talking right now, they’re closed. I ended up eating and sleeping some more. I used Siri to text a friend and continued to put on eye drops.
Today’s Saturday. Last night, I felt like my eyes were really dry, so that’s why it’s good that today I get to put in the artificial tears for eight to 10 times a day. I also set a bunch of alarms to remind me when to put in all my eye drops, just in case I forgot or fell asleep. For the rest of the day, I was just listening to stand-up or sleeping. I’m noticing that my left eye can see a little more clearer than my right. So hopefully within the next few days they will both be clear, but that’s kind of a concern for me right now.
By day three, I was beginning to feel a little restless, because I was stuck in my room all day not being able to do much. But it was really nice to see some progress. It’s Sunday, 7 in the morning, just woke up, and I can kind of open my eyes a little more without needing sunglasses. Not a lot of discomfort anymore. My eyesight has been fluctuating; sometimes it’s blurry and sometimes it’s pretty crystal clear, but, yeah, it’s slowly getting better and better. They look pretty good, right?
I really wanted to wake up today and be like, “Boom, oh, my gosh, I can see 20/20 without glasses or contacts.” But that’s not the case.
It’s Tuesday morning. I just showered with these guys on, just to protect myself from water going into my eyes. And I’m going into work, but before work, I’m going to go to the doctor’s office to get these medical contacts out. First time walking outside. Sun is not too bad. I’m not super sensitive.
Dr. Koster: It is time to see how you’re doing.
Michelle: All right.
Dr. Koster: A few dry spots, but you’re right where you should be. Things are going to improve the next few days.
Dr. Koster: All right, so let’s take out the lens. Look toward the ceiling. That’s good.
Michelle: Wow, just like that!
Dr. Koster: It’s easy, huh? I’ve been doing it for a few years.
Michelle: So, when do you think I should be able to see 20/20?
Dr. Koster: Mm, usually there will be glimpses of it, depending on how moist your eye is. But usually by two weeks you’ll hunker down pretty well. Now you just have to trust the science the next few weeks. Let the science do the work for you, OK?
After being back at work for about a week, my eyesight was still fluctuating. During the morning, I would see pretty clearly, but then by early afternoon, my vision would be blurry. When I was on the computer, I had to zoom in 175% to see clearly. This continued to happen for the next few days.
Usually, when I come home, I would take off my contacts and then put on my glasses, and I was really tempted to do that today, but it’s just so amazing how I don’t have to do that anymore.
It’s officially two weeks since I got my medical contacts off and finally went back to work. My eyesight is still fluctuating, but I think I’m like 98% there. It’s been kind of frustrating because I wanted my eyesight to be clear by two weeks, but it’s taken some time, and I’m just patiently waiting still. Tomorrow will be the last day that I stop putting in my drops. So, yeah, definitely a lot of commitment for post-recovery. Hopefully, the results will be worth it.
It’s officially been a month since my PRK surgery, and I can confidently say that I can see 100% clear. My right eye has definitely caught up to my left. No pain, no dryness, no discomfort, no redness. It’s been awesome! I’m also travelling right now, and it’s been so convenient to not need to bring glasses or contacts or solution with me. I think the last thing that’s left to do is donate all my contact solution, because I’m not gonna need them anymore.
I’m still amazed that the whole surgery only took about 15 minutes and that I didn’t feel any pain during it. Dr. Koster and his team really took care of me. Although the idea of lasers cutting up my cornea still scares me, I found that thinking about other things while the surgery was happening really helped.
As for the post-surgery pain, the first night was definitely an 11 out of 10, but that probably could’ve been avoided if I had taken the Tylenol with codeine before I passed out by accident. Other than that, the first two nights, the pain was bearable, like, four out of 10.
The most annoying part about this whole process was, for three weeks, my eyesight just kept fluctuating. Getting my work done was really, really difficult. And there were moments where I felt sceptical and sad that the surgery might not have worked. But I just kept thinking about what Dr. Koster said, “Let the science do the work for you, OK?” And I just tried to remain patient.
If you’re planning on doing PRK, I would be prepared to block out a month for recovery. I know with LASIK the recovery time is much faster with similar results. But doing PRK was worth the money and the wait for me, because now I get to wake up with clear vision without the need of glasses or contacts.
If you’re thinking of doing laser eye surgery, do your research. Find out which procedure is best for you and which doctors have the experience and care. And don’t forget to follow all of their pre- and post-surgery instructions for the best results.
Michelle: That’s my eyeball!
Jade: Yeah, like, you were not reacting to it. Like, it was so strange.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in December 2019.