Last Friday, 3rd February I had LASEK surgery on my eyes to correct my short-sightedness. I’ve been writing a little diary of my experience since, because I found others’ experiences online enormously helpful in deciding to go ahead with the procedure.
I’ve been a bespectacled fellow since the age of seven. Being able to see the blackboard in class was brilliant. No more squinting! But, of course, children are cruel, and especially in the early years, my extra pair of eyes caused much ridicule.
On the left is a pic of me in my second or third pair of glasses. I think I’m about 10, posing in the back garden with my mum before going to my aunt’s wedding. Mum chose not to wear her glasses (which we called her Deidre Barlows – now trendy again in Shoreditch) for this shot.
Thankfully this was some years before Harry Potter, otherwise I would most definitely have had a lightning bolt carved into my head by the other kids in school.
When I was fifteen I pleaded with my parents to let me wear monthly contact lenses, and as my sister had been wearing them for around four years they relented. At that point I think the prescription in both eyes was around -5. To start with it would take me a full half hour just to get the soft lenses in and out of my streaming eyes, but after a few months it became pretty natural.
Aged 28, and with a pretty stable -7 or thereabouts in both eyes, I found it increasingly difficult to wear contact lenses – I would regularly have bouts of sore eyes or blepharitis with monthly lenses, leaving me dependent on dailies (I have an astigmatism too, so they end up being at least £1.50 a pair). I run a fair bit, and go to the gym, and glasses always slide off my nose when I get sweaty, so it’s a bit of a pain.
I went for a free consultation at a local Optical Express store back in November 2011 to discuss having lasers fitted. The bad news, they told me, was that I wouldn’t be able to cut shapes in ice or levitate objects. The good news was that I was a suitable candidate for LASIK, having thick corneas. I came home unable to see properly after having a serious amount of dilating drops in my eyes. A week or so later I received a phone call offering me the procedure for around £350 less than the initial quote, and a further reduction of £700 was possible if I could be flexible about my dates. Like all providers they offer interest-free credit too.
I felt pretty excited at that point – but also a bit weirded out by the aggressive sales policy. In January 2012 I went for a private consultation at Moorfields Eye Hospital – not free this time (£100), and mostly involved the same set of tests, but the interpretation was different. The consultant explained I was not a suitable candidate for LASIK as my corneas are particularly elastic, and therefore LASEK (aka PRK) is the only option. I had already read quite a lot about the differences between the two techniques.
Later I learned that this conflicting story was the result of Optical Express practice of using non-surgeons to interpret scan results – in all likelihood, if I’d gone with Optical Express, the surgeon would have spotted this on the day of surgery and switched me from LASIK to LASEK. This happens to a small number of people, including my friend Hugh. Given that the recovery time for LASIK is generally 48-72 hours, vs around a week for LASEK, I’d be pretty annoyed to learn of the change of plan on the day.
After some thought and reading up on the difference between the procedures, I took the plunge and booked in at Moorfields on Friday 3rd Feb, and as LASEK takes some time to recover from, I also took the following week off work.
In the next post I’ll describe the day of the procedure. I’m writing this on Day 4 of the recovery and my eyes are hurting fron the strain of typing this in!