Monday, March 12, 2007

A Beginner's Guide to Laser-Eye Surgery

Article by JA

Jenny recently decided to undergo laser-eye surgery and rid herself of wearing glasses. This is her story of the loss of spectacles and frickin' lasers.


I have very large pupils (9mm I think) and a very high prescription, -8.5 in my right eye and -9 in my left, with some astigmatism. Because of this, I didn't think I was a candidate for laser surgery, but I went along to the Allclear Clinic in Belfast for a consultation in February, and discovered that I was. The surgeon decided to operate on my right eye on March 7th. I was given Zyoptix tissue-sparing treatment, which is perfect for somebody with the big pupil/poor sight problem that I had.


I went in to the surgery at 4pm for a 4.15pm appointment (I was told to come 15 minutes early). Skry and I sat there until 4.50pm and absolutely nothing happened, so I don't know why they told us to come early... maybe it was to give time to administer Valium to very nervous patients. Anyway, there was a girl in the waiting room in the very same situation as me, who had her right eye done the previous week and was in that day to get her left eye done, and she was able to reassure me that it was absolutely painless. She was fantastic - we joked that she was a plant put there by the surgeon to relax patients beforehand!

Anyway, I was eventually taken in and anaesthetic drops were put in my eye. About two minutes - if that - later, the nurse took me in to the surgery part. I was nervous that the drops hadn't had time to work, but when I lay down and a suction cup was attached to my eyeball and I felt nothing, I realised that they had! I couldn't see anything as it all went black from the pressure, but I could feel a nurse took my hand, and the surgeon was giving me a sort of head massage and talking calmly throughout as another nurse counted down from 30 to 0. That was the part where the laser was cutting a flap from my cornea, although of course I couldn't feel that or see it.

After reaching 0, the surgeon reassured me that it had gone perfectly, and said that we were nearly there. It got bright, there was some more movement in front of my eye which I couldn't really see, my eyelashes were taped back, I was told to focus on the red light in front of me, and then we were off. The laser was burning away (four blasts), and I could smell something like burnt hair. It wasn't overwhelming, just noticeable, and it was completely painless.Probably thirty seconds later, I was told it was all over, and the tapes were taken off my eyelashes (also painless - don't think I lost any!) and I was told to shut my eyes.

A couple of minutes after that, a nurse led me to a chair in a small waiting room, and that was it! Skry was called in and given the bag with the anaesthetic/antiseptic/steroid drops, and a pair of goggles to wear in bed, and was told how to administer everything. At this stage I had enough vision in my right eye to be able to go to the front desk, write a cheque to cover the cost, and walk down to the train station to get home. It was great!

I was sent home in this very fetching pair of shades. By that stage, things were still a bit blurry around the edges, and my eye felt like somebody put soap in it and was streaming, but it wasn't actually painful at all, just irritating. I had dark glasses to wear that evening, and there were tears dripping down from under them at one stage! But as I said, it wasn't painful at all, and I had anaesthetic drops to use every hour to take away the stinging, although I had such small need of these that I actually forgot I had them until later that night.

This is what I looked underneath the shades - I actually look very distressed in this photo, but it was just because I could hardly open my eyes in the light. It was like posing for a photo with the sunshine going straight into my eyes, rather than in a rather dim hallway without even a flash on the camera.

Four hours later, I had no need of the shades and no discomfort whatsoever, and the redness had pretty much disappeared.


I got a good night's sleep despite the goggles I have to wear for the next week, and when I woke up the next morning I could see properly! A self-assessment reading the number plates of cars parked in the distance suggested that the eye was at least driving standard already, and my check-up that day confirmed this. The surgeon was delighted, and said that I now have 20/20 vision in my right eye. He also said that you'd never guess I'd had laser surgery the previous day, so I guess my eye was healing up pretty well at that stage :)

My vision is really excellent, especially in bright light. I notice some halos around light sources, especially after dark, but it's nothing too intrusive (I always had halos to some degree anyway, so this isn't anything new). All is going great so far, and my left eye is being lasered on the 28th. I can't wait!


Blogger Skry said...

I have to admit that the whole procedure was so quick I didn't even realise it had started when I found out it was all over!

After less than 10 minutes a nurse asked me to come in and I thought it was possibly because Jen was scared and wanted me for moral support, but it turns out it was because the surgery had been completed and I was allowed to see her again :D

The longest part of the procedure was the time we spent in the waiting room (around 50 minutes).

The whole thing kinda reminded me of James Bond:

"Show Blofeld, do you exshpect me to talk?"
"No Mr Bond - I expect you to have 20/20 vision!"

1:20 am  
Anonymous Jenny said...

In the interest of completeness, I should add that I had my second eye lasered on the 28th as planned. The procedure went just as smoothly as the first one, although the eye was a lot more light-sensitive afterwards. It was so bad for about four hours that I had to tape a bandage over the dark glasses in order to keep out every bit of light. But that had faded long before I went to bed that night, and when I woke up in the morning I had perfect vision. In both eyes. Hurrah!

5:11 pm  

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