I feel like every good LASIK post begins with “I’ve worn glasses since I was ::insert age here::.” I never wore glasses as a child. I used to brag about my perfect vision… until I was in high school and had to squint to read the orange ink on the overhead. Then after about an hour of tearing up at the eye doctor because I was trying to insert a polymer sphere onto my eyeball, then some actual crying because I couldn’t get the polymer sphere to stay on my eyeball, suddenly I saw the world in HD. We immediately went to Burger King so I could marvel at the menu and a Whopper in HD.
Wearing contacts during the day and glasses at night soon became just part of my daily routine. I vaguely remember my eye doctor saying I’d be a good candidate for LASIK once my prescription stabilized, but I tabled that decision for when I became an adult. Flash forward to three months ago. Likely due to a combination of wearing daily contacts for more than one day, wearing too much eye makeup and consistently rubbing and itching, my eyes became very irritated. One day I even had to go without contacts or makeup, and I really hate wearing glasses and really like wearing makeup. That’s when a little voice spoke up in the back of my head — “LASIK?” Maybe I wouldn’t have to deal with the yearly costs of more polymer spheres and the irritation that comes with trying to milk a pricy six-month supply of daily contacts over two years.
So since I’m back in Cincinnati, I made a free consultation appointment at LasikPlus last week. Dr. Marino there has performed more than 81,000 procedures, so I knew I’d be in good hands. I wasn’t really thinking that far in advance, though — my prescription has changed a little bit each year, so I figured the consult would just tell me whether I’d be a good candidate down the road. They performed a variety of tests, then the tech slid a piece of paper in front of me with the final cost of the procedure.
“Should we schedule it for later this week?” He asked. I told him I needed some time to think about it. I knew my mom was off the next week and could drive me to the appointment, but was I really ready to have such a permanent, expensive, life-changing procedure?
“We can just book a date to hold it, you can always call to cancel or change it,” the tech suggested. So I did it. I booked the surgery. My reasoning was that if I was going to have the surgery, I should have it now before I waste any more money on contacts or glasses.
I left my consult bright-eyed (or rather dilated-eyed) and bushy tailed — they said I was a perfect candidate! I was approved for the 12-month, no interest payment plan! In one week I wouldn’t need contacts anymore!
I went home and started doing more research. First I read thorough first-person accounts of the procedure, which made it seem like a piece of cake. And then “LASIK ruined my life” came up, so I went back to “LASIK was the best decision I ever made!” Then I found a story about a guy whose eyes were so dry and painful after LASIK that he eventually committed suicide. I immediately switched tabs to “I wish I had gotten LASIK sooner!” I convinced myself that every botched surgery was because the person wasn’t a “perfect candidate” like me. I read success story after success story, feeling confident in my decision, until I read this sentence by Joe Tye in his “Before You Have Lasik Eye Surgery” guide:
“If you knew there was a one-in-twenty chance that an operation you don’t need except to not have to wear glasses would permanently impair your eyesight and cause you serious and ongoing physical and mental distress — would you take that risk?”
Everyone — LASIK doctors included — tells you to do your research and understand the risks. (Patients must sign a waiver that basically says “I won’t sue, even if you completely ruin my vision.”) Most people who are happy with their LASIK procedures say they weighed the risks and benefits and the benefits won, even if they have to battle dry eyes and nighttime halos for a while. That’s when it finally hit me:
What makes me a perfect candidate for LASIK actually makes me a bad one: my prescription isn’t severe. I didn’t require corrective lenses until I was 13. I can easily read my alarm clock at night without fumbling for my glasses, and if I somehow broke my glasses or lost a contact, I would not die trying to exit a burning building (hopefully). I already see in HD thanks to contacts. I merely wanted LASIK because I thought it might save me money over years of contacts (which is unlikely, as LASIK is pricy and still requires yearly eye exams. Plus I’ll still likely need reading glasses when I hit 40, regardless of LASIK). Most people, even those happy with their surgery, say they suffer from dry eye and need to regularly use eye drops. One of the reasons I was considering the surgery was because I was tired of dry contacts, but it seems I’d merely be trading in popping in contacts once a day to dropping in eye drops several times daily.
In short (although this post has been anything but), LASIK seems to have worked for many people, and probably would have worked for me, but it’s the “what if” that made me eventually cancel my appointment and instead book an appointment with my regular ophthalmologist to try out a new brand of contacts. You only get one pair of eyeballs in your life, and there’s no undoing cutting a flap in your eye (which never fully heals) and lasering off some of your cornea. For some, the thought of waking up with 20/20 vision outweighs any risk, but for me, contacts are just not that bad.