I started wearing glasses when I was 2 years old. My parents noticed I was reaching for toys that were just a little further than I thought. So they took me to get my eyes checked. Sure enough I inherited my dad’s vision and would need glasses. I was far-sighted (I️ can see better far away than I️ can close up), had astigmatism (my eyeballs are curved differently in one direction than the other, so light doesn’t focus evenly on the retina causing blurred vision), and suffered from strabismus (misaligned eyes).
Growing up I had to do eye exercises at home to strength my eyes. I would stand in the kitchen and read letters off of a chart on the closed kitchen door while wearing glasses with one green lens and one red lens. The glasses forced each eye to focus instead of me favoring my stronger right eye over my left eye.
My eyes are not friends with each other. Each eye sends a separate image to my brain so I can only actively use one eye at a time. This is due in part to the strabismus and there is nothing that can be done about it, but I’m good with that.
As a teenager I begged for contacts but my doctor was very hesitant because of my astigmatism and need for prism due to the strabismus. Around 16 as my vision was maturing and improving he finally said I could give contacts a try. I wore them once in a while but definitely couldn’t see well enough to switch away from glasses. My eyes were working so hard I could only wear the contacts for a few hours before my eyes would tire out and I’d have to switch back to glasses. My eyes need the prism that only lenses can offer.
Around this same time I started hearing about Lasik, and dreaming of it being a miracle cure-all for my vision. I never thought I’d be a candidate and my doctor was very on the fence about recommending it for me. He also explained that your vision isn’t fully developed until around 24 years old and a requirement of Lasik is to have a stable prescription for at least 1 year. My vision was improving as each year passed, but nonetheless it was still changing.
Every year following I would ask my doctor if I was ready for Lasik. I stayed hopeful and knew my time would come eventually to at least improve some part of my vision.
Finally at 23 years old my vision was stable for the previous two years and my doctor said I would be a candidate for Lasik. We spent a good while discussing the options and he suggested PRK over Lasik. More on the differences next. To say I felt ecstatic is an understatement. I was SO happy. It was finally my turn.
I immediately started researching PRK and Lasik and talked with my parents about the whole process. The procedure, after care, risks, side effects and costs are all a lot to think about.
After 4 consultations I went with my doctor’s recommendation who was also my mom and my favorite pick as he was the most genuine and professional. There are a lot of doctors that are only in this for the money so be very picky about who you choose to shoot lasers into your eyes. You can look for a few negative signs during your consultation such as:
-Meeting with an assistant as opposed to meeting the doctor. I had one consultation that said I would meet the doctor the day of the surgery. Red flag.
-Trying to schedule your procedure immediately
-Rushing you through the consultation
– Pressuring you in any way to make a decision
A genuine doctor will explain their history and knowledge of Lasik/PRK, the procedure itself, after care, any possible risk and side effects, and costs and financing options. They should send you home with printed information to look over before making any decisions.
I chose Dr. Berg of Berg-Feinfield Vision Correction in southern California. After getting consultations I realized none compared to how professional Dr. Berg is.
I scheduled my appointment for February 6, 2015 at 8:30am.
I wasn’t at all hesitant about my decision and I knew my eyeballs would be in good hands, err lasers.
So what exactly is PRK and how is it different from Lasik?
PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) was actually the first type of laser eye surgery and the main difference between the two is in the very beginning of the procedure. In PRK the outer layer of the cornea is dissolved and wiped away. In Lasik a ‘flap’ is cut on the cornea, either with a knife or laser, to expose the corneal tissue so the laser can work its magic.
The other difference is the recovery. With PRK, the cornea repairs itself and regrows in 4-5 days and you are instructed to stay in darkness for those few days. Lasik has you back at work the next day. In my opinion PRK is a more thorough process. The results are said to last longer and there is less chance of side effects such as glare, halos, etc. Talk to your doctor about which procedure is right for you.
The surgery process!
Before the surgery:
-Do not wear contacts for 3 days prior to surgery
-NO makeup, lotion, perfume, or anything with fragrance shall be worn.
-No caffeine 4 hours before surgery
-Wear warm, comfy clothes as rest is required immediately afterwards. Arrange for someone to take you (thanks, mom!)
-Pre-op testing and final measurements will be taken. (Full eye exam, pupil sizing, corneal thickness and curvature, and the moistness of your eyes will be tested)
-Anesthetic eye drops and oral meds are given to ease the surgery
During the surgery:
You get situated in the operating chair, assistants give you a blanket (the OR is cold!!), and they start prepping your eyes. The doctor places a lid speculum over each eye to keep the eyes open and tapes the eye lashes down. The top layer of the cornea is dissolved with drops, brushed off, and thrown away. You are asked to stare at a target light for about 5 minutes then they move to the next eye. The doctor places bandage contacts (clear contacts) on each eye to protect from any infection. Done! The speculum and tape are removed, plastic shields are taped over the eyes and you’re sent home to rest.
You will be sent home with an after care kit of antibiotic drops, numbing drops, extra shields and tape, and a prescription for oral pain medication. Stock up on moisturizing eye drops before the surgery and put them in the fridge for ultimate relief. A cooling eye mask is also a good way to soothe burning eyes. Your eyes may burn, itch and feel gritty throughout this process. My doctor recommended the numbing drops only if it was unbearable and I think I used them once or twice during the first day or so.
Try to spend this time resting and just letting your eyes heal and do their thing.
You are not to rub your eyes for 4 weeks (this was the hardest part of the whole process!). No contact sports for 4 weeks. No water in the eyes when showering/washing your face for 4 weeks. No swimming for a week, no rough waters (diving, skiing, jacuzzis) for 4 weeks. No eye make up for 2-4 weeks. No dust for 1 week (dirt bike riding, horseback riding, etc.). No strenuous lifting/exercising for 1 weeks.
Follow up appointments (with your regular eye doctor) are 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year from the procedure. These appointments are very important to check how the eye is healing.
I am coming up on 3 years post-op and I do not regret it one bit. A few weeks ago at my yearly eye exam my vision was 20/20 (which is average, not perfect) and there was only a very slight decline in my left eye. I would recommend PRK to anyone in a similar situation as I was. I don’t have any negative side effects as far as halos, glares, or starbursts (more common with Lasik than with PRK). My doctor has said I could go further and get strabismus surgery but to me it’s more of a risk than it’s worth. I’m very grateful for my vision and how far it’s come over the years.
So that’s it! That’s my eye story. Feel free to ask me any questions!