Last week I talked about how Accutane changed my life and how, despite its price tag, it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I can’t recommend it enough to my fellow acne sufferers!
Today I want to share another investment that changed my life for the better and was 100% worth the cost: LASEK. (Once again, this post is NOT sponsored; I’m just genuinely glad I chose to have this procedure done and want to share my experience for any curious minds!)
I started wearing contacts in ninth grade. I found out I needed them when I had to take the eye exam for my driver’s permit, and, a few weeks later, I was a daily contact lens wearer. I didn’t have horrible vision, but I will never forget popping in a pair of contacts for the first time and realizing how detailed the bark was on the trees across the street – it was like upgrading to a high-def TV!
I didn’t particularly like wearing contacts – I’m a perfectionist and I would waste several minutes every morning making sure I had removed every last speck of dust from my lenses before they touched my eyes – but I didn’t want to wear glasses and I was too afraid to consider surgery.
Fast-forward about 10 years, and it seemed like everyone I knew had gotten LASEK done. My friends and coworkers constantly raved about how worthwhile the procedure was, how smoothly the surgery went, and how everybody with glasses or contacts should get it done, no question.
I loved the idea of never wearing contacts or glasses again, but I was terrified. I was terrified of the pain. I was terrified of the cost. I was terrified something would go wrong and I’d lose my eyesight. I was terrified of having to go without makeup in public for a week. 😜
I didn’t think I’d ever actually be able to go through with laser eye surgery because I was so scared. I watched a video of LASIK on YouTube and that left me even more afraid! I promptly vowed I’d never have the procedure done.
…But I decided to ask my optometrist about it at my next appointment, just to rule it out for good. I figured he’d ease my mind by telling me I seemed too hesitant to be a good candidate for LASIK, which he had told me in the past.
Instead, he said he thought I would be a good candidate for LASIK and he’d set up an appointment with a local doctor who performs the procedure so I could find out for sure.
A few days later, I had been officially declared a good candidate for laser eye surgery, discovered there was a discount that month only, and made an appointment for LASEK.
Nope, that’s not a typo. LASEK is very similar to LASIK, except with LASIK a flap is cut in the cornea and placed back on top of the eye when the surgery is done. With LASEK, an alcohol solution is used to entirely remove the outer layer of the cornea before the procedure, and then this outer layer grows back post-surgery. This reduces the likelihood of any complications after surgery since you don’t have to worry about accidentally disturbing the flap as it heals.
I was still terrified, but somehow I went through with it. I was put somewhat at ease by hearing dozens of testimonies from others, virtually all of them positive.
The surgery itself was just that: overwhelmingly positive. It was quick, and it didn’t hurt at all because my eyes were numbed with medicated drops. A few painless snaps from the laser on each eye, accompanied by the sound and smell of firecrackers (which I know isn’t that reassuring, but it wasn’t scary – promise!), and it was over. I thought it would be weird or even disturbing to watch (It certainly was from an outsider’s perspective on YouTube), but it just kind of looked like there were flashing lights over to the side somewhere. Just like everyone else had told me, the worst part was the brain freeze when each eye got an ice-cold water bath. Not bad at all! I never lost my vision during the surgery (which I was told I would for about 20 seconds), I didn’t have any pain whatsoever, and I didn’t even have any discomfort. Just nerves, which dissipated rather quickly because the environment was so calm. The staff put temporary contact lenses onto my eyes to protect them for the next several days while the outer layer of the cornea grew back, and my mom drove me home immediately afterward. The whole procedure only took a matter of minutes.
My recovery also went great. I did have some discomfort – my eyes felt like they’d had contacts in all day that were ready to be taken out – but it wasn’t bad, and I didn’t have any pain throughout my entire recovery. I know not everyone has an experience this amazing, but I literally had no pain. At all. I credit the awesome staff at the eye clinic and all the prayers I know were said on my behalf. 🙌
Here’s a glimpse at what each day looked like for me during and after LASEK (including a very glamorous photo collage…the sunglasses were because of light sensitivity, not because I think I’m a celeb 😉):
Day 1: Felt great; vision was great! Even though I felt like I could handle any of my normal tasks, I followed instructions, stayed inside in a dark room, and tried to sleep. My eyes didn’t feel sensitive at all, but I wore sunglasses on my ride home and to the Dairy Queen for a Blizzard.
Day 2: Still no pain, discomfort, or light sensitivity. My eyes still felt a little irritated, like I had contacts in that wanted to come out (which, technically, I did). I wore the lovely safety goggles to make sure nothing touched my eyes.
Day 3: Uncomfortable. This was the worst day, but it still wasn’t bad. I began to experience light sensitivity in the middle of the night and had to cover every clock and light in my room. It was better by the time actual daylight hit, but I mostly just sat with my eyes closed all day to be on the safe side, which was pretty boring. My vision started to get a bit blurrier, which I was told it would as the outer layer of my cornea began to grow back.
Day 4: Felt like the worst was behind me. I wasn’t as light-sensitive except with screens, but it worked pretty well to watch TV with my sunglasses on, as ridiculous as that felt.
Day 5: Felt great. My vision fluctuated and I couldn’t always see every letter I tried to read, but I was able to scroll Pinterest with no problems! 😏 I also sat outside in a hat and sunglasses.
Day 6: Another great day! I almost felt normal, until my eyes got dry at the end of the day (probably because I did too much work on my computer).
Day 7: I went back to work for the first time since the procedure. It was more challenging than I expected but I was still able to be productive enough to justify working. My eyes were dry and I had trouble deciphering a few numbers, but overall things went smoothly. Only my pride was wounded, since I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup yet. 😉
Day 8: Back to driving! The day started out great, but my vision was blurrier after I got my bandage contacts taken out over my lunch break. I wasn’t as productive after that, and after staring at a computer screen at work all day, my eyes were tired that night. I went to bed early because I couldn’t read, watch TV, or look at my phone without straining my eyes.
Day 9: My vision felt normal and gradually got blurrier as the day went on. Small print was hardest to identify. I opted not to drive this day because I didn’t want to take any chances.
Day 10: I felt fine but was frustrated because my vision was consistently blurry. I couldn’t identify who was around me at church unless they started talking, and reading was too much of a strain on my eyes – much more so than right after surgery.
Day 11: My vision seemed to only be getting worse, and staring at screens all day didn’t help matters. Still no pain, just frustration at my blurry vision.
Days 12-14: I had clearer vision each morning when I woke up, but then it would quickly become blurrier. I spent one evening at a Backstreet Boys concert and was surprised how much I learned about the concert in the news the next day – apparently I’d missed a lot of details that I couldn’t see! 😂 The cheap seats I had didn’t help, either. Ha.
Day 15: Things finally started to clear up again! It also took longer for my eyes to get tired and feel strained at work. I had known it all along, but now I knew for sure: LASEK was totally worth it.
After my initial recovery, I continued to use Refresh eye drops once or twice a day for about a year. Many of my friends who’ve had LASEK have continued to use them indefinitely, but I found that my eyes were more or less back to normal within a year. I went several years without using any drops at all, and at the moment I have drops on hand that I use very sparingly.
I am now six years post-LASEK, often forgetful of the fact that I ever had contacts even though I wore them for more than a decade. This is my normal now, and I love it!
I couldn’t have been more fearful of the process, but my fears were completely unfounded. Everything went so smoothly, I had absolutely zero pain, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience! The surgery was surprisingly affordable, and I know I’ve also already saved a lot since in contacts, glasses, and all the cleaning products that go along with them.
If you wear glasses or contacts, are a candidate for LASEK, and know of a reputable laser eye specialist in your area, GO FOR IT! The sooner, the better, in my opinion. I wish I wouldn’t have been such a chicken and had gotten it done sooner! My optometrist told me that by the time I get to the point where I need reading glasses, it will be common to have laser surgery for that, too, and that will definitely be a consideration when I reach that age…you know, in the very distant future. 😉