I started wearing glasses since I can remember and throughout the years my vision had steadily grown worse. I had toyed with surgery but given the cost and risks it was not something that I had seriously considered. I’m near-sighted and I have astigmatism. That lead to ever increasingly expensive contacts and increasingly poor vision – even with contacts and glasses. I had a couple of close calls where I was away and had to get contacts in an emergency and had to wait or pay for very expensive same-day glasses/contacts. I hate touching my eyes to the point where putting drops in or having the annual air test was almost impossible. I was terrified at the thought of my eyes being worked on (touched, or the laser) but the thought of being able to read clearly again at a distance made getting more information worth it.
I started doing inquiries and discovered that a good friend had undergone PRK a few years back and a scuba buddy had undergone the procedure a decade ago. They couldn’t rave enough about their vision after and that was enough to make me make the call. In my area there’s a very well known center ( http://www.durrievision.com/ ) that most people go to and then rave about. I did some digging and discovered another location in my area does the same procedure for less. Durrie vision quoted roughly $5,500 for the process and KU Vision Center quoted $4,400. Both places had good reviews and asking around it sounded like they both did a good job. During the process I asked about the machines. Maybe someone can correct me but it appears that for the procedure I’m doing that there was no difference in equipment that either place used.
One of the things that you should know going into this process – you will need a pair of glasses. You cannot wear contacts before the eye exam, or the laser correction. It can distort your eye and you will wind up with an improper correction – read needing contacts/glasses even after finishing the process. Other information that is useful is that Lasik/PRK is not covered by insurance. It’s an out of pocket procedure. I recommend using an HSA to pool money. That was a nice way to save up, but there is a $2,500 annual cap and most won’t roll over much of that, if any.
The exam was pretty simple. I got there at 3pm and was done a little before 5pm. I was very worried going in as I typically have my wife put eyedrops in my eye – I couldn’t keep them open. There wasn’t a ton of info on what I would find during the process so it was unsettling.
The three parts of the exam were checking my vision, making sure that my prescription was correct, then mapping out the actual surface of my eye, then testing cornea depth to ensure they were deep enough. The second part of the prescription portion was no different than any glass or eye exam, with maybe a little more time put into it to ensure they nail it.The first part is odd. They had me stare into a machine with some LED’s while it tested/mapped out my vision. The nurse wanted me to not focus directly on the LED but to kind of pick a point past it. That’s probably the hardest part of the entire exam to do. This took several minutes. The nurse didn’t note when I could blink which led to dry eyes and making it harder not to blink during the testing part. I’d recommend making sure to ask to let you know when they’re ready – just to speed things up.
The mapping process was weird. They have you stare into a machine which takes photos of your eyes. There’s lines and waves of patterns and it looks a little like you are staring into an fractal rotating pattern. This part was really easy, you knew exactly when you were being tested. No dry eyes here.
The most uncomfortable part of this was the testing of the cornea, and the dilation. Even this was pretty easy. A nurse literally touches your eye with a machine. You can’t really see anything other than a distortion in your vision where the pressure point is. They have your eyes well numbed by this point so there’s no sensation other than pressure. There’s no pain. They dilated my eyes to validate that the previous checks was correct (apparently most people cheat in vision exams to try to bring things into focus. If you can’t see it without squinting a little, don’t and let them know.)
All of the nurses through this point were very kind and professional. My wife (a dental hygienist) likes to remind me that young men are the worst patients. We are squeamish, and the most high-touch. I was no exception here and I am grateful to the nurses.
Finally I got to see my doctor Miranda Bishara. She talked me through the process and answered all of my questions. I had qualified for either Lasik or PRK, though my corneas were a little on the thin side – if I have more procedures they would all be PRK. Since our eyes are constantly changing in 20 years I might need a touch-up. In addition, there’s a safety factor.
Lasik involves creating a flap of tissue and correcting the cornea under it. PRK involves removing the epithelial layer and then correcting the cornea. There are risks either way but with the flap there’s scar tissue. If there’s trauma, it can cause the flap to rupture. In addition, since the cornea is under pressure and I really like scuba diving (you can have multiple times the pressure of the atmosphere with even basic diving) it seemed that PRK might be a safer option for me. There seems to be no indication that scuba diving is a risk with either option but given my thin corneas, the fact that future operations would be PRK for sure, and the fact that in my doctors experience PRK typically is slightly more stable in terms of vision that is what I opted for.