Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lasik - The Decision

I thought I'd write and share my (ongoing) story about getting Lasik surgery.

I first thought about Lasik maybe 5-10 years ago, but when I looked into it, it seemed that there was a fairly high rate of complications (especially halos and glare), which made me nervous. I just didn't think it had been tested enough back then. Then as I got older, I thought, well, what's the point now? Sure, if I was 25, it would be worth doing it, but not now.

A few years ago, though, I started to develop presbyopia, and more people I knew were having Lasik surgery, even people in their 40s, 50s -- this year I found out that a 72-year-old I know just had Lasik! And the rate of complications seemed much lower. Looking around on the Internet, it wasn't that easy to find people who were unhappy -- and most of them seemed to actually have relatively mild complications (e.g., they would complain that they still had to wear glasses -- well, I have to wear glasses *now*, so that doesn't seem like a tragic outcome). My biggest concern had been major loss of eyesight, but I really couldn't find *any* stories with extreme outcomes like blindness. Given that millions of people have Lasik every year, it seemed like it had gotten pretty safe and straightforward.

I went to the LasikPlus in Columbia (recommended by a friend who had had the surgery) for an evaluation in September 2007, and they said that I was a candidate. But they also told me that I had presbyopia (which I knew) and that I'd need reading glasses after the surgery. Trading one kind of glasses for another didn't seem all that appealing. They mentioned monovision, but I didn't think I could get used to being severely nearsighted in one eye and fairly farsighted in the other eye.

Fast-forward a year and a half, to late 2008, and my presbyopia was clearly getting bad enough that I was going to need bifocals pretty soon. (I couldn't just take my glasses off to read; I actually had to replace the regular glasses with reading glasses, especially if it was dark or my eyes were tired.) So I thought, OK, now the tradeoff seems worthwhile.

I made another appointment at LasikPlus (this time in Rockville, because the appointment times were more convenient) in February 2009. Again, they told me that I was a good candidate (pupils not too large, correction not too extreme (-3.75 diopters with mild astigmatism in one eye, -4 in the other)). They also told me more about monovision -- I had gotten the impression that the "close vision" eye wouldn't be corrected at all, or very little, but they told me that I could expect to have 20/20 vision in the distance-adjusted eye and 20/40 in the close-adjusted eye. They gave me some of those goofy insert-a-lens glasses with the monovision correction to wear while my eyes adjusted. It seemed like something that I could probably adapt to, and they also told me that if I didn't like it, I could come back after my eyes healed to change the close-adjusted eye to distance vision at no charge. (Of course, then I *would* have to wear reading glasses.)

I was also somewhat worried about glare and night vision, but it seemed that with the new laser technology, fewer people had long-term problems with these issues than even a few years ago -- and the night vision problems that can be caused by monovision (extra glare/halo from the blurry distance vision in the close-vision eye) can generally be fixed by wearing night glasses (that give you that extra bump in distance correction to even out the eyes).

I also talked to several friends who have had Lasik and are wildly satisfied with it, including a student who has monovision. I decided that the risks are small enough (possibility of still needing glasses, now or in the future; possibility of night glare or blurry vision, especially during healing) that I was going to do it.

I scheduled my surgery on Friday, March 20, 2009. I'm planning to post a series on the surgery and healing process, so stay tuned!

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