LASIK Eye Surgery. Have You? Would You?

If you were to ask me what one thing would dramatically improve my life, my answer would very likely be “to have perfect eyesight”.

At the same time, however, I have always been uneasy with anything to do with eyes. For example, those movie scenes where a sharp instrument comes agonizingly close to piercing the eye have always sent shivers down my spine. This probably explains why, despite wanting to have better eyesight and it being a fairly common procedure these days, I haven’t really explored the option of LASIK eye surgery up until now.

Why Consider LASIK Eye Surgery

Anyone who wears glasses or contact lenses will know what a hassle they can be, especially for things such as playing sport, reading fine print and driving at night.

LASIK eye surgery can dramatically improve a patient’s vision by reshaping the corneas of their eyes. Many people report perfect or near-perfect eyesight after the operation, meaning they can throw away their glasses and contact lenses. I should point out, though, that patients over 40 will still need reading glasses to see up close.

As you can tell, laser eye surgery truly has the potential to change a person’s life. Indeed, this has been the case for the few people I know who have undergone the procedure. And a search on this topic on various Internet forums turned up many similar experiences (for example see these responses on 43 Things).

The Risks

Every surgical procedure poses inherent risks and in this respect LASIK eye surgery is no different. According to the LASIK page on Wikipedia, the incidence of LASIK surgery patients having unresolved complications six months after surgery is estimated to be between 3% and 6%. I must admit this number was higher than I expected. Some potential complications include: dry eyes, halos and double vision (see the aforementioned Wikipedia page for further complications that could arise).

In regards to technology, Your 5-Minute Guide To LASIK Eye Surgery says “there has never been a better time to have laser eye surgery, as advancements in technology have made today’s procedures safer and more effective than those available just a few years back.” Indeed, the technology available sounds very impressive. I have to wonder, though, if the improved technology that will inevitably be developed in the coming years is worth waiting for.

I think the risks associated with the procedure are well summarized by in the below quote, taken from USAEyes Forums.

Although Lasik is considered safe and effective by medical standards and has a relatively low complication rate, there is no such thing as perfect surgery, a perfect surgeon, or even a perfect patient. Things can, and do, go wrong. Problems may not occur very often, but one must always remember that to achieve the convenience of a reduced need for corrective lenses, one must accept some element of risk.

The Best Advice I Found

The following were the best pieces of advice I found for anyone considering the surgery:

  • Before going to a clinic that performs corrective eye surgery, get an unbiased opinion from an eye specialist who has no connection to these procedures.
  • When it comes to eye surgery, don’t be cheap. Pay for the best treatment possible.
  • Take the time to find an experienced doctor who you trust. The following is a great way to screen potential doctors: 50 Tough Questions to Ask Your Lasik Doctor.
  • Research, research, research. Make sure you understand the procedure and its full range of potential complications (I mentioned only a few of them earlier).

So then, have you had corrective eye surgery? Or would you consider having it done? If not, then why?

Recommended Resources

Looking for more ideas and inspiration? The following are some of our favorite resources:

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38 thoughts on “LASIK Eye Surgery. Have You? Would You?”

  1. Hi Peter,
    This is something that I have considered, however my gut feelings are telling me it’s not right for me at this time. Down the road perhaps. I have heard many horror stories so I guess that’s one of the things holding me back at the moment. I find myself wearing my glasses more because my astigmatism is getting a bit worse. Oh well!

  2. Have you looked at all into natural vision improvement, specifically the Bates method? No real research has been conducted proving it, but there is also no evidence it is harmful, so why not give it a try? Well, at least that is my opinion on it.

    In the book I have about Natural Vision Improvement, they criticize LASIK greatly. I agree with these reasons largely. I’ll write them here, but I’m not sure if I have them all or explained them correctly(reciting it from memory):
    1. LASIK surgery has the potential to fail, permanently damaging your vision and often involves complications, as you stated. My father himself had to get two surgeries to properly correct his vision and he still often has to wear his glasses.
    2. LASIK surgery corrects your vision, but no the harmful habits of your vision. Correct natural vision states that the reason our society has such horrible vision problems is due to incorrect vision habits. If the vision is corrected but the habits aren’t, your physical and mental health will still suffer due to these habits.

    I feel like I missed a lot.
    If you do feel like looking into vision improvement, I recommend “Relearning to See: Improve Your Eyesight — Naturally!” by Thomas Quackenbush.

  3. Peter, yes I have – in August 1999. I had worn glasses for myopia and astigmatism since I was 8 years old and had always loathed it. Started wearing contact lenses in 1980. I was living in the Washington DC area at the time I decided to have the surgery, and I found my eye doctor by reading Washington Magazine’s issue on “the doctors chosen by doctors”. Since I had been wearing contacts for so long, I had to stop wearing them and go back to glasses for long enough to let my eyes return to their natural shape, so I had a few months to get to know and trust my doctor. He was terrific. No complications whatsoever and absolutely no regrets. In choosing a doctor, look for one who does many of these procedures every week, and get references. You might start by looking for a doctor associated with TLC Laser Eye Centers http://www.tlcvision.com/ like my doctor was.

  4. Great point Jon. Yes, I have heard of the Bates method but I have not looked into it. Natural vision improvement could definitely be an option as my eyesight is certainly not THAT bad (at least compared to what other people deal with). There is no harm in trying it right? Thanks for the book suggestion.

  5. Hi there –

    I had the surgery done about two years ago and it was the best decisions I ever made! I had terrible eyesight and was literally blind without my glasses or contacts. In the morning, if I had knocked my glasses off of the nightstand, it would take a long time to find them. :) I am a very active individual and I love not being held up because I have something in my eye or my glasses got dirty.

    I did not go cheap – I went to the Beverly Hills Assil Eye Institute, which had been recommended to me by several friends. Dr. Assil performs all of the surgeries himself so that was comforting. The procedure itself was absolutely terrifying. It took 7 minutes per each eye and it was a long 7 minutes. You’re awake the whole time and trying very hard to lay still. The recover was easy though — I had no pain or discomfort and returned to work the next day. One additional piece of advice I have is to definitely take the valium they offer to help you calm down.

    Good luck!

  6. I had it done when I was 20, back in 1999.
    In the last couple years its started to ‘fade’. I’m told this was because I had it done too early and my eyes were still developing. I have what they call ‘residual perscription’ and because i have astigmatism, soon as the sun goes down I pretty much can’t read road signs (this is still better than before I got the surgery).

    I got perscription glasses which I pretty much only have to wear at night, and since the ‘residual’ perscription is so slight, I’m told by my optometrist that it would be a bad idea to get re-lasered to fix my tiny perscription.

    Otherwise having better-than-perfect vision for nearly 8 years was worth it to me :)

  7. I was born with cataracts and have had contacts since I was 8 weeks old. My vision is around 20/60 in my right eye and 20/100 in my left, on a good day. So, for me, I would love to go for LASIK. However, because I don’t have a lens in my eye (or something like that), I can’t. Although, I don’t really have much to lose because I can’t drive. So, I would say that you should see (no pun intended) what you can do with your improved eyesight and find out if that is worth the risk.

    At any rate, if you do go blind, you might be able to get a dog! :D

    Oliver
    mactipper.com

  8. I had lasik in March 2000. So almost 8 years now. Problems are slight dryness and some minor halo’ing at night. However the benefits far outweigh the problems. After surgery I was 20-15. Since my eyes have regressed slightly to 20-20 in one eye, 20-25 in the other. I would have liked them to have stayed at 20-20 or better but this is by no means bad at all. I had mild nearsightedness and astigmatism prior to the procedure.

    I still have a VHS tape of the surgery and I am still amazed at it. It cost $4000 back then but the money wasn’t a big deal, the results speak for themselves.

    I take precautions such as trying to always remember to wear sunglasses and eye protection whenever I can.

    Honestly the best part, during the surgery, when a small light I was staring at was totally out of focus and then all of a sudden became perfectly in focus as the laser did its work.

    Good luck.

  9. There is an interesting range of stories here. I have not gotten the surgery, but I’ve wondered for several years if it was something I should look into. One of the things that made me consider it was that the few people I know who have had it done love it and would do it all over again.

    On the other hand, as you said, it is your eyes. And, I’ve found that due to my astigmatism, I can’t see as well with contacts as I can with glasses. I gave up contacts a few years ago because the trouble I had with putting them in combined with the actual vision issues made it not worth it. I’m concerned that the surgery would correct my vision permanently only as good as the contacts, which isn’t acceptable to me.

    I know I could meet with a doctor to ask about that particular aspect of the surgery; however, the cost of the surgery is still a big issue for me. And, given the responses here, I’m again glad that I’m holding off. Glasses are a pain, but I’m used to them.

  10. I had the LASIK surgery and am a huge fan of it. I had it done three and half years ago when I was 21, making me 25 now. Prior to getting the surgery I wore contact lenses for about 10 years. I had a very bad astigmatism (I think it was something like -3 and -4 for each eye). Since the surgery my vision has settled to 20/20 in one eye and 20/25 in the other. I am able to play golf, baseball/softball, etc. I am also in my last semester of law school which certainly puts stress on the eyes with the large amounts of reading. However, I don’t wear reading glass or contact lenses at all.

    I saw one person comment that their vision has deteriorated since their surgery. I was told that your vision will continue to change as it would have without the surgery, so it is best to make sure that your eyesight has been stable for sometime. However, as you age and vision changes into your senior years as will your vision after corrective surgery. It basically gives your a new starting point, it’s not a cure all forever.

    The being said the procedure itself was very simple and quick. I was pretty out of it for about 4 hours after the surgery and my eyes were extremely sensative to light. By the next day I could go outside with sunglasses and function as normal. Additionally, there were “halos” around lights at night (like street lights, taillights, etc.) which got pretty annoying but those went away I believe in about 2 weeks. like I said before I’m a huge supporter of the procedure but completely understand ones anxiety. There’s a huge risk, if there is a problem, which is unlikely, you could lose your sight. It’s kind of like saying would you risk $1000 for a 98% chance of winning $10? Personally, the risk was worth it for me but if others don’t share those values then I completely understand. Anyways, those are my two cents. Hope that helps.

  11. My fiance did the research and went to one of the best doctors in the USA for surgery. But it didn’t work. His vision is worse than it was before surgery, and now his eyes are very dry as well.

    So now he’s out the money from the surgery and follow-up visits, with a negative outcome. Beware, beware, beware!

  12. I get chills down my spine thinking of the same thing. I’ve worn glass since the 3rd grade so I know what a pain it can be to wear them. But hey, they’ve grown on me.
    Recently, a close friend of mine got LASIK eye surgery and his vision is brilliant! He brags about he procedure and how I should do it! (Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating…he doesn’t exactly brag.) But he certainly does like not having to wear glasses. Heck I’d love perfect vision too!
    But the fact is, I don’t think I could ever get myself to do it. As painless as they may say it is and as fail-safe as it may be…it’s not for me.

  13. my father is an optometrist that work for a Lasik center and he’s had it done. So has my brother. I’ve seen it done before right in front of me for about 15 customers and have seen a few that needed to come back for more surgery.

  14. I have worn glasses or contacts since I was in the 3rd grade; I have always been tempted to try Lasik. I guess I have put it off because I started wearing disposable contacts several years ago and it is like wearing nothing at all. When I was young I had “soft” contacts that were pretty uncomfortable and I would wear my glasses at least 50% of the time. If disposable ones never came out I would have been one of the first to jump into it.

    I’m with you 100% on being uncomfortable with anything having to do with eyes. It makes my eyes water like crazy if I see someone messing with their eyes, I cannot even imagine some of the things they show in movies happening to my eyes.

    http://www.JuiceofChampions.com

  15. Ja!, at least Lasik made something good for me and that was back in 2000 I bought Lasik stock for 6usd$ and sold it at around 14usd$ :D

    Thanks Lasik :p

  16. My best friend had it done last year and he loved it. I went for an evaluation and my doctor said I cannot have Lasik done because of the width of my cornea, but I can have an alternate procedure, which is just as safe but with two problems: 1. It hurts, for 4 days until the cuts heal and you will feel how ithe eye closes back up, the other problem is that it’s not as quick as Lasik.

    So I have been thinking about it and I am yet undecided, however somedays I wish I would just have it done under the logic that 4 days of pain for better sight is not much to pay, or is it?

    alice

  17. I did it a year and a half ago (I’m female, age 44) and I love it. I was nervous too but so glad I did it – I would do it again in a heartbeat. Make sure you get someone who has an excellent reputation and who has done thousands of them. Good luck!

  18. I’m 39 and had LASIK about 4 months ago. So far, it has been (one of) the best things I’ve ever done. I was VERY nervous, and the night before the surgery I did a bunch of research online and read countless horror stories online. I almost backed out, but the folks at the LASIK center put my mind at ease after I arrived. Of course, I still took 2 Valium! :-)

    Anyway, I was 20/200 (nearsighted) before the surgery, and am now seeing 20/15. For a couple weeks, I had pretty bad halos at night, but those went away rather abruptly. I still have dry eye, but only need drops before bed, and when I wake up. Sometimes I use them if I’m working in a dry data center and my eyes get itchy – but I had that before LASIK.

    Interestingly, I went back to one of the websites where I read TONS of LASIK horror stories and posted my positive results. A couple days later, my post was deleted!!! That goes to show you that those sites don’t want people to know about all the good stories out there – which I would bet there are many more of.

  19. I had surgery two weeks ago. I went from wearing glasses at over 7 diopters to 20/15 vision. I have occasional dryness in one eye or the other, but its not big deal. Not as bad as dryness I experiences from contacts. I see halos around lights, so reading LEDs is somewhat difficult, but the doctor said this usually goes away after a month or so. Even with these two side effects, it was well worth it. My doctor used the VisX CustomVue laser.

    From the research I did, many of the people that get really bad results do not take good care of their eyes post surgery.

    1. A work colleague recently had LASIK done and her results have been great.

      I went to a surgeon to see if I was a candidate. Unfortunately I have thin corneas which means I can’t get LASIK. I’m considering getting PRK, though, which my eyes are suitable for. The results are the same, but the procedure is different and the healing time is longer.

  20. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to says they loved the experience, but I don’t know if I could ever bring myself to get it done. Maybe I’m a scaredy-cat..

  21. I had Lasik performed when I was 18 by the same doctor in kansas city who did my opthalmologist father’s eyes, his brother/sil, nurse, and some more people in his office.

    My rationale for using this doctor was-my father had the potential of earning $3million more at the time he had it done, & he can’t work w/o his eyes. So I trusted the guy & it came out very well.

    SLEEP the night before. I didn’t & had extreme anxiety during the procedure. First they give you 10mg valium. They tape your eyes open & for me, it looked like a rainbow colored copier running back & forth.

    I was 20/15 and am now 20/20 almost 10 years later. I still have very slight haloing around bright lights like street/headlights. The worst part of the whole deal was the eye dryness test for me.
    Another tip-they have the technology for the microkeratome to be laser guided (the thing that cuts the flap in cornea for laser to reshape lens) & imprecision in hand cut flaps is cause of most issues. GO for the laser guided mk if you have the $$.

    I would absolutely recommend it to anyone whose eyes test out optimal.

    My sister used my dad’s buddy Dr. Ben Pettigrove in Tulsa, Ok & she’s had fantastic results. He began in Grand cayman in the 80s, so he’s got a lot of experience.

    Well, hope this helps for whatever it’s worth. :)

  22. I am completely thrilled with my lasik results. Never had a single issue since the procedure! The professional staff at Erdey Searcy Eye Group in Columbus, Ohio took excellent care of me. Couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon!

  23. I had lasik surgery and it has made me blind. I would not recommend it to anyone. I am on welfare disability now and am in severely bad shape. Will be homeless soon. All because of a terrible surgery called lasik.

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