This is a long LASIK post. Bottom line, I over analyzed LASIK by googling every moment of every day. And each time I saw someone’s personal experience, it was missing some critical area I was curious about. So I’ve tried to cover everything I can think of here! Please let me know if there’s any questions I missed!
I debated LASIK for a long time- but never seriously. I knew that it was too scary and too expensive for me. The cut your eye and then shoot it with a laser while you are WATCHING it? Yeah, no thanks.
But… as time wore on, I got more and more tired of having to go home after work, switch into glasses, and go out with my friends in glasses. I got tired of all the photos of me in glasses. I don’t like glasses. I got tired of my eyes being tired in the afternoon because my contacts were irritated.
Several friends who had LASIK recently (one last year, one four years ago) started pestering me a bit more this year than I’ve been pestered in the past. It was the typical arguments you hear online – it’ll change your life, I can’t believe I waited so long, etc. OK. Fine. I hear you. So off I went to my eye doctor to get recommendations.
OK, I’ll think more seriously about LASIK. What steps should I take?
- Start putting more money in your HSA (or similar tax free health account). Trust me, this isn’t cheap and it was AMAZING to check my HSA and realize I had $1200 saved up that felt like “free money” because I’d been painlessly putting it away for 4 years.
- Go to your eye doctor and see if they think you’re a good candidate… then get recommendations for local doctors. Generally, you’re a good candidate if your vision has stabilized for ~2 years (fluctuations of ±25 or so is fine) and your corneal thickness is enough to handle the laser (your normal eye doc will know).
- Research the doctors your normal eye doc suggests. I first asked my friends who had it done where they went and if they were satisfied. One of them used a doctor my eye doc recommended, so I then went to that website. I compared their website to the others recommended, and saw that they were more conservative. They required more upfront testing, more follow up visits, gave anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops longer than the other places, had performed more LASIK procedures (64,000) than others, and even highlighted some (active) professional athletes as former clients. In my mind, if NFL and MLB teams trusted this doc with an asset of theirs, it’s good enough for me!). Also, my LASIK doc guarantees their work if you go to all the follow up appointments as prescribed. If my LASIK fails, they’ll do a correction for free. Now that I’ve gone through it, my LASIK doc was awesome. The entire staff was wonderful – they had great individualized attention, always patiently answered my lists of questions, and made sure my friend who was my ride home was enjoying the experience too (yes, you have to bring a friend to the procedure to drive you home!). This place has a TV so your friend can watch the procedure if they want! (I have a video… which still makes me cringe when I watch it).
- When you are ready financially, set up a free consultation with the doctor you choose. I caveat that for a very important reason. If you’re like me, at this point you’ll be Google-ing “LASIK” and the doctor’s name you’ve chosen constantly. This will, for most reputable offices, result in Google giving you targeted ads, which often include coupons! Yes, coupons. So… don’t set up the appointment until you’re ready to take advantage of these coupons, which are often only useable within a month. I requested an appointment online with my doctor, and immediately got an email coupon- if I set an appointment within a month, I would get $750 off the procedure. That was $550 more than the discount my insurance provided. Done!
- If you’re serious, at the same time you set up the consultation, start wearing only glasses. Yep. Adios, contacts. My doc said I had to be out of contacts for 30 days before my surgery. Other docs say only a few days – beware! According to my doc, depending on how long you were in contacts, it can take up to a month for your eyes to go back to pre-contact shape. This is your vision! Don’t risk it. Allow your eyes time to rest.
- Attend the consultation. They’ll do lots of tests, all for free. Corneal thickness. Eye pressure. Vision tests. Tear production tests (that one was weird and not fun- poke you until you cry basically). All of these are necessary for them to evaluate if you’re a good candidate or not. Ask LOTS of questions. Again, this is your future eyesight!!!
- Schedule your procedure!
What’s the real cost?
- I overthink all things related to money- and LASIK was no different. My doctor was the most expensive of the three I researched – total was $5100. In my mind, this was the most conservative and best choice for me – so I was OK with it being more expensive than other docs. Keep in mind – this included everything. The consultation. The procedure (and the Xanax beforehand!). The follow up appointments (1 day, 5-7 day, and 1/3/6 month appointments). BUT. It didn’t include the eye drops. More under medicine below – those add up!
- I had a $750 off coupon. So the cost to me was really $4350.
- I had $1200 in my HSA that I’d forgotten I’d put away, so in my mind, my out of pocket cost was really $3150. Not nearly as scary as $5100!
- My LASIK doc has a payment program. I qualified for a 0% interest 24-month loan through the doctor’s office (they have a deal with a bank). My monthly payments should be about $130. Manageable!
- Drops… There are so so so many drops. Both Rx and OTC. Rx added up to nearly $200 for me. Ouch! And right now I’m about $60 or so invested in OTC drops. You have to use the preservative free vials for ~4 months, and they’re more expensive than the bottles. I use Refresh Plus (my doc recommended Refresh Optive Advanced, but those make my vision blurry for about 5 minutes because of the extra stuff in them so I don’t like those- and they’re more expensive).
What Medicine Will I Need?
I was prescribed three eye drops, with an additional two over the counter drops.
- Zymaxid: First, it’s pricey (~$100/bottle which lasts approx. 5-7 days). This is to prevent infection. I was told to use it starting the day before the procedure and for 7 days after. They gave me one refill, but told me if it lasted until day 5, I didn’t need to refill for just two days. My normal eye doctor agreed. Mine lasted through all seven days, except the very last drop in one eye. Win! (be careful if you aren’t a good eye dropper – don’t miss this one, it’s too expensive to waste!)
- Acular: Also not so cheap (~45/bottle which had leftovers): Also started the day before the surgery, this drug is to minimize pain. You use it through the day after the surgery. I only had about 5 minutes of legit discomfort – don’t know if this was the reason this was so short or not.
- Pred Forte: The “important” post-op drug. This is a steroid which helps prevent swelling. My personal doc says its critical to the healing process. You take it starting the day of surgery and going 7 days out, many times a day. At my 7-day appointment, my normal eye doc said I should take it for a few days more- and there is still some left so I don’t think I’ll have to refill.
- OTC: I was “prescribed” two OTCs: Refresh Plus or Optive Advanced (both are preservative free), and Refresh Celluvisc. Celluvisc is a gel drop to be used both before naps/bedtime or before long hours at the computer or TV to help lubricate. My doc says that these OTC drops and the pred forte are the most important for the healing process. I bought my Refresh Plus on Amazon where I got a box of 100 vials for $25. Celluvisc I got a box at RiteAid for $16. You can reuse the vials the same day (ok, I admit, I’ve used them over two days… shhh). They have caps you can put back on.
- The eye drops will get crusty. Yep. It’s delightful. The celluvisc is especially bad about this. My LASIK doc said to dab very, very, very gently (not rub- dab) with a Kleenex to get it off. Problem is, if you don’t catch it immediately, it dries and a Kleenex will only get little fibers attached to it, not clear any of it. That’s just delightful. I had an especially lovely moment after my 1-day appt w/ my personal eye doc when I put in Refresh Plus and it flushed the yellow dye eye drop from my personal doc out of my eye and all the sudden I had yellow ooze all over my eyelids. Gorgeous. Sorry, all those people at Safeway who had to see that… Anyway, personal eye doc said DON’T dab!!! Too risky, especially in the first few days. Instead, he suggested I get a washcloth wet with really warm (not too hot) water and rest it over my eyes for about 20 seconds. That will loosen the crap and allow a very very light dab which will get some of it. Not all of it. And apparently I don’t have to get all of it. . . (This, by the way, has been the worst part of the recovery for me- and it’s not horrific, just kinda gross).
- Take time off, if you can. I planned mine really well – I had it done at 1400 on a Thursday before Labor Day weekend. I worked Thursday until 1330, had the procedure, went home and took the required nap, and had a really calm evening at home. Friday I was restless at home – TV wasn’t quite comfortable to watch (they’d warned me it may not be) so I put my goggles on and cleaned my house (can’t risk getting chemicals/dust in your eyes!). Probably not the best thing to do, but at least I put goggles on! I got really bored on Saturday, and it only got worse on Sunday. Labor Day would have been torture sitting at home if it wasn’t for a Netflix marathon (interrupted every 30-45 min for eye drops!). I was READY to go back to work on Tuesday (day 5). However… Work was tough day one. First, I couldn’t take the nap I’d gotten used to whenever my eyes were tired. Second, my office’s HVAC system is much stronger than I’d ever realized – and the AC blowing by my face was torture. I had to move my computer to a different angle so my eyes could get some relief. I also had to use the celluvisc gel drops a few times during the day simply from the air moving around (not just the direct AC on my face). If you have an office and aren’t in a cubicle farm like me, maybe you won’t have these issues. Bottom line- the drops are your friends. When they say you should put in OTC drops every 2 hours or more frequently, DO IT. I put them in every 30 min my first day back at work. Those drops are helping the healing process- let them do their jobs!
- Don’t be scared by night one or two night vision. My first night outside was night two and it terrified me. Huge halos – much bigger than I had with contacts (and I hated night driving in contacts). I drove home last night (night 9) and it was much better- nearly back to my contact-infused night vision. It’s a side effect you have to be OK with. For me, it’s worth it to have slightly bigger halos at night. And now I’m really not worried- they’ve calmed down.
Follow Up Appointments:
- The day-after appointment is to ensure the flap is healing in place. Mine was (thank god). If not, they can fix it. If you haven’t rubbed your eyes, it should be fine. At this appointment, they also check to ensure that nothing was trapped behind the flap (dust, etc). My vision was 20/20 in my right eye and a “mushy” 20/20 in my left. Success!
- Week after appointment: To ensure the healing process is going well. My appointment was yesterday, and all looks good. Apparently my vision is a bit sharper (ok, I can believe it). My flap is healing well, there’s no visible swelling, but my left cornea is apparently still bleeding a bit. But the doc swears it’s normal and not a problem. I have the OK to do a lot more now- but still no watersports (duh) and wearing eye protection for things like softball. Also, when I asked if I can go camping next weekend (I was worried about the smoke from the campfire), doc said sure if I don’t sit too close to the smoke and if I promise to wear the goggles when I walk to the bathroom at night so I don’t walk my eyes right into branches (good idea…). I’ll head back in 3 weeks for my month follow up. I’m still having some discomfort (not pain- perhaps best described as a dull ache). This is caused from the suction they use when the laser cuts the flap. Basically your eye feels like its being squeezed. It doesn’t last long, thankfully, as it’s not comfortable (but not painful). But when you think about what it does, it’s no surprise why my eyes are a bit achy now. Ibuprofen helps.
Bottom line: Was it worth it?
- I don’t know. It’s too early for me.
- Financially, because I’m a savvy shopper who always gets contacts during big sales, I don’t think I’ll be saving much in the long run. I’ll probably come out even.
- I assume that once I’m no longer reliant on OTC eye drops (and the lovely night goggles which ensure I don’t hit myself in the eye while I sleep, or rub them when I wake up!), that I’ll feel much freer than I was when I relied on contacts. I look forward to the first day I don’t need celluvisc at night so I can wake up and open my eyes and see (right now, the darn celluvisc “glues” my eyes shut so I have to put in normal drops to make them open up in the AM! Ha). Last night, driving home at midnight from a friend’s house, I got a little giddy realizing that I could have stayed at her house and been fine- no need to find a contact lens case and solution! I have a feeling those moments will become more frequent in the next week or so when I only have to carry one type of OTC drops with me. And in 4-5 months when I only need to use eye drops when my eyes feel dry, that feeling will be great. I hope. 🙂
- One more tip… if you’re seriously considering it, do it now. Why make yourself stay in contacts/glasses longer than you have to? If I’d done this 5 years ago, when my vision stabilized initially, I could have saved money and been more comfortable.
I’m sure there is SOOO much more than this… but that’s good for now. Time for more OTC eye drops! 🙂