So what’s it like to get laser eye surgery?

I’ve needed glasses since I was about 10 years old and since I was maybe 13 I’ve worn contact lenses. I’m short-sighted which means I can’t see things in the distance and the range of that distance got progressively worse in my early teens. For the last couple of years, I’ve been settled in my current eyeball state which means that without lenses or glasses I can’t see past the length of my arm (picture below highlights roughly how that looked for me). So you can see that I had to be pretty reliant on my contacts, because I lived quite an active lifestyle and because I’m just not a fan of wearing glasses because they’re such a hassle.

I’d been thinking about getting laser eye surgery for a few years but the obvious concerns of cost and fear put me off. I thought about it for months but was too busy to get around to actually doing something about it, until recently. So I thought that I would document the process in this post because I’ve found that LOADS of other people are also interested and want to know all about it, whether they have bad eyesight or not. So here we are…

The first step was research; am I eligible for surgery? where could I get it done? how much exactly was it going to cost? 
I actually found it difficult to find information on companies other than Optical Express even though monopolises. I don’t know if it’s because OE monopolises the market as the leading providers or if the other companies are just less effective at communicating themselves.
Optical Express offers a free consultation so that seemed like a good first step to find out if I’m even allowed to get this done to my eyeballs. I went along and they were super friendly and happy to answer as many questions as I could think of. They also gave me the most thorough eye test I’ve ever had and in the end, they said I was a prime candidate for getting LASIK – my prime candidacy is based on my poor vision, frequency of contact lens wearing, my health and my age. So yay! Whilst I was allured by the promise that I could change my life and actually be able to see, it is an expensive procedure to choose. That said, the cost of laser eye surgery is actually less than what my ten years’ worth of contact lenses would have cost, the issue is that you have to pay it all at once (or on a convenient payment plan).
I tried to seek out other quotes from different companies, however, some of the other companies ask you to pay as much as £150 just for an initial consultation which made me afraid of what else they may charge you for subsequent appointments. Meanwhile, Optical Express pursued me and gave me a decent offer so I went with them and booked my surgery!

Ahead of the surgery day, you get to have a discussion with your actual surgeon who will chat you through the process and answer any other questions you’ve thought of. There were bits and pieces I wanted to know and some more practical questions as to things I can and can’t do during my recovery i.e. screen time, exercise, eye makeup, driving, etc. I was initially booked in for LASIK surgery in November but I had a couple of eyeball complications and had to postpone and switch to the LASEK surgery instead. This is a slightly different method of surgery, both with the same outcome but LASEK can take a little longer to heal.

Then came the day for my actual surgery which happened on the 30 Dec in Glasgow! (You don’t always have to go to Glasgow for the surgery, I just chose to get it done while I was already on Annual Leave during the festive period and Glasgow had the best availability then). I genuinely think I was in and out of the building within 30 minutes, and only about 10 of those were in the surgery room.
I was proper nervy before getting it done, my stomach was all twisted but the process itself was so quick and I genuinely didn’t feel anything. And yes, I was awake, but no, it wasn’t like looking at a scientist pointing a laser beam at me.
Immediately after my eyesight was far better than before (cue: KT Tunstall’s Suddenly I See) but it was kind of hazy. I didn’t start to feel pain or irritation until the anaesthetic wore off.
If you would like to know more specifically what it was like getting the surgery then feel free to ask me but I’m not going to detail it here because a lot of people can be quite squeamish about eyeballs and surgery.

The recovery (in particular, the first 2 days) was probably the hardest part of the process and so I spent a couple days in bed intermittently listening to the Mythos audiobook and napping. Here’s a wee journal from the first few days of recovery…

Day of surgery: once the anaesthesia wore off my eyes got really watery and irritated so the easiest thing was just to shut them, so I mostly slept.
Day 1: probably the worst day, spent it lying in the dark in pain most of the time, really light sensitive and my eyes felt tired all the time, even when I shut my eyes. 
Day 2: my eyesight was pretty blurry but the pain felt better, I could keep my eyes open for a while so I actually spent some time with my family. It kinda felt how it does when you’ve worn your contacts for too long but I couldn’t do anything about it. My eyes still felt really tired and some headaches coming in.
Day 3: getting better now, still a bit dry, still a bit blurry and still a bit tired but starting to feel more like a normal human again.
Day 4: Felt a bit more normal again, had my check-up with Optical Express this day and they took out the contact lenses that were working as plasters as my eyes healed. They said my eyesight had developed better than they’d expect at this stage.

I had 4 different eye drops to take 4 times a day initially, but after the first week, I could drop the pain killer and antibiotic ones so only having two to put in became more manageable for going back to normal life. By day 7 of recovery, I was back to work and feeling fairly normal but my eyes would still get blurry in certain lights.
Yesterday (day 25 since surgery) I had another check-up and they told me that I tested as having better than 20/20 vision! So it’s official – it worked!

It is astonishing that the concept of laser eye surgery is even possible. I feel so lucky that I’m in the position where science and money would allow me to do such a thing and the results are just amazing. The thing about it is that I just don’t have to think about my vision anymore, it’s just there. Sometimes I have to consciously remind myself that ‘whoa you totally would not be able to see that thing over there before!’ and then I get excited. The rest of the time I’m just kinda complacent about it, but that’s how it’s meant to be. I am so buzzing to have 20/20 vision in time for 2020!

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