When I was 6, I noticed that I couldn’t see the blackboard in class so well anymore and I had to literally put my eyeballs two inches away the TV to watch a show. My mother didn’t take it too seriously until I started falling into gutters and puddles. The last straw for her was when I was almost knocked down by a car because I didn’t see it approaching. At 7, I got glasses and wore them every single day up until January 28, 2021 at the age of 31.
With the encouragement of my amazing husband, I made lots of research, got consultations to determine my eligibility and in January, I had the Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) surgery done. Pre-surgery, my left eye was a -6 and my right eye a -5.75, so I had pretty bad myopia. When people think of laser eye surgery, they simply think of LASIK. However, not everyone is eligible for LASIK and it does have its disadvantages. You can get more information about the difference between LASIK and PRK here. Being an active person with thin corneas, PRK was the better and safer procedure for me.
The surgery itself was quick and was over in about 7 minutes. After my eyes were lasered, bandage contact lenses were placed in to protect the exposed cornea. Immediately afterwards, I could see quite well. I did notice halos around lights and a fuzziness in my overall vision but it was much better vision than my pre-surgery eyes. After an hour of the surgery, I began to feel some discomfort in my eyes, as was expected, and went to bed as the surgeon advised. I was prescribed eye drops and intense pain medication because unlike LASIK, PRK can be quite painful for many.
After surgery, you are instructed not to watch TV, use your cellphone, or read written materials. Basically, you are to nap as much as you can in a dark room and rest your eyes, which I complied with. The next day after surgery, I went in for a check-up to ensure there was no infection and I was sent home to return in 4 days to have the bandage contact removed. On Day 3 after the surgery, my eyesight tanked terribly! I could barely see anything. When the bandage contacts were taken out, I expected to see better but my sight further degraded. It was almost like I hadn’t had surgery and I couldn’t be prescribed glasses. I was a semi-blind girl all over again. However, this degradation is actually a good thing. It signifies the regrowth of the epithelium, which was lasered away during the surgery. As the epithelium grows back, the cells accumulate in the line of your vision and that causes the terrible eyesight I experienced. To achieve visual acuity, those cells need to grow back fully and smoothen over to achieve true visual acuity of 20/20 or better. This process, unfortunately, takes between 1-6 months.
For a bit of perspective, I wasn’t informed that healing would take so long and when I made my research, I didn’t come across that. Every site I visited claimed that in one week I should be able to return to routine activities. The clinic that performed my surgery also told me that in one week, I should be able to drive and return to work. This was very untrue. At 4 weeks post-surgery, I definitely could not drive myself anywhere and could barely perform at work. Even with my computer zoomed to 200%, I could barely see. Everything was incredibly blurry. I could barely use my phone, I couldn’t see the hairs on my arm, I couldn’t see the faces of people approaching me and I couldn’t read documents.
To make matters worse, I was extremely light sensitive and had to wear sunglasses indoors. Added to that, I had migraines every single day until I decided I couldn’t bear the discomfort and demanded another checkup. During the check-up, they discovered my eye pressure was very high because I was reacting to the steroid eye drops (which is necessary for proper healing). However, high eye pressure can cause complete vision loss if not treated. I was immediately placed on glaucoma medication, in addition to a different type of steroid eye drop. After just one day of using the glaucoma medication, I began to feel better and the light sensitivity greatly reduced.
In addition to the high eye pressure, I also was allergic to some of the other eye drops and battled inflammation and redness of the eyes. I had to be placed on antibacterial eye drops to alleviate the discomfort during this time. At 3 weeks post-surgery, I also noticed that I had developed astigmatism and double vision. When I would read a text on my phone, the characters would be double. It made using my phone and trying to read anything so frustrating that I just didn’t bother. Instead, I used my spare time to pray (LOL).
At about 4 weeks, I became highly discouraged and began to regret my decision. When you cannot see to function properly, everything around you becomes a chore and every day is unbearably long. I couldn’t go to the gym because though I could see enough to perform my exercises, the blurriness was simply uncomfortable. I also had to pause many times to put in artificial tears because my eyes were terribly dry after the surgery. I have spent close to $500 on preservative-free artificial tears (life savers!). At about 5 weeks, I woke up one morning and realized I could see much better even if I blinked 200 times. Prior to this, I hated blinking because each blink made my vision worse, especially after putting in the artificial tears but I was encouraged to blink as often as I could as this would help smoothen the epithelium.
I am currently 9 weeks post-surgery and my vision is pretty good. It is akin to wearing my glasses (though it still fluctuates) and the good news is I still have 4 more months for my eyes to be better than it currently is. It has been a tough journey but the blurriness, double vision, astigmatism and light sensitivity is all gone.
If there are any pointers I’ll like to give anyone considering PRK laser eye surgery, they are the following:
- Do your research: These are your eyes, so do not make the decision lightly. Ensure you research the surgeon, the clinic, its success rates, any possible lawsuits against them etc. Remember that laser eye surgery is completely elective. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.
- Do not be cheap about the surgery: I paid $3600 for the procedure and a life time warranty. This means I can get touch up procedures, if needed, for free. I have heard of people choosing clinics that charge $1,000 for laser eye surgery and ending up with ruined vision for life. Remember, changes to the cornea are not reversible, so be wise.
- Prepare to spend a lot on preservative-free artificial tears: You’ll need them because dry eye syndrome will snatch you up by your throat when you aren’t expecting it. It woke me up at night on day 4 after surgery but the good news is that with PRK, as the eyes heal, the dry eye syndrome alleviates.
- Manage your expectations: I wish the clinic had told me how long true healing would take with PRK. I might have been better prepared. Prepare yourself to have terrible vision for at least 2 months. After the 2-month mark, things are much better and you’ll most likely be very happy with your decision, as I am.
- Do not compare yourself with others: In reading some forums online, many people have claimed that they began seeing perfectly with 20/20 vision in 2 weeks. For one, that’s a LIE but also, people heal differently. I was 20/20 three weeks after surgery and I still couldn’t see well. 20/20 doesn’t take into consideration the quality and sharpness of vision, so beware false comments online.
- Listen to your surgeon and follow the instructions they give to the T: Stay off electronics for as long as you can, even when your eyes begin to improve. If you have to go back to work a week after surgery like I did, take multiple breaks. Close your eyes, use your drops and get lots of sleep when you get home. Social media can wait.
- Water in eyes will be your enemy: Water washes away tears, which after PRK is very scant – hence the use of artificial tears. Try not to get water in your eyes because you’ll regret it. It is only now after 2 months that I can manage with some water getting into my eyes. Perhaps after 6 months, I’ll see how it feels.
- Be gentle with your eyes: After the surgery, your eyeballs will be very sensitive. Hence the reason you are advised not to wear makeup for a month or so. Touching your eyeballs will hurt. Unfortunately for me, at 4 weeks post-PRK, I was punched in the left eye. Story for another day. Just know I wailed like a baby (lol).
- Your eyes will heal differently: Even to this day, my right eye is sharper than my left eye. Together, there are 20/20, separately, they aren’t. Eventually, the lagging eye will catch up so don’t worry if this is your situation.
- Lastly, don’t be scared to call the clinic up if you feel something is wrong: or if you are experiencing pain. I suffered too long with migraines though my gut feeling kept telling me something was wrong. Don’t be like me. Demand to see someone and get checked out. Better safe than sorry.
Well, that’s it. I know this is super long but I hope this will help someone out there who is having a tough time like I did. It does get better! Also, this is not a post encouraging anyone to get laser eye surgery. As I noted, make your own research and decide for yourself if you are willing to take the risks. Thanks for reading!