It’s been about two weeks since I’ve ditched my fifteen year relationship with glasses in exchange for a much upgraded LASEK version of my eyes. I’ve never been a good fit for glasses. With years in competitive sports, a love of the outdoors, and a strong affinity for water, glasses, and even contacts, have never been particularly comfortable for my lifestyle. I’m also the only person who somehow looks less intelligent with specs. It’s like once they’re on, my eyes suddenly go in different directions and I’m the poster girl for derp city.
I was probably a young teen when I first heard of laser-eye surgery, and was completely sold. Of course, I’d have to wait a while before I was eligible as my eyes were still growing and changing along with the rest of my body. Then the cost became another factor later on, despite the fact that over time the surgery pays itself off.
My move to Korea however, posed the perfect opportunity to get the procedure done; I’m finally making a decent wage, and the procedure is very affordable and trusted here in Korea. We chose Dream Eye Clinic in Gangnam as they provide great English service and there were loads of great reviews online. For more information about the initial consultation check out this post.
Luc and I decided to go in for it together, and both opted for the LASEK surgery, over LASIK. The major difference in how the cornea is treated. With LASIK, the cornea is sliced open, lasered, and then the fold is placed back to heal. With LASEK, an alcohol solution is placed on the cornea to thin it, the eye is lasered, and the cornea grows back over time. LASIK tends to be more popular (for those that have a thick enough cornea) as the recovery process is much quicker and almost no pain. We opted for LASEK despite the painful recovery as it has a lower risk of complications for those who play contact sports.
If you’re considering LASEK, this post can give you a basic overview of what to expect with the surgery. Of course, this is my own experience and everyone is a little different, but it can give you an idea at least.
Looking super stylish in our sleeping goggles for the first week.
The surgery itself was not too bad, just strange and a little uncomfortable. It took about fifteen minutes total, and there was no pain. Just a slight feeling of pressure, the smell of burnt hair, and a cold sensation on the eyes at one point. Even when the doctor is removing the upper layers of the cornea it feels somehow farther away from the eye, almost like watching VR.
Following the surgery, my eyes felt pretty good. They felt a little dry and my vision wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t need glasses to get around. I was pretty sensitive to light, but with sunglasses I was able to walk outside fairly comfortably.
The only major drawback of day one was the need to take eye drops every hour for the next four days. That gets tiring. Although my eyes were so dry I probably would have done it anyway.
Day two brought extreme sensitivity and burning to the eyes. It’s true that it feels a bit like onions burning your eyes, only they fail to mention that the onions are GMO franken freaks used to torture war criminals. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it was pretty painful. We couldn’t really leave the house due to the sensitivity. I could barely even open my eyes. Probably the worst side effect was the muscle pain around my eyes. In reaction to the pain and sensitivity, I found myself straining the surrounding muscles a lot, leading to even more eye pain and a pretty bad headache. I also picked up a little cold and congestion, which added pressure behind my eyes. Not to mention I was on my lady time which increases sensitivity to pain. Overall, not a great day. But I listened to Dan Carlin’s new Hardcore History podcast, “The Celtic Holocaust,” so that was a win.
The third day was absolutely miserable. I had a crappy sleep the night before due mostly to the muscle pain around my eyes and being all stuffed up. My eyes were in more pain than any other point after the surgery and I could barely even get out of bed. In fact, I spent about 24 hours straight in bed with the exception of going to the toilet and getting water. I couldn’t even really open my eyes they were so sensitive and I had a terrible headache. I managed to get a better sleep that night though, and the next day was a major improvement.
Day four was like waking up to a beautiful, sunny, crisp autumn morning after a week of stormy weather (although I love stormy weather). My vision had improved significantly, though it was still a little hazy, I could open my eyes comfortably, and my muscles had relaxed a bit. We were able to venture out for a walk and start watching movies (with sunglasses on). Up to this point, we had been “watching” the Harry Potter movies with our eyes closed, so it was nice to see the action happening. Although I’ve seen the movies so many times I could perfectly visualize everything with just sound.
After day four, there’s not much to write as our vision and any pain steadily improved and we are now pretty much back to normal.
Things I wish I knew ahead of time
I suppose one thing I wish the clinic was a little more candid about was the amount of pain we would experience. They hint at pain, but definitely play it down. I suppose they don’t want to scare you, but having known ahead of time wouldn’t have changed my decision. It’s more that experiencing so much pain on the third day made me worry that something was wrong, like maybe I had an infection. Luckily, everything was fine, but it would be nice to not have that worry lingering.
I also wish the clinic suggested ahead of time to bring an umbrella. Getting water in your eye the first few days after puts you at risk of infection, and even with a hat it can be difficult to prevent that. Luckily I had one, but Luc didn’t so we had to hunch uncomfortable under my tiny one together trying to protect our eyes.
Another thing I would have liked to know ahead is that it’s best to travel home the day of surgery. We expected the first day to be the worst, so we booked our hostel until the next day. It was only the day of that our consultant suggested we go home the same day (which was very good advice). So we had already booked and paid for our hostel that extra night and didn’t end up staying.
If you’re considering laser eye surgery and have any questions about the experience, leave a comment or email me and I’d be happy to share more. As pretty much everyone who I’ve met that’s had the surgery will agree, it is one of the best choices I’ve ever made and just a few weeks in I can’t imagine having to deal with contacts and glasses again.