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Blind Summer

September 23rd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I haven’t posted for almost a month now due to visual impairment. That’s right, I couldn’t see well enough to post. In late August, after considering it for several years, I finally decided to have laser eye surgery to correct my vision (I’ve been wearing glasses or contacts for the last 16 years).

For those who don’t know much about laser eye surgery, at the highest level it comes in two flavors: LASIK and PRK. Both procedures involve operating on the cornea, just under the surface skin of the eye (called the epithelium). The difference between the two procedures is that in LASIK the surgeon cuts a flap in the epithelium, lifts the flap back, operates on the eye, and then finally puts the flap back down in its original place. PRK, on the other hand, involves using chemicals to dissolve away the skin (yes, that’s right – skin dissolving chemicals – scary stuff!). The surgeon then operates on the eye. As you can imagine, PRK now has an exposed “wound” (imagine your skin from any other part of your body missing), so the surgeon puts in a “bandage contact lens” that stays on for a week or two while the eye heals.

From a patient’s perspective, LASIK is a much easier procedure to have. It takes just as long as PRK, but after the procedure you go home, take a nap, and then wake up with 20/20 vision (hopefully). You can return to work the next day and go about your regular business (though you do have to be careful that you don’t dislodge the flap but aggressively rubbing your eyes). PRK on the other hand is a longer procedure – the eyes take a while to heal as the skin regenerates – typically 3 to 6 months. In the mean time, you’ll feel pain and discomfort, and won’t be able to see very well at all for the first few days. I was told that if I have PRK done on a Thursday, I wouldn’t be able to get back to work until Monday.

Despite the significantly more intrusive nature of PRK, I ended up having that done. The reason is because apparently my epithelium is thinner than average. It’s too thin that there’s not enough to cut a flap into, so the only option was PRK. I had the procedure on a Thursday and went back to work the following week. I wasn’t really able to see the computer screen with much clarity until about this week (hence the absence of posting). Don’t get me wrong, I was able to work, but it involved a lot of squinting and getting really close to the monitor. My advice for anyone considering PRK – don’t buy the whole “have it on Thursday, get to work the following Monday” story – it’ll take at least 2-3 weeks for your vision to get to a usable state.

There are many more details to laser vision correction like custom wavefront vs. regular, and why PRK results in great vision the day of surgery, declining vision in the weeks following surgery, then finally good vision in the months follow surgery. I won’t go into them here since they’re likely irrelevant to most readers. But if you’re interested, shoot me an email and I’ll gladly share.

In the mean time, my vision is still not 20/20 – it’s about 20/25. Computer monitors and reading is still a bit blurry, but it’s getting better. Hopefully I’ll now be able to post more frequently as well as finally process and upload some pictures I’ve taken over the summer (I still haven’t uploaded the Alaska album!).

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