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PRK – 5 Years Later

November 20, 2012 71 comments

Today marks the fifth anniversary of having the outer layers of my eyes melted away, then zapped by lasers, only to heal again over the next three months into near perfect vision. Five years ago, I had PRK surgery and blogged about my experience.

It’s funny how you forget about all the little things you had to worry about before the surgery. The daily rituals of inserting and removing and cleaning contacts, the additional pain and effort involved when having a foreign object in your eye next to your contact, the way you couldn’t read the alarm clock at night without squinting or moving extra close, the way you were screwed if you lost a contact while skiing or after getting punched in the face at the boxing gym; I haven’t had to think about those things in years.

I haven’t been to the eye doctor since those last routine checkups in the months following the PRK surgery. At the time, my left eye was 20/20 and my right eye was slightly worse. This still holds true today, though if I really think about it and compare, it does seem like the right eye is worse now than it was back then. I haven’t done a vision test and I don’t plan on it; it just feels a little fuzzy and sometimes, only rarely, does it creep into my consciousness.

I have never had any problems with dry eyes. The halos slowly diminished over the months after the surgery. While I don’t think those halos are completely gone, they are very minimal and non-intrusive. I can look up at the stars at night without being bothered by, or even thinking about halos. That was one of the things that scared me most in the first year after my surgery – in the months following the operation, the night sky was a smudgy mess and the individual pinpricks of light were now splattered across my field of view, as if I was looking through a smudgy and wet windshield. No amount of blinking would make the stars clearer, but over time, the halos and smudginess diminished to the point of forgetfulness, and I could once again appreciate the night sky without being burdened by the thought that it might be forever skewed.

When I opted for PRK instead of LASIK, it was because I was in kickboxing and MMA and I dreaded the idea of getting the corneal flap left by LASIK torn off during a bout. It’s funny though – during my healing time, I happened to read a book called The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and realized that I was probably lucky not to have suffered any long term mental problems from getting routinely pummeled in the head during training and fights, and I should probably quit while I was ahead. That book discussed extreme cases of a variety of brain problems – not necessarily impact related – but it made me a lot more conscious about my own gray matter, and I realized I should probably try to save what I have left. Thus, I closed the chapter on my fighting life. Now I’m just a lover.

I’m very happy that I had the surgery. While I think my right eye may have degraded in visual acuity somewhat, it isn’t something that’s noticeable until I focus on it. And even then, perhaps it hasn’t even changed. I love being able to wake up with full sight, to see underwater, and to not be encumbered by glasses or contacts. I know the experience hasn’t been great for everyone, as evidenced by the large numbers of comments on this blog. It worked for me.

If I were to ever recommend PRK, I’d make sure to highlight a few things:

  1. Do your research. Learn about the procedure, the risks and complications, and the healing process. There are plenty of blogs like mine which describe the experience of different people. I was a patient for whom everything turned out just right. There are also a number of horror stories. Know your risks.
  2. Go to a few clinics and compare the doctors. Review them online. Make sure you trust them with one of your most important senses.
  3. Be persistent with your doctor. Have them explain the healing time and possible complications in detail. If they wave off complications or try to bully you into doing the procedure even though you’re not a perfect candidate, run.
  4. Be prepared for at least a month of barely being able to read text directly in front of your face, and for at least a three month time of very bad vision
  5. Try not to despair. It’s a long healing process and you’ll likely spend the first week of it incapacitated and blind, and in a good amount of pain. The next few months can be agonizing, but if all goes well, you’ll hopefully be in love with your new eyesight and in retrospect, you’ll realize it was all worth it.

In reading a lot of the comments posted here, it seems like there are a good number of fast-food style surgeons who care more about the number of people herded through the zappy laser machine than they care about them as individuals with a life to maintain. Perhaps it’s just a sample bias, in that those are the types of people more likely to complain. Regardless, be on the lookout for any McSurgeons who try to casually dismiss the healing process or the dangers inherent in so delicate a procedure.

I can’t stress that enough. If the surgeon downplays the healing time or the risks, or if they don’t dissuade you from the surgery after telling you you’re not an ideal candidate, avoid it at all costs. There are a lot of people out there for whom this procedure will work fine, but there are a number of people who can be permanently devastated by either a botched surgery, a botched recovery time, or because they were a more “risky” candidate. If you have consistently dry eyes or thin corneas, you don’t make a good candidate and it’s just something you’re going to have to accept, because the alternative of having screwed up eyesight permanently is much more depressing than having to put in contacts or wear glasses everyday.

In all, do your research and know the risks.

I’ve been extremely happy with my results, and I wish the same to anyone looking to improve their quality of life in this aspect. Good luck on your journey, and thanks for stopping by.

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Categories: eyes

PRK – 3 Months Later

February 18, 2008 71 comments

I had my three month post-PRK followup the other day. At this point, I was able to read the 20/15 lines with each eye individually. Sweet!

However, the right eye is still slightly behind, but it seems to be catching up. When I cover the left eye, I can tell the right eye is slightly out of focus and slightly ghosted. I attribute this to the right eye being drier on average, and the doctor agreed. He said that it should clear up in the months following, and scheduled to see me again in three months.

While I was at the office, the doc gave me an eye exam with the normal lens-flipping machine. I was kinda surprised when he said that my vision was best without any lenses. I know that’s what I was going for with this whole surgery thing, but it’s something else when he pulls them machine away and says my eyes are good enough that lenses can’t make it any better.

I still get halos and slight starbursts at night that are worse when my eyes are dry, but they’ve decreased in the last month.

I’ve weened myself from constantly using eyedrops, but I still put them in every three or four hours. They’re especially dry when I first wake up, and usually put in the drops first thing in the morning.

I’m really happy with my vision today. I was finally able to out-read my girlfriend when looking at a chalkboard menu across the room at a restaurant the other day. I’m excited for the next couple months to see the right eye catch up and the halos and starbursts disappear.

Categories: eyes Tags: , ,

PRK – 8 Weeks Later

January 16, 2008 11 comments

Eight weeks have passed since having my eyes peeled and zapped. I would say that the left eye is pretty damn close to the acuity I had with glasses/contacts. All ghosting and double vision has retreated from the left. It has slowly improved since three weeks ago from pretty good, to pretty damn good.

The right eye still exhibits a minor amount of ghosting and not being able to quite focus past that blurriness. It’s a little frustrating that it isn’t caught up to the left eye, and it seems to have lost its position as the dominant eye for the time being. I have a feeling that it will heal fully, but it’s just taking longer. I attribute this to the fact that it is drier on average than the left eye.

When I use both eyes together, I forget about the fact that the right eye isn’t quite caught up, even though they don’t quite focus together. I have no trouble reading books or computer screens anymore and go through most of the day not even thinking about my eyes. I am still using the preservative free drops several times throughout the day, but in a much smaller quantity than I did a few weeks ago. That’s a relief. Those things are expensive.

At nighttime, there is still a significant amount of halos and starbursts accompanying external lights. It actually feels like it has increased since three weeks ago, but I think that’s only because everything else has gotten so much better. I don’t think it has actually worsened.

They say on average, it takes a good three months to realize the full benefits from PRK. I’m nearly two thirds to that point. Here’s what I hope to achieve in the next month:

  • Zero ghosting in my right eye
  • A return to the normal focusing ability of the right eye
  • A return to the dominance of the right eye (not because it’s better, just because I’ll know it’s normal again)
  • A balanced focusing ability when using both eyes
  • Less dry-eye feeling
  • Reduced starbursts and halos at night

I am happy with the PRK surgery and recovery so far. I would recommend it to those who can’t do LASIK or don’t want the flap complications, but you have to appreciate the fact that the recovery will take a while.

I’ll update this blog again when I hit the three month mark, unless there’s a drastic change between now and then.

Categories: eyes Tags: , ,

PRK – 4 Weeks Later

December 18, 2007 33 comments

Four weeks have passed since having my eyes dissolved and zapped. There was significant improvement over that first week following the surgery, but the past three weeks have shown improvements so slight that it is next to impossible to know whether my vision is better one day or the next. The cumulative affect is greater and I do say that my eyesight has definitely increased in the three past weeks, but nowhere near the acuity I had with glasses or contacts… yet.

If I had to put a percentage on it, I would rate my current vision at about sixty percent of optimal. For two and a half weeks, I have slowly clambered my way up to being a contributing member of society within the realm of operating independently. I’ve regained the ability to drive safely and work staring at a computer screen for a full day’s time, albeit with a major increase in font size. I wasn’t very comfortable driving at night until about a week ago when either I got used to the smudgy lights, or my vision got good enough to drive safely in a starbursted world.

Ghosting is still the biggest problem. This goes away with time, and from some reports I’ve read, mine is still healing faster than others. Halos around lights at night have lessened in thickness and brightness and have turned more into starbursts. Such oddities are limited more towards distant, smaller lights rather than the brake lights ahead of me. They still exist on bigger lights, but are absorbed by the size of them.

I have gotten used to reading in a big font size, although last week I was able to move up one resolution setting. It feels like I may be operating at this capacity for a few more weeks as my eyes continue to heal and the ghosting dissipates.

My left eye is definitely healing faster than the right, which seems to be drier on average. I’ve been told that dryness can play a significant role in a speedy recovery, so I have been dousing my eyes with the preservative-free drops quite often. My pamphlet said that after three weeks I can switch to regular eyedrops (with preservatives). Call it paranoia, but I’m still using the preservative-free kind even though they cost an arm and a leg.

Today was the last day of taking steroid drops, so it’s just rewetting drops from here on out. Next week I go in for the one month checkup, and I should report back by then. Strangely enough, with all the ghosting going on, I think my left eye may be nearing the 20/20 vision mark when I focus just right. I can still see duplicate images, but I can tell the center image is much crisper. I can do something similar with the right eye, but can tell it’s worse and farther behind than the right.

I’ll give another update next week after my eye appointment. Happy holidays!

Categories: eyes Tags: , ,

PRK – 2 Weeks Later

December 4, 2007 93 comments

It is now 14 days after my PRK vision correction surgery. Improvement during this past week has been much slower than the first week. There is still a significant amount of ghosting, making reading a chore and driving somewhat questionable. I am very liberal with the preservative-free rewetting eye drops, since I’ve found that dry eyes will only perpetuate this ghosting effect.

I’ve been able to work full days in the office yesterday and today, though I’m a continued object of mockery by my coworkers when they see the huge fonts on my screen. Vision still seems best after using the rewetting drops and closing my eyes for a while. In fact, after a long nap today, my left eye was surprisingly ghost-free for a good ten minutes. The right eye was more smudgy, but still decent for awhile.

Throughout the day, the ghosting is worse in one eye than the other, and it switches throughout the day. Good, then bad, then good again. It’s frustrating at times, but I’m still optimistic. Once my vision is stable, I plan on creating a few images demonstrating what effect this has on vision while driving and reading. If you’re considering PRK and have a job where reading is involved, such as computer work, make sure you’re not in a huge busy season. I’ve heard that everyone’s recovery time is different, but it has a significant impact on work performance.

At times, I can close one eye and force myself to focus in or out with the open eye, in a way which I focus through an object, and it seems to resolve the ghosting temporarily. It allows me to see slightly clearer for a few brief seconds, but due to the effort and strain involved, is not a permanent solution. It’s more of a way to pass time or experiment, though it can clear up some smudgy text for a brief second.

What else is there to say? Tomorrow I start taking the steroid drops only twice a day, then once a day the following week, after which I’m free of the burden of Pred Forte. The improvements aren’t quite as drastic, so it’s harder to tell when something is noticeably better. Therefore, I’ll probably wait to write to this blog again unless a significant jump occurs.

I’m still in good hopes, albeit a frustrated mood during times when I have to read. Good luck to anyone else out there undergoing the same.

PRK Day 10

November 30, 2007 11 comments

It’s now been ten days since the surgery. I’ve gone into the office the last two days as well as today, but have been unable to work full days. The fact that 99% of my job includes reading and writing on a computer screen has really sunk in. I can handle enough for a while, but my eyes get too fatigued and the doublevision/ghosting seems to increase over time.

Still, I’m not disappointed at all, as I continue to see improvements every day. I just wish they would start coming faster šŸ™‚ I’m driving still, but try to keep my time on the road under ten minutes and within daylight hours. Yesterday I came home at lunch time and took an hour long nap, and my eyes were rejuvenated afterwards and I could work another 4 hours. Today, I skipped this rest period and went to lunch with the guys, but could only make it an hour into work afterwards before the fatigue made me pack up and head home.

It’s frustrating for sure, because I think that I lost a good 3 hours of work today looking into a problem that was caused originally by me misreading some piece of code and trying to fix a problem that wasn’t there. Grrrrr….

As for vision – the right eye is doing better and the ghosting is less pronounced but still blurry to an extent. Large fonts are a must, but they’re starting to clear up to the point that, come Monday, I’m hoping to be able to take the screen size down a notch. Things like this are cause for celebration with my new eyes, as I edge ever closer towards that (fingers crossed) 20/20 vision I’m hoping for.

The left eye is worse and the ghosting/double vision is more significant. Today I realized that with just my left eye open, if I focussed through the page I was reading, the two images resolved themselves. This is more of a chore than it’s worth, as I think I overworked my eye muscles doing this from time to time today.

Vision seems to be best when the eyes are thoroughly moistened. I’ll usually use the rewetting drops and close my eyes for a while, and things are much clearer when I open them back up. For a little while, at least. After several minutes, things start blurring up and separating again.

So in all, I’m happy with the progress so far. There are some blogs that I’ve read of people who take weeks to get to such a point. I have no doubt that in time, the ghosting and double vision will go away and I’ll forget what it was like to ever have this screwy eyesight. The sooner that day comes, the better.

PRK Day 7

November 27, 2007 25 comments

It’s been a week! This is a major accomplishment in the life of my new eyes. Today I got the bandage contacts out and was told my eyes were healing perfectly. Still, that doesn’t mean my vision has stabilized yet, in fact it is anything but perfect.

My vision actually worsened a little after the bandage contacts were out, and my eyes have felt rather dry and scratchy all day. I’ve heard that other people have had this experience of worsening vision without the contacts, so it seems to be a natural occurrence.

I’ve noticed that the quality of vision is best after resting my eyes for a while or using the rewetting drops, but that they degrade after some time of usage. Reading is still blurry and harder now since my left eye seems to be experiencing bouts of double vision.

I actually drove today, and went out on the road to the store. It wasn’t so much blurry as it was somehow smudgy. My adventure took place after resting my eyes for a while, and I noticed that at first driving was clear and natural, but after a while the smudges became bigger. With a sense of accomplishment, I came back home having taken one step closer to independence. It seems the only things that I’ve been looking forward to in the past weeks have been the every-four-hour marks so I can put in another round of prescribed eye drops. That has been my life for the past week.

That, and reading the entire set of audiobooks for the His Dark Materials trilogy (that’s the trilogy starting with The Golden Compass). I’m just about finished and will probably write another blog on that topic entirely. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the series. It was a great read and an excellent counterbalance to the jesus-loving Chronicle of Narnia books, for, as you may know, the core intent of the main characters in this series is to kill god. I hope I don’t spoil anything by saying that in the end, goodness prevails.

But back to the eyes. I think I might try to drive to work tomorrow if my vision isn’t too doubled or smudged. It will be a welcome task although it will probably only be for aĀ  few hours of squinting at a computer screen.

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