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I’ll never forget my first day of (what would turn into 20 years) wearing prescription glasses. My mother had taken me to my doctor’s office for my final fitting earlier that morning, thus prompting a late drop-off to my fourth grade classroom. “Great, not only am I walking into class late, but I’ll be sporting glasses, too!” I remember thinking. At nine years old, my biggest fear was what my fellow students would think of me. Fast-forward to when I became old enough to wear prescription contacts: I began worrying about the actual condition of my eyes instead. Year after year, I would alternate between wearing glasses and contact lens, and my eyesight continued to decline.
For those who understand prescription talk, my contact lens prescription pre-Lasik was negative six point five. Naturally, when my eyesight stabilized, everyone around me thought it was a no-brainer for me to undergo Lasik, the procedure that would correct my vision for good. But it was always a firm “no” for me, never something that even crossed my mind as a potential. To have someone that close to my precious eyes altering my vision was both anxiety-ridden and downright terrifying to me.
Contrary to why many people get Lasik, I didn’t undergo the procedure because I missed the days of being able to wake up and see the world around me, or because I was frustrated I had to pop a piece of plastic in my eyes each day just to be able to read a sign two feet away. During the middle of 2019 I was diagnosed with a serious eye infection called a corneal ulcer, an open sore on the cornea that if left untreated could cause blindness. Beyond the extremely uncomfortable symptoms (and the half a dozen bottles of prescription eye drops I was pouring into my eye), whenever the ulcers began healing, another one would appear. It was a strenuous six-month battle, and to be frank, it felt like my world was on pause for those six months. I never truly appreciated my vision until there was a possibility it could be taken away from me.
I never truly appreciated my vision until there was a possibility it could be taken away from me.
Such infections like the one I experienced are most common among contact lens wearers—this was enough reason for me to consider getting Lasik. Once I saw light at the end of the tunnel in relation to my infection, I landed on my chosen doctor, Robert Maloney of Los Angeles' Maloney-Shamie Vision Institute. What made me choose him as my surgeon was not just his impressive client roster (Kim Kardashian West, Cindy Crawford, and Drew Carey, just to name a few). It was the fact he was a pioneer in the vision correction industry, being the first eye surgeon in western North America to do Lasik as part of the original FDA clinical trials. Most importantly, he reassured me that the likelihood of getting a corneal ulcer post-Lasik was low. "Corneal ulcers occur because contact lenses are not sterile, thus breeding germs into the eye each day the contact lens is put in," he told me. "After Lasik, corneal ulcers are extremely rare because the procedure itself is done under sterile conditions and is only performed once instead of over and over."
While getting Lasik was by far one of the best decisions of my life, there are still a few things that I wish I knew before going into it. Below I’m sharing five of those things (along with Maloney’s thoughts)—read on to see what they are.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Robert Maloney, MD, is a board-certified opthamologist at Maloney-Shamie Vision Institute in Los Angeles and specializes in vision correction surgery.
It's Really Quick
I've always been told how quick the actual procedure was, but it wasn’t until I was laying on the surgical chair that I really understood what that meant. "From start to finish the procedure takes five minutes per eye," Maloney says. "Part of that time is making the flap and prepping; the actual laser only takes about 60 seconds for both eyes." Had I understood how truly quick the entire process was, it would have saved me from a lot of sleepless nights on the days leading up to my procedure.
You Won't Go Temporarily Blind During the Procedure
While I was given medication to calm my nerves, I still had anxiety about seeing nothing but black during the procedure. I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't the case—my vision simply went blurry for a few minutes. And while Maloney talked me through a part of the procedure that he said I may feel brief, mild pressure in, I didn't even feel that. I'm convinced he has a magic touch.
No Blades Are Involved
I began reading a few pages from Maloney’s book, Life Without Glasses (how fitting), while in his waiting room one day before an appointment. I was thrilled to read that no sharp object would be used to create the flap. "In Lasik we create a flap on the surface of the eye, fold the flap back to expose the underlying tissue, reshape the tissue with a laser, and gently smooth the flap back down," explains Maloney. "Older Lasik techniques involve using a mechanical device with a blade to create the flap, but we only use a special laser to create the flap (called the femtosecond laser), which allows us to precisely create the flap without any knives or sharp instruments."
Not Everyone Is a Candidate
Once I set my sights (no pun intended) on getting Lasik, I was quickly met with disappointment when I learned there was a possibility I would be turned away. According to Maloney, the ideal candidate is between the ages of 18 and 65 with a mild or moderate prescription. Non-candidates are those who are very farsighted, very nearsighted, or have significant eye diseases. Also, each Lasik patient must undergo a series of tests before they're deemed a candidate: A corneal topography (to make sure that the shape of the eye is normal), wavefront analysis (to make sure there are no irregularities in the patient’s prescription), tests for dryness of the eyes, as well as a comprehensive eye exam.
You May Experience Dry Eyes
While I knew dry eyes were a common symptom post-Lasik, I didn't realize that it usually occurs a few weeks after. "Right after Lasik, the eyes are irritated and watery so dryness is not apparent," Maloney says. "People usually start noticing the dryness a few weeks to a month after surgery, and it generally diminishes by six months after surgery." Basically, keep artificial tears handy.