Laser eye surgery – an experience

LASEK diagram, showing a virtual eye with the surface peeled back and a laser beaming in. Getting laser eye surgery is something I’ve been thinking of for a while, and finally decided to take the plunge last December. This post is for anyone in the same position I was in – considering it.

There are a lot of places to get it done, and a few different treatments, I’ll focus on the what and the experience.

The two main ones I’ve come across (and was offered), are:

Flap and Zap: a flap is cut into the front of the eye, peeled back and a laser zaps the surface. The flap is lowered, and pretty much the next day your vision clears.
Peel & Zap: A solution is dropped into the eye, the very surface layer peeled back (shallower than the cut), the laser zaps, and then the surface lowered back. A contact lens is placed over the eye for 3/4 days, and vision returns over the next 7-10 days.

This has to be the shortest, least medical summary of these two procedures, so I strongly recommend that you look them up a lot if you have the slightest inkling of trying one. These are the pages on LASIK and LASEK that I found, and a good page on whether you should consider LASIK.

The decision

I had pretty much decided to get it done before I went to the opticians. It was more a ‘how’ than a ‘whether’. The main choice was what type, and whether to also get the “Wavefront” component as well. This maps the eye, and that map is used to create a customised laser treatment rather than standard prescription.

I was offered the lasik with wavefront because I have a moderate to bad astigmatism, and it is supposed to give better results for that. I liked the idea of it being customised to me, so I went for it (although it added 50% to the price).

By law, the opticians have to tell you all the bad things that can happen, but the problem was, I started laughing. This gave the poor girl the giggles, and neither of us could keep a straight face whilst she was talking about potential blindness and constantly weeping eyes.

I was only sacrificing my bad eye anyway, so it really didn’t put me off.

The Op

This is the bit people ask about. It was pretty easy, although my knuckles were white gripping the arms of the chair until it was over.

You are sat down in a chair of the sort you might get in a dentists. You are lent back and a nurse puts quite a few anesthetic drops into your eye. Then a little clear plastic clamp is used to keep your eye open, and a tissue-paper like patch over the other eye.

I was very glad of the clamp, as you can then blink, and you feel like you have blinked, without disrupting anything.

The chair is then swung under a large machine, and you look up at this:

The view from the chair - a white circle around a red dot, slightly blurred.

It’s a very bright light, surrounding a red dot (clearer at first). Your instructions are to “keep looking at the red dot”. I did this, my whole body was frozen (muscles tensed) just concentrating on watching this red dot.

The surgeon then peels back the surface of the eye, and folds it over to one side, and the laser fires. It sounds like a loud click, like a large electric spark, but rapid fire for about 30 seconds.

White circle and red dot as before, but with an imaginary laser blast spot! The only scary bit was the last few seconds of the laser firing, and the red dot had been easy to see (if slightly blurry), but then I started seeing the laser ‘hits’, kind of like the Operation Wolf wolf game when I was a kid.

Then the red dot turned into a large orange blur, and all I could think was “they are going too far, my eye is about to burst!”

Then it was over, the flap was put back, a contact lens placed over my eye, and I stood up and went into the waiting room.


LASEK has significantly more short-term side effects than LASIK, not least of which is wearing a contact lens for 4 days – I hate contact lenses at the best of times! I really couldn’t use a computer or watch television for those 4 days, and even going to the super market gave me a massive headache. I also wasn’t supposed to rub it for a month, even wearing a patch when sleeping for the first week to prevent unconscious rubbings. I would not get this done on both eyes at once, I’d be out of (work) action for a month.

However, after about 10 days, my vision had significantly improved, now better than my (formerly better) right eye. There was a short period where I had a slight ‘haze’, which I only noticed because in bright lighting I would see a snowflake shaped crystal negative when I blinked. (I assume it was the negative image of my iris.)

I won’t know the final outcome until the 3 month mark (May 10th), but it seems to be just under 20/20, so I now only need glasses for computer work.

Persuading your brain…

A slight problem with improving your weak eye is that your brain takes a while to get used to it. Having been the weak eye for at least 15 years, my left eye hasn’t had much use. It simply doesn’t focus as quickly as the right. My brain also doesn’t accept or interpret information as easily from the left eye, for example I won’t necessarily recognise people even though I can see them clearly. I can see a face, but without help from the right eye, don’t interpret the bits of a face as a whole.

I’m glad I did it. My only concern at the moment is that the vision in my ‘new’ eye may not be corrected up to the same point as my old eye. At that point I’d have an ‘out and about’ eye (new) and ‘work’ eye (old), so it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Eye performance
Left Right
Before, with Glasses 0 0
Before, without Glasses -1.75
After, with Glasses 0 0
After, without Glasses -1 -1.75

Update – Four month stage

The operation is a distant memory now, and I’ve almost gotten used to the new sight. My ‘new’ eye now has a prescription of just under -1, which is roughly 20/20 vision, and is correctable to 0 with glasses.

What that translates to is that I only need glasses for computer work now; television, driving and most importantly walking around and recognising people are now possible without glasses.

Now that both eyes are equal with glasses, my ‘new’ eye is gradually becoming the primary eye, overcoming it’s lazy ways.

The question I would have for me now is: Are there any side effects?

There are two things noticeable when comparing to my unchanged eye:

  1. Sometimes it can dry up a bit, in dry conditions or long stretches in front of a screen. I notice because the vision degrades a bit and it’s not very comfortable.
  2. Night vision: I wouldn’t say it was worse, but it doesn’t change as quickly. Walking into a dark room, it’s noticeable that suddenly my unchanged eye takes over, and I can see very little with the new one (although what I can see is clearer through that eye).


17 contributions to “Laser eye surgery – an experience

  1. yeh.i just has lasik wavefront done, my eye sight fine, but at the moment i am experience really sever hedaches, that bad that i feel like ,my head is going to explode. im not to sure why this is, hopefuly the hedaches will calm down. i hope so. cus its drive me mad.

  2. id just like to say thanks for the info on the surgery it realy helped me think this through.:)

  3. hey its been a while since my hedches down. they have disprd. they disaprd while back now. but i need to go for regular check ups and need more eye drops.

  4. I also have astigmatism after I read your story, I am not quite sure I want to get it done. I just started to think about it and now I am scared. I am tired of wearing glasses and I only wear contacts on special occasions. I guess I have to do more research. So far your site was the best.

    Thank you for sharing

  5. Hi Tina, a lot depends on your situation, all I can say is that I’m glad I did it, but I won’t be doing the other eye for a while yet.

    I’m glad because I can generally recognise people on the street more easily, and can see bouys from further away when windsurf racing.

    I’m not going to get the other one done for a while because it’s not that bad to start with, and the one I have had done is a bit more delicate now (dryness and rubbing are more uncomfortable).

  6. I for one am definitely glad that I got laser eye surgery. It has made a big difference to my life, has allowed me to get back to doing a lot of sporting activities that wearing glasses or lenses had been a bit of a nightmare.

  7. hey, while its been a while since i had surgery done, i had it done on decmber 14th and its almost gna b a year now, ive had no problms, and its the best thing iv prob done, i would defo recomend it, but i gues its a risk but its just like hving nething else in life. everythin a risk, but for peace of mind think bout it. but it certainly the best thing ive done. i had it done with optical xpress in manchster, cross street. but u no wht u can get it done with optimax, prob much cheaper than them, thts the onli thing i regrt, i paid much more than i shdv done and optimax is much cheaper, when u go for consultation alwys enquire first about prices, and then go for it, their lasek and their is lasik treatment, lasik wavefront is beter, but then agen so is standrd, but obvsly lasik of computer technolgy, but i think both shud b fine, but just to b safe i went for the most expensive, but optimx stil cheaper, neway gudluck with it al. x

  8. Thanks for the info this has been very useful and by far the best info I have read so far.

    Cheers mate

  9. I would definately have the treatment but would add the focus on deciding where to have it done should be what experience does the consultants have. Check how many of these ops they have done what their qualifications are, etc. I decided to have my eyes done at Moorfields – yes I know I could have had it done at Optimax, or one of the other cheaper clinics but I’m very risk averse. To be honest once I checked the qualifications and more the experience of the consultants at Moorfields my mind was made up. My consultant had not only got great qualifications but has performed many of these ops and is also active in giving seminars and attending seminars around the world. In my case I was more careful about who I chose as I suffer from dry eyes and have astigmatism.

    It’s been 2 years since my op and it’s the best thing I have done. From time to time I still need my eye drops as my eyes are drier now as a result of the op but there is no discomfort or pain and my vision is great.

    Best of luck

  10. A very useful site, many thanks, I wonder if anyone can offer any thoughts on this; I have to wear glasses for driveing, tv etc, so in effect I wear them all the time, however for reading I do not wear glasses at all and my close up vision is just fine, I recently read about people haveing cateract ops who were being given replacement lens (in the eye) and one option was to have a Long Distance in one and a Close Up lens in the other, apparantly the brain comensates automatically adjusting and giveing in effect good vision overall. I wondered if I should try for Laser Correction in just one eye and if this is a treatment that anyone has any knowledge of?

  11. I hav just been to optical express for a consultation and hav been advised to hav lasik wavefront at £1295 for one eye which shocked me to say the least as I hav very low prescptn. They also advised to just do my dominant eye as I then may not need reading glasses until late in life but if I get both done I will need reading glasses in about 5yrs. I am 41 now. Love to hear from anyone who has gone for the one eye option.

  12. I paid almost that much, but I think mostly because my eye was a -4 astigmatism. (It’s now -1).

    I don’t understand why you would need reading glasses in 5 years with both done, but not one?

    I got my non-dominant eye done, and although I still use glasses for computers/reading, I’m generally very happy with it.

    I would shop around, and if your prescription is not for astigmatism, wavefront may not be that useful. (Check the links above and perhaps google groups, I found that quite useful.)

  13. Hi, i had wavefront lasek and on both eyes and cost me £3000 (interest free credit over 2 years!) I had it done with ultralase in clifton in uk just over two yars ago. What can i say – very little discomfort after the op, very helpful and courteous staff at the centre and on the phone. Had eye shields on for a week and could read a vehicle number plate legal distance straight after the op!! I had very little ‘star bursting’ and ‘haloing’ after the op and now the only side effect is very slight sensitivity to bright daylight which is fine with sunglasses anyway!! When people say i wish i had it done years ago they were right!!

  14. I had lasik done in Nov 2007, and had nothing but trouble ,developed cataracts in both eyes wiht in a month of having laser.It was put down to reaction to the steriods eye drops ,optical Express did the cataract surgery .Then 3 months later had to have further laser treatment as clouding developed,after which 2 months down the line i have now developed Vitreaous detachment ,off work for 4 weeks ,and Optical Express has sent me back to the NHS .As they washed their hands now.

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