So after many years of thinking about laser eye surgery, I finally took the plunge. I had LASIK iDesign laser eye surgery on 14 April, around 3pm, with Optical Express in Bristol and I am absolutely over the moon with the results. I can see wonderfully well. However, it’s not been a magic overnight success, like you’ll probably read it is for some. To give anyone thinking about LASIK the full picture, I’ve detailed my recovery below.
A bit on the surgery: it was not as bad as you might imagine
My eyes are -7.25 and -6.75. So my prescription was pretty poor. I didn’t feel nervous or anxious until I walked into the surgery around 2.30pm. They do some preliminary tests and, because I opted for iDesign (it’s my eyes, so I wanted the best package on offer), they scan your eye. Then you have a pre-surgery chat with the surgeon, which to be honest is quite quick and just to make sure you understand the risks. The main one he discusses with me is how my brain needs to get used to my new vision post-surgery and that, in very rare cases, it might never fully. I’ve read and researched thoroughly, so I’m going through with it. The point is, they triple check.
Surgery itself is quick. I can’t have been in theatre for longer than 7 or 8 minutes. The nurses were lovely and looked after me, chatting away. They wipe and massage your face, tape down your mask (Covid) and give you a hair net. There’s two machines, one that sucks your eyeball and applies some pressure to position your eye ready for the laser, and the laser itself. The pressure one is by far the worst. It is very uncomfortable, but painless thanks to the numbing drops. The surgeon then creates a small flap on the front of your eye, which is curious as you see it all, but not worrying like I’d thought it might be. The laser bit is quick and you just stare at a light. You can smell a bit of burning, but it’s nowhere near as bad as that sentence sounds. Then the flap goes back over, the eye gets its drops and you’re pretty much done. This is in no way a scientific detail of what happened, just my experience of it.
Simple, easy, well looked after.
Post Surgery, Wednesday 14 April 2021: Sleep is the best medicine for Lasik recovery.
Rising from the bed post surgery, the first thing that’s obvious is the pressure on my eyes. There’s no pain, as the numbing eye drops are doing their thing. My focus is blurry but glimpses of my fixed vision are immediately obvious. Shapes and distance are worlds better than before, without my glasses. During the aftercare chat with the nurse, things were relatively clear and the lights didn’t seem very intrusive. As I left the building, I couldn’t find the ‘G’ in the lift for the groundfloor without face planting it.
I kept my sunglasses on for the journey home and had a mint, which kept my sugar levels from crashing – apparently your body can go into a bit of shock post-surgery, so it’s good to have something sweet to hand. Two thirds of the way home (Bristol to Bath is about 40 mins in traffic), pain like pins started in my eyes. I had noticed just moments before that I could read number plates of the cars directly in front and got a bit giddy with excitement. However, now my eyelids stayed firmly shut. My brain didn’t want them to open. Bruising pain began in my eyes.
Once I got home I napped until 6pm, when I had to take my first prescription drops. Niamh helped me put them in, as I’m not very good at handling my eyes after 16 years of wearing glasses. My eyes didn’t really stream and I didn’t cry, as some people have said they did post surgery. My vision generally seems good, but it’s almost impossible to focus in low light for any given time. Once the eye drops are in, I’m back to snoozing and wake again just before 10pm. Next eye drops go in and a late, comforting dinner of three bean chilli. I can’t see detail in the bowl, contrast is all the same and by this time of night I only have the indoor lights. My focus is quite blurry. I won’t lie, it’s worrying. Improvement is massive vs no glasses before surgery already, but vs glasses before, it feels really poor. Focus is the main issue, but then it is day one. Back to bed.
Day one: Recovery, Thursday 15 April 2021: A poor prescription will mean a longer recovery time from Lasik.
I’m up early as I’m due for my one-day check up with Optical Express in Bristol at 11am. I slept pretty well. Eye drops go in around 9am. Getting used to them already, and I do the lubricating fake tear Blink drops myself, but conscious I need the prescription ones to go in without trouble, so Niamh helps me to do those.. Sight has shown improvement already and there’s less pressure around my eyes today. Surprisingly little light sensitivity. My focus is still blurry. I feel like I’m going in for a check-up too soon, but I suppose it’s better to know there’s no complications or infection as soon as possible.
Also, this morning I noticed blood shots on the white of my eyes. I hadn’t looked at my eyes at all yesterday. These bloodshot rings around the iris are from that suction machine, and I’m told by the optometrist later that they will go in 2-3 weeks and are harmless.
I wait outside for my friend, who drifes me to Bristol for my appointment. I notice my vision is good immediately after blinking and much easier in natural light. I arrive to Optical Express and once inside my vision is clearly still blurry and lacking. Depth perception is a bit off, too. The first tests are that balloon eye test and then the air puff in your eyes to test pressure. Seems all ok. I think the optometrist I see today is the same one as my pre-surgery consultation back in January, but I’ll be honest the whole Optical Express set up feels a bit like a turn style factory so it’s too quick and clinical to ever really ask or find out.
Vision test of letters is very disheartening. Too blurry. Even driving standard is blurred, though I can read it (bear in mind even this is a massive improvement versus pre-surgery, but not what you want after having your eyes zapped). I’m advised not to drive until we’ve had a follow up appointment the next week. I’m told my vision should settle and this is not unusual for high prescriptions. It panics me a little, no-one wants complications, but I’m aware recovery times vary and my brain needs time to get used to my new corneas.
Sunglasses go back on and I head home. My vision is much better than post-surgery – I can read number plates further away today. Better still, even the car dashboard is clearer now than it was on the drive to Bristol that very morning. Quick steps, albeit small ones. When home, I realise my eyesight is very poor in bad light, although I’d already suspected that would take longer to correct. I can read bottle labels in the bathroom and I figure I’ll train my eyes in short stints, see if I can get my brain connecting things up faster. I keep my eyes well lubricated with the blink drops and take my prescription drops like clockwork. I nap before dinner. I watch some telly. Eyes tire easily but focus getting longer as the day goes on.
Day two: Recovery, Friday 16 April 2021: Do your eyedrops properly!
No magic happened overnight. I had a horrible sleep, too. Stuffed nose and sniffles as I got used to the drops. Sweats as I’m sure my body was healing. Ultimately a restless one. The pressure in the sinuses is from not doing the drops properly, as well as not being used to them. I need to slowly close my eyes and keep them closed, rather than blinking too rapidly. I nap a lot today because of the rubbish night’s sleep before. Today I manage to read a book, not for long, but it feels like an achievement. I need lots of natural light to do it. The book was Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, which I’d read some years before. It has a bigger font was the main choice for reading it, but I find that something familiar helps me focus and concentrate on it more easily. Chandler also has a simplistic writing style, so it is not too difficult to follow.
Today focus is easier on single items that I can concentrate on consciously, but I am still fuzzy looking at columns of various book spines. I’m still wearing sunglasses most of the day. Niamh and I took a short walk in the evening, and it was nice to get some fresh air. However, too much wind aggravates my dry eye, so we are only out for 20 mins, if that. Let’s just appreciate the huge improvement compared to three days earlier, but I am finding the focus issues more and more frustrating. Again, when I return home to low lighting, things are blurrier – albeit improving. I am so glad I decided to take a full week off work. The sheet you’re given says you only need two days; I’d be useless returning to work tomorrow.
Mobile and computer screens easy to read now, although I do it through sunglasses and my eyes tire easily. I will keep screen time to an absolute minimum over this week, just to avoid further issues. Using the eyedrops has gotten a lot easier, so hopefully the bunged up nose will go soon. It’s not as bad as it was this morning. While I regularly challenge my eyesight, determined for some sort of shortcut to recovery, I am also consciously taking things easy.
No pain or discomfort. No red swelling as the eyes heal. And no haze, night glare or any of that. Not for me, anyway.
By the time I go to bed, I manage to read a chapter or two of Farewell My Lovely in low lighting, so things are definitely getting better. I went on to sleep like a baby.
Day three: Recovery, Saturday 27 April 2021: My vision is starting to get there… slowly.
I get up early for a weekend, around 9am, to put the eyedrops in and lubricate my eyes. Again no magic return of my eyesight overnight, bur a slow recovery as I get used to the natural light of the morning. I snooze in and out until 10.30am and do my prescription drops. Focus on items in the bedroom is not as easy as the living room, the latter being south facing and getting much more sunlight in. After an hour awake, my eyesight is clearly much better. I had my first coffee since the op this morning, unsure if caffeine was a problem or not, I’d avoided it initially. I watched some cooking shows on telly, which was easy and no issues focusing really. Even the books on the shelves are getting easier to read, author names, which are generally bigger on most, are easy now. Contrast makes some titles merge in with the colour of the spine, so still a bit blurry unless I concentrate a lot.
I am more relaxed about improvements today. I have intermittently been testing one eye at a time by covering the other and they seem to be recovering at similar rates. Maybe marginally better in my left, but that was -6.75, whereas my right was -7.25 before. I have good enough sight now that I sit down and pen the first few days of my recovery as a Lasik patient. That’s another improvement I couldn’t even consider the day before. Also, faces in photoframes are clear as day now from the other side of the room – at least in daylight.
During a relaxed afternoon, I mainly just sit around and listen to music and do my drops. I notice the anti-inflammatory steroidal drops can give a light pressure to my eyeballs, but it fades quickly. When my pupils dilate a lot in low light, my vision is much blurrier. Maybe they are overcompensating and straining a bit, so I decide to make the most of natural light as I can to help them recover. Less time in low light/artificial indoor light. I also start to rest my eyes after the prescription drops, not by napping but just closing them and sitting for a few minutes. It helps a lot. I also have no stuffed nose today, which I am taking as a big win.
Spent most of the afternoon reading a new book called The Road. Read for a full hour with no problems. I cooked a chip butty for Niamh and I, cutting up spuds, boiling and baking, which wasn’t much of a challenge but it’s my first bit of cooking since the op. I wear sunglasses in the kitchen because of the rod lighting. By early evening I put a baseball cap on indoors to just take away the strain of the overhead lights. I think I was just tired.
Day four: Recovery, Sunday 18 April 2021: I am a very impatient patient.
More of the same today. No magic recovery. Eyes blurry and took me a good 40 minutes to get used to the natural light. I will take it easy today. Again, longer in the daylight and the more improvements I notice. It’s still hard work. I would describe the lack of focus as a “time lag”. It takes a few seconds of focus on one object before I get clarity. That makes it annoying if my eyes are darting around the room, which they tend to do when you can’t get much done.
After my drops, I eat an apple and flannel my face, careful not to get any water in my eyes or rub them in any way. I started to wash up, but just got really pissed off at the whole situation and went for a walk instead. The fresh air helped. I laid in the park and watched a bird hopping around. I noticed that I could see the whole horizon so well and watched people walking their dogs, their faces as clear as day. Better.
I walked home, taking in the colours of a neighbour’s garden on my way, and finished the washing up. I ended up finding it therapeutic, which is surprising because I hate washing up. I made Niamh and I some brunch, a fry up for me and eggs on toast for her. I watched a film in the PM, a remake of The Saint, which was pretty rubbish but entertaining and didn’t require much effort to enjoy. No sunglasses watching it, which was a step forward.
My eyes got tired by early evening and it was a bit of a struggle for the rest of the day.
Day five: Recovery, Monday 19 April 2021: Much happier with my Lasik recovery.
Still no magic, although adjusting to natural light is noticeably quick this morning and my lag to focus is shorter. At breakfast, all the book spines are legible in natural light. I’m still a bit hazy in low lighting indoors. I managed to get outside for a coffee with a friend and take a trip to the shops to buy Niamh an anniversary present (we are together 8 years today!)
I’m generally much happier with my vision today. In the afternoon, I do a bit of spreadsheet work and reply to the odd email without any issue. I spent maybe a bit too long on my phone following a story of Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, being kicked out of a local Bath pub. My eyes got tired looking at my phone for so long and ended up a touch blurry. I had a much better afternoon than yesterday.
By the way, the mask they make you wear at night… it cuts into your ears a bit as it’s elastic. We taped up some cotton pads to sit over the ears and it solved the issue completely!
Day six: Recovery, Tuesday 20 April 2021: Don’t run before you can walk.
In the morning my vision was blurry but quick to adjust and so far all the lag to focus has gone. Hooray! Vision still not as good as glasses in low light but in natural daylight, it feels impeccable. Today goes by without many issues. I still wear sunglasses, less for light sensitivity, more for stamina, as my eyes tend to tire less quickly with them on. I didn’t get out and about at all, or nap, so I had to tackle a fair bit of dry eye and I got a lot of use out of the lubricating eye drops. Showered and washed my hair without any problems. Ended up going to bed quite late and my eyes were so tired they felt strained and as though something was in them. Maybe pushed things a little too far.
Day seven: Recovery, Wednesday 21 April 2021: A very good day, albeit not quite 100%.
No naps and a long day yesterday led to a lie in this morning, although I did get up to do my prescription drops at 9.30am. It’s the last day to do them. Dry eye gave me some annoyance this morning, again probably aggravated by the day before. Today is also my last day off work and I am eager for things to be back to 100%, but they’re not yet. My optometrist appointment is tomorrow, so I write up some questions to ask them, which I’ll publish here tomorrow.
My restless eyes weren’t helped by checking my emails this morning and scrolling through social media. I stop looking at screens and read instead, finishing The Road. Breakfast and coffee in the well lit front room seemed to relax my vision nicely. Looking at the book case for my daily test, it’s great to see contrast has improved drastically and even smaller fonts on the spines are easy to read. Focus feels more natural, effortless.
Taking breaks, drinking plenty of water and doing the eye drops are the things that make all the difference. I managed to style my hair (I don’t use any product, so this is just water and a comb) and have a shave. The rest of the evening is very good and I’m a lot less anxious about finding out my progress tomorrow.
Day eight: Optometrist check-up and back to work, Thursday 22 April 2021
I’m due back at work today, but first it’s off to Bristol to get checked up and have some questions answered. I’ve put the Q&A below, but bear in mind the answers are specific to me and nothing in this is supposed to give you advice, just an insight into what recovery might be like. Always consult your optometrist and ask as many questions as you need to!
How is my vision recovering?
I have 20/20 vision! What a relief. However, especially in low light, my vision is still a little blurry for the smallest text as I am still recovering and getting used to my new eyes. With my high prescription, it can sometimes take months to return to full vision. However, based on the improvements from my post-surgery day one appointment to today, the optometrist says I’m likely to recover fully within a month. This is very reassuring.
Can I drive?
Yes, my vision is now much better than driving standard.
My vision is still blurry in low light and contrast is difficult, am I likely to notice improvements?
Yes, improvements should be noticeable every day and I should expect full recovery within a month.
Do I need to continue wearing the eye mask at night?
No, I can now wash my eyes, shower normally and sleep without a mask as the front of the eyes have recovered enough. I also don’t need to do the prescription drops anymore.
Sometimes it takes me a while to focus, is this normal?
Yes, it’s my brain getting used to my eyes. Focus will get more effortless every day.
Do I need to continue to wear sunglasses due to light sensitivity?
No, I can wear sunglasses as normal and do not need to wear them especially.
Is there anything I can do to help expedite my recovery?
My biggest problem are my eyes are very dry. This is not currently causing me any discomfort, apart from that one morning where I’d overstrained them and they felt aggravated. I should use my eye drops a lot more, and in fact the optometrist gave me some higher strength drops to use four times a day. Dry eye can also cause blurry vision, so if I’m having blurry days I should ensure I’m using the blink eye drops as I need them.
My job requires looking at a screen, is there anything I should be wary of?
Normal advice: take breaks every 20 minutes and look at something in the distance for a while. Use the eye drops to avoid straining and dry eye.
Thinking about laser eye surgery and have a question I don’t answer in this journal? Just post a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it, if I can. I will update this blog once I have my month check-up and let you know if I’m fully recovered. One thing I will say for sure, even at this stage, Lasik is life changing and I am loving my new vision. Thanks to all the folks at Optical Express and most of all to Niamh, family and friends for looking after me.