Laser eye surgery – the aftermath

This is my experience with PRK laser eye surgery. While I think mine is a fairly typical case and should give you a decent idea of what to expect, clearly everyone’s experience will be unique. If you are concerned about your recovery, speak with your surgeon and/or optometrist. Only they can tell you what is normal. Seriously.

On the First Day

The first day was spent in a daze. I was slightly drugged up from the gravol and the Tylenol-3, exhausted from industrial-strength worrying the night before, and still feeling the echoes of that first lens-free moment.

Originally I asked John to take half a day off work so he could take me to the clinic and back, but fortunately, despite my objections, he opted to take the whole day off to take care of me. This turned out to be really very nice.

The regimen of drops on that first day quite literally required a spreadsheet and the setting of reminder alarms. One type of drop every 2 hours, another every 3 hours, two of this one, one of that, ten minutes between each set, on and on. Sure I could have handled it on my own if I had to, but that would have required alertness. Instead, I got to lay in my bed in a sleepy daze in my stylin’ Kim-Jong-Il-inspired protective glasses, listening to audio books while John diligently dropped medicines into my eyes right on schedule.

On Pain

Along with all my eye drops, I was told to take ibuprofen every four hours for the first few days for the pain. They also gave me a prescription for a few Tylenol-3 and Adavan (an anti-anxiety medication that can help you sleep) in case the ibuprofen wasn’t cutting it. At each of my three checkups that week, the first question they asked me was about my pain levels.

As this all makes clear, serious pain is a real possibility with PRK.

Fortunately, I didn’t experience much and didn’t need to dip into my stash of drugs. In fact, none of the handful of people I know who have had PRK have described severe pain. So while pain is most definitely a possibility, it’s nowhere near a certainty.

For the first 2-3 days my eyes did sting, as though I had been cutting onions. It was uncomfortable but may actually have aided my healing because it encouraged me to keep my eyes closed. Very occasionally I felt sharp jabs of pain that luckily only lasted a second or two, but to be honest, I might have just dreamt those up as some sort of sympathy pain for the less fortunate.

All discomfort faded by about the fourth day, after which I was able to keep my eyes open comfortably and mostly rejoin society.

On Vision

I’m almost afraid to say anything for fear of setting up expectations, because let’s face it, you just had layers of your cornea fried off! Shit’s going to get WEIRD before it gets better. Just roll with it. Think of it as a journey through a funhouse, hosted by your eyeballs! More scientifically speaking, as your cornea heals it regenerates a new top layer, which will start off bumpy before it all smooths out.

Here’s what my journey was like, presented on a scale of 1 to 10, where my vision without lenses pre-PRK* is a 1 and my best lens-corrected vision is a 10:

Right off the bat I shot to a 7 (potential waterworks moment), which after a couple of days dropped to a 4 (but there was three of everything! how FUN!), then gradually climbed back up to about a 6 by the end of the first week.**

To give you some reference, at a 6 I could watch TV without getting the characters confused, I could technically drive according to the law (though that seemed insane as I could barely read street signs), and I could comfortably go for walks, shop, cook (sans recipe), and do work around the house. Basically, I could function pretty well.

However, after the first week (which they ask you to take off work) I still found it challenging to read or use the computer comfortably. I managed at work by adjusting the fonts, resolution and position of my monitor, though I was glad that I had a seminar right when I came back so I was spared from sitting in front of the computer until a few days later.

On the Untold

You will be dirty so your eyeballs can remain pristinely clean. This manifests in the following ways:

Water is not sterile enough to come anywhere near your eyes for the first week, so no showers for you! If you’re into personal hygiene (princess), you might be able to sneak in a sponge bath at your own risk. I didn’t. I just stank and owned it.

Even I have my limits, so after the first day I started cleaning my face by rubbing on a gel facial cleanser with a cotton pad and then wiping it away with a damp one, taking care to keep everything far away from my eyes. It worked well.

Also, since you literally cannot touch the one inch perimeter around your eyes, you will develop crusties (eye drop remnants that cannot be wiped away no matter how badly you want to). Keep. Those. Hands. AWAY. Luckily they give you a solution that dissolves the crusties (especially necessary in the morning) but you’ll still be kinda gross. Settle in.

Due to all of the above, I would not recommend you use this time to bond with any brand new person – choose company who is bound to you by law, blood, or shared furniture.

I will be back with another update in a few weeks when hopefully I’ll be nearly all healed up. Until then, I’ll return to my more typical fare of discussing the complicated problems of my DINK*** life.

* I went in with a prescription of -6 and -4.75.
** For those of you who prefer a scale that might actually mean something, this translates to about 20/40.
***Dual Income, No Kids.

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Posted on March 19, 2012, in Health, Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Very illuminating! It reminds me of my sister’s situation when she contracted a flesh eating germ on her eye from traveling. No wonder… laser eye surgery pretty much does the same thing, it fries the skin off your eye. She needed to do that carefully scheduled eye drop thing. I felt so bad for her. Also, I really appreciate that you mentioned the dirty section. I would not have imagined! I hope that you have amazing eye sight after this!!

  2. A. You are hilarious.
    B. Thank you!
    C. I don’t know if I could handle the crusties. Those things make me twitchy. That earns you several points Respect. :)

    • No, thank YOU.

      The crusties were a test of will power but I think I was just so relieved not to need T-3’s that I took that task on with gusto!

  3. Glad you’re doing better now – we’ve missed you!

    I could never do this as I rub my eyes all the time and doubt I could ever remember not to. What would I do – tape my hands?

    Cooking after laser sounds very odd. A little like cooking drunk.

    • How about cooking drunk and lasered? Not that I did that or anything.

      I wore sunglasses a lot that first week because:
      a. I’m cool
      b. my eyes were a bit light sensitive
      c. they prevented any accidental eye rubs

  4. Thank you so much for writing about your experiences – I go in next week for surgery and I’m so excited!

    • Good luck!!

      I never did get around to writing about my longer-term experience, but my words of advice would be to not judge the results for a long time. Like 6 months or more. Things can take a long time to settle down and heal that last 5-10%. I am now very happy to have done it and barely even remember the hassle of contacts!

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